Female beauty standards.
From a young age, girls are taught we need to wear make-up to present our faces to the world. We have to work hard, pass exams, make friends, exercise, but god forbid we do any of that without the precise combination of rouged lips, dark eyelashes and pink cheeks that society deems normal. We get early inspiration for this from dolls.
We’re sold the ‘no make-up’ look which means applying make-up so skilfully that men don’t realise it’s make-up. This rather mad idea teaches us not to like our faces in their natural state. We start to believe that bags or dark shadows under our eyes look awful, that spots or blemishes are unforgivable. It all has to be hidden under expensive products. Which we have to get out of bed early to slap on our faces. But ironically we aren’t supposed to look like we wear a lot of make-up either!
My attitude towards make-up was shaped by a moment with my best friend’s mum when I was 14. She was a very beautiful woman who always exuded an air of boho chic in very un-boho Stoke. My friend and I were having one of our sleepovers. Downstairs in the living room we’d wriggle into sleeping bags, watch videos and eat chocolate biscuits until the early hours with scant regard for the sleeping household. As we chatted and shrieked with laughter one too many times, the mum got out of bed to tell us to pipe down. She entered the room and I was taken aback at her appearance. Was she ill? What happened? She looked totally different.
I hadn’t realised how much make-up she regularly wore until that moment. I made a mental note then that I didn’t want to wear a lot of make-up every day myself. I didn’t want the pressure of people thinking I usually looked a certain way, if that then meant they were shocked to see me without make-up. I prefer the opposite – where people are taken aback if I get a make-over and suddenly rock up with perfect eyeliner. I can’t deliver the perfect face every day as I don’t have the money, skill or time. Also, I’ve got more important stuff to do. I reserve the right to deploy the power of make-up only when I choose to and when the occasion is worthy.
My preference of wearing very little make-up gets undermined by the images of women wearing make-up I see everywhere. Sometimes I wear concealer, eyebrow pencil, powder and a bit of lipstick. It doesn’t really change how I look but gives a little confidence that I have ‘made the effort’. But lately I give fewer and fewer fucks about the whole thing. The way I look is not the most interesting thing about me, by a long way. I’m busy, often spending the hours after paid work is over creating and working on personal projects. I don’t have time to put stuff on my face anymore. I can’t prioritise that over things I really want to do.
But it’s harder to take that stance if you’re in the public eye. Alicia Keys is a celebrity who decided to stop wearing make-up and embrace how she looks naturally. She wrote an article in which she explains that how the fear of being ‘caught out’ without make-up prompted her to take control back.
Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn’t put on makeup: What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it??? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me. Alicia Keys
It would be amazing to see more women in the public eye feel confident enough to appear without make-up, if only because it would normalise it for the rest of us. It’s a personal choice and we should be equally respected if we do or don’t choose to wear it.