On being bare-faced

Posted on November 21, 2014 under Thoughts

There has been a lot of proverbial ink spilled over women wearing makeup to hide who they really are or to trick men. I hope it’s no surprise that I think this is utter bullshit, for multiple reasons.

  1. I regularly wear dark purple lipstick or colourful eyeshadow. That is the opposite of hiding. That is saying, “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME LIPSTICK I BOUGHT.”
  2. Makeup, for me and many people, is self-expression, not self-repression.
  3. I sure as shit don’t wear makeup for men. Men can’t even tell when you’re wearing makeup. Once one of my male friends told another friend that she didn’t need makeup to be beautiful, and used me as an example of someone who looked good without makeup. I had on concealer, shimmery eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. There are stories all over the internet of men saying they like Kim Kardashian’s “natural” look. Yeah, nobody naturally has a smokey eye, dude.

But I think in our feminist outrage about self-expression and wearing what we want, we often forget that some people do wear makeup because they want to hide perceived “flaws”, or just because it makes them feel better. For every woman with thick winged liner and bright lips who even those “Kim K wears no makeup!” men can tell are wearing makeup, there are plenty who don’t want it to be noticeable, who wear it because if they’re not worrying about the things they think are wrong with their faces they can focus on everything else.

In a world that is so obsessed with women’s appearances to the point where Renée Zellweger only has to step outside of her house with her face looking a certain way to be the subject of headlines across the internet, can we really blame women for doing what they can to neutralize their appearances? If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be able to get things done without worrying that everyone is noticing your zits or acne scarring or undereye circles, how can we act as though it’s not a valid choice for women to use makeup to eliminate these concerns? Men don’t have to make these choices; they don’t have to worry about not being taken seriously professionally or personally because of how their faces look.

Just look at this recent thread in r/makeupaddiction, “Why do you wear makeup?” The responses vary, but a lot of them definitely fall into the “It just makes me feel better about myself” camp, with no speak of self-expression or empowerment or any of that jazz.

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In some of these examples, there is a bit (or a lot) of insecurity expressed, or sense of obligation (not being taken seriously as a professional). In some of them, posters eloquently explain how they use makeup to feel a bit better about themselves, but that liking how you look with makeup doesn’t mean you hate your bare face. This isn’t a black and white situation. There’s a lot of nuance in any discussion of why an individual woman might choose to use cosmetics, or how she feels about her face.

Obviously, obviously, I hate to see women saying they hate their faces and that’s why they use makeup. I hate to see the negative side of something I love, that has been so positive for me, and that I have used to make others happy. I hate that the cosmetics industry has weaponized a woman’s own face to be used against her.

But that’s just it, assholes who want to judge women for “hiding”: nobody’s trying to “trick” you. If women want to hide their faces, it’s because we are told from birth that merely by existing we are doing something wrong. The way our facial features naturally settle when we’re not smiling? Resting Bitch Face. The way our bodies look if we’re not wearing undergarments and shapewear? Unsightly. And let’s not talk about our faces with no makeup. Haggard, ugly, tired, sick. If you want women to stop “hiding”, don’t attack them. Attack the industry that makes them feel like they have to hide in the first place. Or just stop being so obsessed with what women do.

Because here’s the thing: nobody calls men fake for presenting their physical selves in a way that makes them feel powerful, or cool, or just like themselves. Men buy $300 sneakers to look cool, but you don’t see anyone calling them fake, or superficial, or acting as if it’s any of their fucking business what someone else puts on their own body.

Unless you’re doing some extreme Kontouring, you do not look like a fundamentally different person without makeup on. Hell, I’m sure even the Kardashians are recognizable when they wash it all off. Sure, with a full face of makeup my skin is smoother, I have no under-eye circles, and my eyelashes are thicker, longer, and darker – but I’m still me. Makeup does not fundamentally change my face into something unrecognizable, nor does it change who I am as a person.

I don’t mean to downplay the difference makeup makes. Most pictures of me are not how I look when I first roll out of bed. For one thing, I’m not frowning at the fact that I’m conscious. But get past the zits and eyebags and realize that my face looks pretty much the same. I’m not lying to anyone. And if you think there’s anything wrong with my face with no makeup on, that’s on you for thinking there’s something inherently wrong with a woman’s natural face. We are raised to notice flaws in women and ignore flaws in men, which is why nobody thinks men need to wear makeup or that men just naturally age better than women. No – you’re just more critical of women.

That’s why you’re shocked when you see someone’s face underneath their foundation and mascara and eyeshadow and lipstick and a million other products. It’s not because they look so different. It’s not because they’re ugly. It’s because you’re looking for flaws. And, frankly, it’s insulting to say a woman is “hiding” her face when she wears makeup, because the implication is that there’s something wrong with her bare face, that when she takes her makeup off she goes from the pretty girl you fell for to an ugly beast that you wouldn’t have looked at twice if you’d known.

And I guess part two to this post is that I don’t want my blog to be a contribution to this idea that makeup makes you worthy as a person. Makeup, for me, is an art form, a way that I express myself, and just an interest of mine that I want to share. I have friends who love makeup just as much as I do, I have friends who wear just a bit of makeup every day, and I have friends who wear no makeup, ever. I love them all. I don’t judge any of them. I never think any of them are fake, or ugly, or that that they should wear more or less makeup. In the end, it’s just smearing shit on your face. If you’re into that, cool. If not, also cool.

