By Victoria R.

Recent days have found many of our Facebook pages overwhelmed with “no-makeup” selfies (#nomakeupselfie). Before diving in to how I personally feel about the photo fad, let’s look into the background of this new social network trend.

The trend initially started when UK models started donating money to cancer-research for the support of their bare-faced photos. This campaign has raised over $3 million for cancer research in just two days, states CTV news. Initially the trend had nothing to do with any cancer research association, but due to all the support – the campaign was sort of adopted. From there the trend caught fire. Eventually some people weren’t even posting the photos as a breast cancer awareness activity, but just as a nomination game with friends.

(Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/no-makeup-selfie-campaign-raises-3m-for-cancer-research-in-2-days-1.1741230#ixzz2wtM2flRg)

Okay, so now you have the background. Let’s start with my list of issues with this campaign that are rooted in gender.

First, many (including myself) have taken issue with the trend, and the parallels that have been drawn between breast cancer, and going make-up free. The money raised is a great thing – that is undeniable, as it can be used towards beneficial research; however, should a women going make-up free be deemed as brave, and then compared to cancer? Most people wouldn’t even put that much thought into the “no makeup” selfies, but if we are being critical consumers, isn’t that the message that this whirlwind fad is really delivering? I can understand that the parallel is trying to underline the struggle women with breast cancer face and compare it to the struggle women face from the stereotypical expectations of beauty… but it comes off slightly trivial and in bad taste.

Also, when considering breast cancer awareness programs we have already deemed the pink ribbon as its indicator, so adding make-up (or lack thereof) to the campaign scheme is just the next step. Many women feel that breast cancer threatens to take away what many of us feel makes us feminine (our breasts), so I understand the parallel that is drawn between hyper-femininity and breast cancer awareness. However, it also goes to show that in the context of a disease (which you think would have nothing to do with gender), we still perpetuate gender stereotypes of what it represents to be a women. Aren’t there women in the world that contract breast cancer who detest the colour pink? Or the wearing of make-up? Making a campaign based on female stereotypes does not do well to serve all women.

Leaving behind the connection to breast cancer, as many Face Book users have, there are many other issues that come from these “no-make” up selfies. These selfies make for a lot of confusion, whether we choose to critically think about it or not.

Beauty, and our perception of being beautiful is a place where things get really complicated. Personally, I love make-up. Before writing this blog post I decided to look at the number of make-up products that I personally own. 7 mascaras, 5 blushes, over 20 eyeshadows, 3 foundations, 4 primers, 14 lip glosses/lip sticks, and 20+ brushes… When I counted up what I would have spent on my makeup products that I have right now, the number hovers somewhere around $700. When I look at it this way, I feel crazy! Shopping at Sephora, and purchasing make-up that I can use to create a different image of myself is a way that I truly enjoy to spend my time. I even have several make-up tutorial guides and books that I love to experiment from, it’s a hobby. I can honestly say that I use make-up because I enjoy it, but I can also admit that I am not 100% comfortable in my own skin (without makeup).For me, make-up allows me to channel all of my inner confidence by making sure that my blemishes are hidden, and any features that I love about myself are further enhanced. I feel that make-up helps my outside match my inside. Where it gets complicated for me, is that I realize that the only reason why make-up becomes an outlet for me to express myself is because I have been socialized to be interested in the art of make-up and make-up products. Shopping for makeup/putting makeup on has been an activity my mom and I have shared for a very long time. Would I feel better about my own “natural” features if I hadn’t been socialized to always be seeking improvements? I’m not sure, and I guess I’ll never know.

From a very young age the majority of women are exposed to an extreme pressure from the media, peers, and sometimes even family to conform and fit under traditional beauty norms. Not only are we expected to fit a certain mold, we are told to do so in a very clever way. The media not only provides us with examples of how we “should” appear, they also deliver the messages in a way that make us feel like we really should be interested in it for enjoyment as well.

