How the cosmetic industry capitalizes off of effortlessness
If you were to ask around, I’m sure every woman could recall to you their first experience with makeup. Whether it was a soda-flavored Lip Smacker chap stick from Limited Too or a sorry excuse for an eyeshadow palette shaped like a cell phone, almost every girl remembers the first time they lathered their face with one thing or another to achieve a sense of posh and beauty they believed their natural face could not.
For me, my makeup evolution was a coming of age story. I remember around third grade I was at my best friend’s house and we were giving each other makeovers — as many eight year old girls tend to do — and when she asked me what look I wanted to achieve I confidently stated “black lipstick.” I looked ridiculous. From then on, I hated everything about makeup — when my mother did it for my Halloween costumes in elementary school to when my sister did it for the various bar/bat mitzvahs I attended in middle school.
I even hated it when I was the one waking up 30 minutes before school to put on some BB cream, fill in my brows and add a touch of mascara, or when it was my unsteady hand trying to emulate a look I saw on Pinterest or Youtube for my junior year homecoming. Eventually, I graduated to winged eyeliner in my latter years of high school but still, my makeup skills were basic at best and my interest in the subculture as a whole was just not there.
That is, until I bought my very first purple lipstick my first semester of college. The shade was called “Sangria” and from there on I was obsessed. That summer I saved and splurged on my first self-purchased palette, Modern Renaissance by Anastasia Beverly Hills and my weird love for all things makeup has not slowed down since. In fact, the top drawer of my dorm room’s dresser is dedicated only to my makeup and I am notorious for always being at least 30 minutes late to any function because of the time and precision I spend on my face.
But my love for makeup is just as great as my skepticism for it all. So many makeup brands have cult-like followings and profit off of not just the pressure to look beautiful but rather, the pressure to look beautiful while looking like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Headlines like Allure’s “Top 6 Natural Makeup Looks” use photographs of celebrities on the red carpet as prototypes for “natural” when, let’s be honest, their minimalist looks were likely achieved by hired makeup artist using an array of luxury makeup products. This phenomena is not restricted to glossy magazines, either. With just one search of “natural makeup” on Youtube upwards of six million results with some videos reaching lengths of over 20 minutes — that’s 20 minutes of effort to achieve effortlessness. And of course, there are makeup lines and products that brand themselves as being perfect for the “naked” face. One of the most popular, being Urban Decay Cosmetics’ Naked line including everything from eyeshadow palettes to contour kits branded to make it seem like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I lust over just about every new launch Urban Decay has of this line, whether it be a new palette or the release of yet another foundation with a similar-but-different finish from the last one. But as an active consumer I still see the contradiction of it all. The beauty industry profits — thrives — not just on those who wear dramatic looks daily or experiment with FX makeup, but on telling individuals they need this, that and the other thing to make it look like they woke up with clear skin, rosy cheeks and doey eyes.
The thing is, there is no right or wrong way to wear makeup, and to think that liking natural looks versus full-face beats is mutually exclusive would be a disadvantage to women everywhere. There is no need to marginalize one makeup style apart from another. As women we should know better. It’s okay to use makeup as a confidence booster or a security blanket to hide imperfections; just as it’s okay to use it as a form of experimentation or to not use it at all. Understanding you don’t need it to change your look while still wanting it to change how you look is nothing to be ashamed of at all.
Using makeup only becomes an issue when it is pushed onto individuals rather than an autonomous choice made by themselves. The pushed narratives of “natural makeup is more attractive” or that certain makeup techniques are unprofessional in the work setting is what problematizes an art so many women feel liberated by. Like everything else in a woman’s life, makeup is a choice, not a requirement to fulfill societal expectations.
As a whole, society has made some effortful strides of accepting all forms of beauty in recent years: the truly bare-faced au natural, the seemingly barefaced barely there face beat and the full-on dramatic looks, too. Alicia Keys, for example, made a personal pledge to no longer wear makeup to high profile events and has been seen barefaced ever since this decision in early 2016. Minimalist brands like Glossier have also been finding their way into the mainstream makeup world by providing all-natural ingredients to perfect an all-natural look. But still, lines of shimmery shades and epic holiday vaults continue to be sold out in minutes, likely because of the fandom that exists for the makeup world, a fandom I am shamelessly a part of and will continue to be for, well, as long as I choose to.
Alexis Morillo is a third-year journalism major who owns not one, not two, but four Naked palettes.