Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Makeup Free-dom

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“To be yourself is all that you can do, yeah

to be yourself is all that you can do”

-Audioslave, Be Yourself

Take off all your makeup. Right now. Seriously, stop reading, get out your makeup remover (that you surely have with you at this very moment) and remove all of your makeup. What… you don’t want to? Why? You got a problem with natural? Are you insecure with how you look? C’mon, it’s 2014, you’re an adult. Surely you possess enough self-confidence to be able to forgo these products marketed to women by large, greedy corporations. Surely you don’t buy into the pressure from media and society to conform to beauty standards? What’s that? You don’t want to bare it all?


That is me being sarcastic. What, you may ask, has me posing a paragraph full of smart ass questions? It’s the makeup free trend that appears to be taking hold. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m twisted and vain. Maybe I’m too insecure. But the whole thing kinda rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I have a problem with makeup free, I have a problem with it becoming a campaign, a movement. I know that some of the efforts to go make-up free, like the Dove Beauty campaign, have goals of empowering women. I’m all for that. “Yay!” for empowerment. But it’s starting to evolve into something that feels more like pressure. Everyone’s doing it. Like, everyone. Teens, moms, young singles, celebs, news anchors. They’re posting it on social media with #nomakeupselfie. It’s the cool thing to do. And if you’re really confident, if you’re really secure in yourself, you’ll do it too… right?

Yeah, not me. I won’t be posting any barefaced pics on the interwebs. I love the natural look. I think it’s beautiful. But that “natural” look is harder to achieve than a Guns N Roses reunion. There are makeup lines marketed as “The Natural Look”, there are tutorials on YouTube on how to achieve that glowy dewy skin one has after having sex or working out.

That’s all there is to it…

I like makeup. I don’t wear a ton of it, but what I do wear I’ve grown real attached to. I need concealer. Without it my eyes look like that creepy dude from Lord of the Rings.

You’ll never be able to un-see this…

And I like to wear eye makeup, I’m addicted to mascara. This is not to say that I won’t leave the house without makeup. I do carpool line, run to the store, etc,  without makeup. Hell, I was even interviewed on the local news sans makeup as I was leaving the grocery store. But I’m not making a statement with my pale, jaundiced looking face. I’m doing it out of convenience or laziness- it depends on the day. I don’t really want to think that anything I do with my clothes, my hair or my makeup is in any way making any kind of statement. I want to do what feels comfortable to me, what fits my mood.

There has been a rash of women taking off their makeup live on tv or in front of live audiences. There’s a whole thing called Makeup Free Monday. In February the cast of the Today Show went on air without makeup. After one segment, the entire cast put all their makeup back on. Local news anchors have been taking their makeup off. Last week Mika Brzezinski took her makeup off on stage during the Women In The World Conference. She said that makeup shouldn’t own you as she spent 20 minutes wiping off her carefully applied makeup.

Not awkward at all
Not awkward at all

I’m not disagreeing with the ideas or the intentions behind these “acts”. I definitely don’t think makeup should “own” anyone. I’m just not sure where this message is taking us, where it’s landing and what it’s supposed to do. Seeing the pictures and watching these makeup free stunts on t.v., they just illustrate how uncomfortable this act is. Anyone under the spotlights is going to feel vulnerable without makeup on. Watching the bare-faced on-air personalities squirm uncomfortably is supposed to convey a positive message. But it seems to demonstrate a level of self consciousness that makes me want to look away. It certainly doesn’t have me reaching for my makeup remover and camera.

And the selfies. I’ve got nothing against selfies. Sexy selfies, makeup free selfies, go for it. Do what makes you feel good, do what you want to do. Flaunt your awesomeness all over social media. But let’s not start pressuring women to post makeup free selfies. Let’s not pressure women to do anything. Beyonce posted a beautiful makeup free selfie. Gwyneth, Cameron, Bethany Frankel. All makeup free on Twitter and Instagram. That’s totally cool. But when campaigns are started to show how “brave” women are to go makeup free, isn’t that somewhat contradictory? If makeup shouldn’t be that important, can we all agree that going makeup free doesn’t count as brave? Going makeup free should be a choice, like which shoes to wear today. Not an act of bravery or freedom or an act of anything.

Some people apparently feel “owned” by their makeup, feel true anxiety about going makeup free. If that’s the case, then maybe this is something that could empower them. But I know a lot of women. And every single one of them goes without makeup from time to time. At the gym, at the playground. I know some women who never wear makeup. I know some women who wear it more often than not. But I think I can safely say that I have seen every single one of my friends and neighbors without makeup on a fairly regular basis. I think this is the norm. Let’s not create an issue where there is none. We don’t all have to do a Kardashian smokey eye to leave the house, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your makeup, with liking the way eyeliner accentuates your eyes or lipsticks make your lips stand out. If it makes you feel good DO IT.

