Opinion: “The ‘no makeup’ makeup trend is negatively impacting society’s beauty standards”

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Featured illustration: Ross Westgate

Fashion Editor, Isabelle Moore, explores the ‘no makeup’ trend, looking at why more people are opting for a stripped back, fresh-faced look and how this may do more harm than good.

With our feeds filled with the likes of Hailey Bieber and Sofia Richie Grainge showing off their dewy, glazed skin and simple makeup routines, it’s hard not to be influenced. These stars of the fashion and beauty world have inspired many to follow in their footsteps and embrace a fresh-faced, natural look. Since 2020, #NoMakeup has been tagged over 19 million times on Instagram, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The term ‘no makeup’ makeup speaks for itself, centering around the idea that less is more. The trend is in direct contrast to the full coverage glam look of 2016, promoted by many content creators such as NikkieTutorials and James Charles. According to Fashionista, the top beauty influencers used Instagram to showcase these full glam looks, whereas creators today use a mixture of Tiktok and Instagram to highlight the current beauty trends.

However, it’s clear that the ‘no-makeup’ look portrayed by these influencers may not be as effortless and natural as first appears. Many influencers prompting this natural look to aspire to may have had lip filler, eye lifts or botox themselves. And it’s no secret many of them edit their pictures, meaning that the ‘no makeup’ trend is actually quite misleading and hard to achieve. Countless people could be trying to live up to an aesthetic which is simply unattainable. 

One brand that knows exactly how to encapsulate this aesthetic, and has capitalised on it as a result, is Glossier. Founded in 2014, the brand is famed for a skin first, make-up second ideology to celebrate its customers natural beauty. With a tagline of ‘beauty products inspired by real-life’, Glossier has amassed a cult community engaged and loyal to the brand. In terms of products, think cream blushes, skin tints, lip-glosses and brow pomades, paired with skincare that promotes youthful, glowy and supple skin. It’s clear that Glossier has found its niche and people just can’t get enough of a ‘less is more’ makeup look. Glossier’s ideology of authenticity when it comes to the effect these products possess still cannot imitate the impossible beauty standards that many influencers promote to this day.

Having said that though, there has also been a surge in consumers who are keen to scrap cosmetics completely and opt for a truly bare-faced look. An interesting instance of this was seen at Paris Fashion Week, and more recently at the 2023 Fashion Awards in London, where actress and model, Pamela Anderson, went makeup-free to her events. At face value, this might not seem like worthy news, but it’s opened up a much bigger dialogue about societal pressures around beauty and the necessity of wearing make up. 

Global events are a time for many celebrities to pull out all the stops, with many spending thousands on glam teams to keep them always looking their best. However, Pamela Anderson, synonymous with her sexy bombshell 90s persona, pushed back against this notion, stating that “you have to challenge beauty sometimes”. She explained going bare-faced was a bit like an “experiment” for her, as well as a way to be “a little bit rebellious” in a public, well-photographed event like Paris Fashion Week or a red carpet.

A much deeper reason behind Anderson’s recent pared-down beauty look was due to the passing of her long-time makeup artist and friend, Alexis Vogel, in 2019, according to HuffPost. She shared: “Alexis was the best and without her, it’s just better for me to not wear makeup.” This heart-warming display of respect shows that for some, makeup can mean so much more than just applying product to look good. It’s refreshing to see someone with such a large status, like Anderson, embrace a natural look as it reminds us that celebrities are just like us and not picture-perfect beings.

However, it begs the question as to whether someone without as much raw or pure beauty as Anderson would garner the same kind of public praise. It has been rumoured as well that Anderson herself has undergone cosmetic procedures such as lip and jaw filler, again begging the question of how authentic the bare-faced look is in the media. When looking at it from this perspective, the ‘no makeup’ makeup trend could actually be negatively impacting and alienating many people who don’t fit into these misleading and unrealistic standards. In this case, the trend is actually doing the opposite of what it aims to do, by potentially creating insecurities in individuals by showcasing false naturalism with celebrities and amplifying this as an attainable standard for anyone regardless of their income.

Whether you choose to adopt the ‘no-makeup look’ or not, showcasing our natural beauty can never be a bad thing. The same goes for the rise of this trend’s popularity due to it being adopted by many influential people within the industry. However, we must also acknowledge that the ‘no makeup’ makeup look can be heavily deceptive and only truly benefits those individuals that fit within the classic western standard of beauty. The main ideology that needs to be pushed is that beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s inside us that matters.

About the author / 

Isabelle Moore

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