Makeup: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. It’s been around for centuries—archaeologists have found evidence of makeup as far back as ancient Egypt —and, while it’s hard to know how people have felt about its use over the years, we certainly know how people feel about it nowadays. Sometimes it seems like people who wear makeup can’t walk ten feet down the street without someone giving their opinion: “you don’t need makeup,” “you’re wearing too much makeup,”“I really like the natural look” (which many people don’t realize is simply a masterfully minimalist look achieved with the use of, of course, makeup). And then there’s the other camp, the bare-faced look, which faces similar challenges. Some people truly appreciate bare skin while others will ask what’s wrong, or if you’re sick. Either way, making any kind of choice with your face can be difficult today, especially as a woman—but as of late, twin movements have emerged to help make those choices easier.
Once you log into Instagram, you’re never more than two degrees of separation from a makeup-centric account. The popularity of 15-second makeup tutorials has skyrocketed recently, as have the makeup aficionados, semiprofessionals, and professionals who create them. Among the ranks of these talented makeup artists are black women, such as Jade Kendle, a Texas-based beauty influencer, and YouTube sensation, Raye Boyce, who both not only bring their technical makeup skills, but also a refreshing honesty that has been denied to makeup wearers for a long time. They review, try on, and promote makeup because they love it, pure and simple; they’re enthusiastic about the potential looks that can be created and the fun you can have with a good matte lipstick.
On her website, where she reviews different makeups, makes lifestyle posts, and even occasionally recreates celebrity looks, Boyce says she wants to tell others that “being yourself is cool”, and hopes to “inspire others to forever stay true to themselves.” Other makeup gurus have said the same: makeup can be, and frequently is, a way to express yourself, to make yourself look however you feel like looking that day, and, of course, to have fun. It doesn’t have to be a safety blanket or a way to appeal to the people who weigh in on those “15 Looks Women Love That Men Hate!” articles; makeup can be a tool for self-expression and a way to create art.
On the other side of the river stands the barefaced camp. One of the most notable names to put their two cents in in favor of going natural is Alicia Keys. This May, she wrote a moving piece about how she recently made the decision to go natural for the foreseeable future. In her essay she told a story that was both personal and ultimately very familiar: the struggle of growing up in a world surrounded by beautiful girls and not feeling as beautiful, and the reliance on makeup to change those feelings. The ugly truth is that women today are subject to a double standard that, at its core, says, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” and a good number of women choose to use makeup to ward off the unnecessary and downright cruel criticisms of unprofessionalism, unattractiveness, and laziness that a bare face may incite.
But Keys, along with the tens of thousands featured in the 44,342 posts in the #barefaced tag on Instagram, is pushing back against that stigma. Keys says that the unexpected all-natural photoshoot she did with photographer Paola Kudacki, whose work can be seen here and here, was the “strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful” that she’s ever felt, adding that she “hope[s] to God” that the #nomakeup selfies posted in response to her essay and photoshoot are a genuine revolution.
Interestingly enough, the barefaced look isn’t totally isolated in its promotion: those same makeup gurus mentioned above, Kendle and Boyce, have both posted pictures of their bare faces, but not just for before-and-after shots; these “au naturale” shoots are hailed as #looks, and it’s made plenty clear that, although they choose to wear makeup, they both are comfortable in their bare skin and encourage others to feel the same.
As it turns out, makeup and the lack thereof are two sides of the very same coin, and have the very same worth. They aren’t separate necessarily; today, with the advent of social media to give fans of both makeup and the natural look a platform to speak on the value of self-confidence and loving the way you look and the rebranding of makeup as a tool to have fun, both makeup and bareface lovers contribute to the same important message of self-love. With every tweet, tutorial, and look of the day, makeup lovers and au naturale advocates are chipping away at the stigmas that surround the looks that people choose to rock. So whether you decide that face wash is the only product for the day or put on a full face of makeup and a bright fuchsia lip, there are people in your corner, telling you you’re beautiful just the way you are.
By Femi Sobowale
Edited by Victoria Krute
Layout Design by Renita Singleton