I’m not against raising money for good causes, starting conversations about empowerment. Those are all noble things. I just have a problem with pressuring women to do something. I mean, if we’re really going to break free of all the shackles of beauty that society imposes, why stop at going makeup free? We could stop shaving. Our legs, our armpits, everywhere.  Let’s all stop washing our hair. And let’s throw away those tweezers. Lets bring back the Frida Kahlo look. Let’s stop plucking errant chin hairs. No more waxing our lips. I mean, c’mon ladies, let’s be brave here. Not wearing makeup? Pffftt… that’s no biggie. But when I see Beyonce sporting some hairy pits on her yacht or Diane Sawyer joining the No Poo movement or Gwyneth Paltrow stroking her ‘stache on Instagram, then I’ll sit up and take notice.


9 Responses

  1. Great post! You said it better about the whole make up free trend than I would have! I don’t wear any make up on most days, though I always take care of my skin. If I wear make up, it’s only mascara and eye shadow at times, and if I step out of the house I always wear lip gloss or lipstick as I’m addicted to these since I was 13. I think that as long as someone takes good care of their skin, I don’t mind whether they are make up free or wear tons if they are happy like that. It’s embarrassing to admit, but one reason I don’t wear that much make up is that I feel like I suck at it, save for lipstick of course, so I think it naturally made me on the less is better choice for my own person.

    1. I don’t know where my head is at! Sorry it’s taken so long to reply! That’s funny, I’m horrible at applying lipstick! I only wear it for special occasions. What has been interesting is seeing how my two daughters respond differently to makeup. My older daughter thinks it’s silly and a waste of time. My (almost) 5 year old loves it and wants to put on lipstick all the time. She even tells me I need lipstick! I don’t think either of them is influenced by outside forces in this area, my 10 year old has her head stuck in a book most of the time and could care less about pop culture and any of the “cool” things girls her age are doing. I think it really is a matter of personality!

  2. Great blog. I rarely wear makeup. I do try to slap on some moisturizer bc my face is weathering the test of too much unprotected sun time , mascara if time and lip gloss. If I “try” to hard I put too much and I look like a clown. I don’t really see the point of no make up Monday either. But I do see the point in empowering women, empowering others to do what they need to do to feel confident enough to be who they need to be, make up, no make up, hairy legs or whatever. Confidence mixed with Humility is the kind of “make up” I look to surround myself with. People who lift others up by lifting themselves up in the process. I could care less if they wear make up or not.

    1. I saw your comment the other day but was too busy to respond at the time and just realized I never did! I’m so sorry, I hate not responding to comments!

      I think it’s great that so many people are trying to do different things to empower women and girls. That is always a good thing, but I did feel like the no makeup thing had a little bit of pressure to it. I think everyone should do what makes them feel most comfortable. And no one should feel like they have to post a no-makeup picture to show solidarity. There are already so many “rules” out there for women (and men for that matter) that this just seemed like another thing to add to the list of things we “should” do. I love what you said, “Confidence mixed with Humility is the kind of “makeup” you prefer… That’s brilliant! There

  3. You are too funny, I love it. This reminds me of an interview I watched on youtube with Mindy Kaling and Jimmy Fallon and she was talking about how people applaud her as “brave” for having an unconventional body type– she was like “I run! I go to the gym! It takes a lot of work to be a normal, slightly chubby woman!”

    1. Thanks Aussa! I love Mindy Kaling. I also love how she pointed out in an interview (I don’t remember which one) that while she is having to answer questions in interviews about body image, her male counterparts are getting to talk about their art.

      I had been trying to decide on a subject for the Feminist Friday discussion some other bloggers and I have been having every Friday. I was torn between body image and everyday misogyny. You just helped me decide! In fact, when I was mulling over the everyday misogyny idea, I kept thinking about your post on your first sexual solicitation…. so maybe I will just cruise your blog every time I need an idea and look for inspiration! 🙂

    and I love how you point out it’s not freakin’ brave to go without make-up. I mean, if that’s true, I’m Shera because I never have makeup on. Well, not “never”, but mon-fri I typically wear nothing. I mean NOTHING. If I’m going up to the school or to lunch with a friend, my go-to is mascara and tinted chapstick. 🙂

  5. Mindy is awesome, Aussa bringing her up totally inspired me to write about body image. I don’t care if Mindy Kaling is a two headed gargoyle, she’s hilarious and brilliant! I’m not gonna lie, I feel better when I’ve got some eye makeup on, and I for real don’t venture far without concealer around my eyes. I guess I have some hang-ups there! Another blogger put it perfectly, she said she wants to accentuate, not look different. Except she said it much better than I just did. It was one of those “she just summed up my crazy long post in one sentence” kind of moments!

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