So let’s de-weaponize our own faces. I know it’s easier said than done, but let’s do that cliché fake-it-till-ya-make-it thing of looking in the mirror first thing in the morning and saying, “You’re beautiful,” or, even better, “Your face does not determine your self-worth. But it’s still pretty rad.” Let’s look at pictures of ourselves with no makeup on and think about the positives instead of fixating on the parts of our faces that we don’t like.

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On this day, I was hanging out with a bunch of my favourite people. I don’t know who said what, but clearly I was enjoying it. After this photo was taken I put on a full face of makeup, had my friend curl my hair, and went out for sushi. Best day ever.

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This was a beach day with three people who I love (and miss). We splashed around, played Twenty Questions in the sun, and had lunch at a touristy café.

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Who has time to worry about eyeliner when there are small children to chase around?

So men (and women) who act like women are “fake” or “hiding” who they are for wearing makeup: wake up and realize that not everything is about you. There are so many of us out there who do it for reasons entirely unrelated to insecurity – but there are women who wear makeup because they’re insecure, and they shouldn’t be blamed for that. If you really care, target the heads of cosmetics companies. (You don’t care. You just want another reason to control women.)

Bare faces are just as good as made-up faces, and vice versa. I hope that one day we will live in a world where we all embrace our makeupless faces, and where we only wear makeup because we truly want to and not because we feel obligated to. Until then, I’ll keep rolling my eyes at people who disparage women for putting makeup on, as if it isn’t our right to do what we want and feel how we want about our own faces.

There are 8 responses to “On being bare-faced”

  • *two thumbs up*

    I generally wear makeup daily (during the week and nights out especially), but because I like putting it on and I fail to see what the issue is with me wanting to wear makeup. (Because, as you said, there is no issue with me wanting and doing so.) I think I’m the only one in my core group of friends that wears makeup daily. Others wear it occasionally, and some never. And none of us care if the others are or are not wearing makeup, or judge each other for our individual choices. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to: an individual choice.

    Do I leave my apartment without makeup on sometimes? Of course! I don’t have the stuff permanently on my face! Do I care if people think there’s something “wrong” with my face when I’m not wearing any makeup? No. To me, that tells me more about insecurities they have about themselves then anything that actually has to do with me. I love my face how it is; my relationship with makeup doesn’t change my relationship with my face (or body, if we want to go down the route of beauty products for the body…)

    • I definitely think that people who are very critical of others are also intensely self-critical. So I’m with you there – I believe that type of behaviour shows insecurity, which is unfortunate. I’m perfectly happy with my face, and I like to dress it up sometimes too. I want other people to feel that way as well!

  • I absolutely love this post! You’ve very eloquently explained my views on the matter so I think I’ll just direct people here when they question me about why I have so much makeup :P Even my parents, who initially disliked the fact that I wear a noticeable amount of makeup most days, have gotten on board and realized that I do it because it’s fun. I’m not an artistic person in any other way really (can’t draw, can’t paint, etc.) so makeup is my little outlet. It’s all for fun. I’m lucky in that I have naturally good skin apart from the occasional spot so I’m not looking to cover anything just to enhance what’s there and play about with a bit of self expression.

    Also, I think guys take on the matter is pretty funny most of the time. Between them saying they love the “natural look” and thinking we do it for them it’s all too much. I’ve never had a boyfriend who has liked when I wear red or dark lipstick but it’s one of my favourite things to do so I’m not about to stop and I know a lot of other girls wear it despite their boyfriends not liking it, sorry guys we can kiss you when we’re home and have washed it off.

    Sorry for my little ramble haha really great post :) xx

    • I’m also not artistic at all, so makeup is the visual way that I can express myself. I love it for that! It’s so much fun to put on a different face every day and explore different styles and looks.

      I love that you wear the lipstick you like even if your boyfriends don’t like it! It’s for you, so keep rocking it!

  • YES I’m glad you wrote this! People always think I’m insecure about my face without make up because I choose to wear a full face every day. I wear my make up because I LOVE applying it and I love all my products. I think it’s more about the process of applying it than about making myself look ‘better’. I know I look ‘different’ with make up on, but it’s not better or worse. I don’t care if people think I look better without make up and I think it’s pretty rude when people tell you that out of the blue. I also think it’s pretty rude that if I ever appear somewhere without make up people ask me if I’m okay. I mean, people understand that I have a face without make up, that miraculously LOOKS like a face without make up. Ugh, so annoying!
    And the whole argument about wearing make up to attract boys is pretty heteronormative and boring if you ask me. Why would anyone spend $35 on an illuminator to attract boys..

    • I didn’t even touch on how heteronormative the conversation is – but I think most of the people who have this opinion about makeup wearers would probably have their minds blown if they realized that some women who wear makeup don’t want to attract men at all!

      And I’m so with you – I adore applying makeup. It’s so therapeutic and calming to me. I really don’t mind people seeing me without makeup and if I’m running errands and not already wearing it I never put it on and I’m fine. But when I’m going to school part of my morning routine is putting on my makeup, because it just makes me feel calm and ready for the day.

      I love what you said about makeup making you look different, but not better or worse. That’s so true! There is no such thing as an objective better or worse – that’s just a weird social construct.

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