Now… back to the “no-makeup” selfie. After we have been told our entire lives to wear makeup (and be interested in makeup), some impossibly gorgeous models in the UK decide to kick off a “no-makeup” selfie campaign that makes the rest of women feel guilty for wearing makeup in the first place… Women everywhere in pursuit of social acceptance and praise are throwing their natural selfies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to receive said praise and social acceptance from peers. Comments on the pictures are stating: “You don’t need makeup,” or “Natural beauty,”… further adding to the idea that because you are a women you should be beautiful by nature… So I am supposed to love make-up and want to buy make-up, but I don’t really need it because I’m beautiful anyway? WHAT?

Campaigns like this sure help sell confusing makeup products that offer a “soft, natural look”. Too Faced even offers a makeup kit called, “The no makeup, makeup kit.” (Media scamming strikes again)


An example of the “no makeup, makeup”

Putting aside the media, WE also perpetuate ideas about beauty in our everyday conversations. How often do we tell our best friend that they are beautiful when they are sitting on the couch watching a movie? Do we tell her she is beautiful when we just get done a yoga class? Or do we tell her she is beautiful when she posts a done-up “selfie” before she heads out on the town? I think many of us can admit that we are more likely to tell our friend she is beautiful when she is all glammed up. How confusing is it now that we are all being rewarded by posting our “no-makeup” selfies? Maybe we all need to take a step back and realize that confusion about beauty and our self image can stem from our words not matching our actions. If we are spreading the message that the big bad media started in the first place, then aren’t we to blame as well? (Guys, you may or may not be guilty of doing this as well – to your girl friends, girlfriend, or wife.)

I hope this post isn’t taken the wrong way. I think that letting women know their natural appearance is “good enough” is a good thing (I think deep down, it even makes me feel a little better). However, I think we need to be careful about letting beauty be used as a tool to meet an end, and the damage that can be caused for some women when this “no-makeup” campaign is forgotten in a couple weeks. I hope that it isn’t, and I hope that there is a more significant movement for more realistic advertisements and promotion of beauty products. If I am being a true critical consumer – I am not so sure that a significant, long-term shift will really happen – not unless more people become exposed to the conversations and topics that this entire blog brings forth.

It’s complicated to feel passion and enjoyment for something while also knowing that you only feel that way because of how you have developed and grown through societal norms. I don’t think I will be putting down the make-up brush any time soon, but I think it is important to be a critical consumer of beauty, and our thoughts/actions/words about it.





3 responses

  1. I really enjoyed this post as I had just finished looking through Facebook and seeing multiple pictures and nominations to their friends—none which had any mention of cancer-research at all. The post I saw ranged from “oh this is easy, I never wear makeup”, “OMG don’t make fun of my bare face…I’m so ugly without make-up”, to people refusing to post it because they cannot be seen without makeup on. Then you would have the guys that would post silly pictures with the caption “no makeup!” Nothing that I saw had anything to do with the cancer research itself and it wasn’t taken serious. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy wearing make-up as well, but I can easily go out in public without it and not have to worry about who I am going to see. I agree also with your statement about how often we tell our friends they are beautiful unless they are all done up. I see it a lot in the younger kids. They will post a selfie on Facebook and get over 100 likes, and multiple people telling them they are beautiful, but their faces are loaded with make-up and their hair is prom-ready. They are going to believe that they are not pretty unless they look like this. Like you stated, it was just a nomination game with friends and after the no makeup selfies faded out, people started nominating their friends to post a pic of them wearing their comfiest clothing…. Why! But I also agree that everyone’s natural appearance is good enough; it just shouldn’t take a nomination game on Facebook to realize that.
    Great post,
    Sarah Holt

  2. Victoria, what a great post! I completely agree. Personally, I was also against this campaign. I thought it was a bit demeaning to women that they were labeled as brave for taking a picture of themselves with no make up on and posting it over Facebook. This would not have gotten a second look had it not have been for the girls nominating each other. I did not appreciate how many of the girls actually lost sight of the fact that the no makeup selfies were supposed to be in support of breast cancer. I noticed that as the nominations continued that it turned into girls more so looking for compliments. I don’t think that girls should have to post pictures with no make up on to feel pretty about themselves. I also think that if girls want to post pictures with make up on to feel pretty about themselves, they should!
    Again, great post!
    Meggie Spicer

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