Blog / Self-Portraits

The #NoMakeupSelfie & Why No Makeup Should Last Forever


Hey look! It’s me! Without makeup on! I did it!

I was “nominated” to take this picture by my cousin when she posted a beautiful photo of herself without makeup on yesterday. This is the “No Makeup Selfie” social media blitz that’s been taking over Facebook feeds and conversations worldwide. Women post self-portraits of themselves wearing no makeup, sharing to social media, and nominating a couple of friends.

My first thought? Does makeup really have that much power over our appearances that, when we share ourselves without it, it’s a big deal? As someone who only wears eyeliner, I am astounded at the influence these beauty products have. What’s the point of this trend? It seemed to me that conventional beauty is here defined as a woman with makeup and natural beauty as a woman without. Why can’t natural beauty be conventional?

The No Makeup Selfie trend was started in the UK last fall by a beauty company called Escentual. Their DareToBare campaign began in October as a part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They asked women to raise money for breast cancer research and, in turn, the women would go to work without makeup on. The majority of news reports come from the UK reporting that over £2 million have been raised for charity. Here in Canada and among my social network, however, I don’t see any such coverage, donations, or breast cancer connection.

If the No Makeup Selfie represents that the act of taking a selfie without makeup is courageous, it, in turn, represents the courage it takes to fight breast cancer. I just don’t see how this fits. While the benefit to this outpouring is that women are able to proudly showcase their natural beauty for a good cause, the issues, especially for youth, are troubling.

This campaign makes it loud and clear that wearing no makeup is a courageous task. Having to raise donations or not (donating isn’t even mentioned on photos I’ve seen), going out in public to show the world what we look like as bare-skinned beauties requires the act of putting ourselves out there and, for those who don’t comply, are they not brave enough? In this model, the ideals of beauty are obvious: wearing makeup is the norm. Wearing makeup is a standardized and accepted practice to make oneself socially acceptable and in removing it publicly, it is brave. While I do think the campaign is meant to normalize our networks to natural beauty, it’s not without feelings of vulnerability and exposure. Is it really considered groundbreaking that women not wear makeup?

Last year, a friend and I took my 13-year old cousin under our wing for an afternoon. She asked if she could give us makeovers and we obliged. She was enamoured with the colours of eyeshadows, eyeliners, blushes, and lipsticks.Where she learned to apply makeup, I don’t know.No one ever taught me… When I asked, she shrugged.  Afterward, she asked us to do her makeup. Her before and after shocked me. While she was beautiful before and beautiful after, she looked different. I’ll admit I have trouble leaving the house every day without eyeliner but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel trapped by wearing it. In that moment I saw my cousin see her reflection and smile so widely her lips disappeared, I felt like I’d done something wrong.

Quick internet research tells me the invention of cosmetics dates back the Egyptian era. It became a tool of religion, then an object of extravagance, and we all know what that means. People wanted it. It wasn’t until the 19th century when women were encouraged to present themselves as detailed and elegant that defining facial features with makeup became commonplace. When we hit the industrial revolution, the rise of the celebrity – fashion, film, and photography – allowed the cosmetics industry to boom and thus, it became a cultural ideal that we shape our identities via our appearance.

This campaign turned social media trend makes me think that we, as women, need makeup to face the day. I can’t even argue, being someone who saves my eye-liner-less face for my mom, my cats, my ultra long-term best friends, and my partner. No one else. Why? When I was in high school I ditched makeup for a few months. After some time, I came back with the black eyeliner I once wore and everyone seemed to notice me. And compliment me. We are conditioned to think that makeup is better, and I never left the house without it again.

And it must be asked – what does this mean for the massive amounts of women who don’t wear makeup? Does this mean that they can’t participate?

I’ve been seeing all these natural, beautiful faces occupy my social network streams and I do double-takes sometimes. That’s what she looks like? I’m saying this because I think we look different. Incredible, and different, with new motivations. Fresh, and happy, and curious, and beautiful, and I wish this craze could last forever.

But that’s the thing with crazes. They appear abruptly, and they achieve widespread but fleeting popularity. So I nominate you to take your picture with or without makeup on, but to hold on to it as a token of what you looked like today, and a reminder that you are great. Because if selfies should do anything, it’s just that.


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