Unpretty: Some Thoughts on Makeup

I’m a self-proclaimed makeup addict. I have a subscription to the Ipsy Glam Bag (you should too), frequent Sephora and Ulta, and spend a shameful amount of time watching beauty tutorials and product reviews on Youtube. I do my friends’ makeup for events, am constantly trying new looks on myself, and in high school I even competed in theatrical makeup design. Makeup is a fun, creative outlet for me and something I genuinely enjoy. But some days makeup doesn’t feel like fun, it feels like an obligation.

I can’t think of a single day of high school that I went to school without at least concealer and mascara- usually I wore full face of makeup. While I typically went for the “no makeup makeup” look, I was still using a lot of product and putting a significant chunk of time into achieving a look I thought was acceptable to show the world, or at least the tiny piece of world that was my high school. Coming to college, not much changed. I still wore makeup every day, with the exception of a few off days due to later nights than I was used to.  On those rare days, I walked around campus feeling paranoid.

Feeling so self-conscious of my face without makeup has always been weird to me, because I constantly see other girls without makeup and never think twice about it… So why have I always felt like I have to wear makeup to class, and even to the gym? I have yet to pinpoint where this compulsion to cover my face with makeup comes from. Is it my southern pageant girl background? Is it the same anxiety that makes calling restaurants to order phone an agonizing ordeal?  It seems silly to have such strong feelings about something so trivial, something so few people even notice (unless you’re a celebrity of course) but I can’t stop obsessing over it! This brings us to the straw that broke the camel’s (please get the pun on my name here, please) back, the event that reignited the inner debate over makeup that’s been going on inside my brain for YEARS.

As someone who has almost always been too nervous to leave the house without makeup, Alicia Keys’s decision to stop wearing makeup altogether has been a topic I’ve put a lot of thought into over the past few months since she debuted her fresh faced look at the VMAs.

Scrolling through Twitter the night of the VMAs, I saw countless tweets and articles about her bold decision to go makeup-free. I thought it was so cool! But after seeing pictures, I didn’t feel empowered or inspired, I felt bad about myself. She still looked beautiful and radiant, no blotchy red cheeks or dark circles under her eyes. I take good care of my skin, so why don’t I like the way I look without makeup?  

Last night, I read a Refinery 29 article that revealed that even though Alicia Keys doesn’t glam up anymore, she still doesn’t ~wake up like that.~ Even without makeup, Keys still undergoes an extensive and expensive routine to achieve her beautiful bare faced look. The sheer joy and relief I felt at reading this quickly changed from a feeling of vindication to a feeling of unease. Was it wrong to have found some evidence for my it’s too good to be true hunch I had about her new look all along? Am I just THAT petty? Am I mad at Alicia Keys for making me feel guilty for wearing makeup when even without it she still works REALLY hard to look like she does? These are only a few of the seemingly endless questions I had for myself. After I took some time to calm down, I was left with one final question: why why why why am I putting so much thought into something so insignificant in the grand scheme of life?

I still don’t know how I feel about Alicia Keys starting a no makeup movement when her look is anything but effortless and natural. Can you really be taking a stand for natural beauty if you spend almost $500 dollars on just the products for your routine? Not to mention the personal makeup artist who adds subtle hints of makeup in the form of eyebrow, lash, and freckle enhancement. What does this mean?!? I am so grateful that we have celebrities who are trying to break the mold, expand beauty norms, and show girls that they don’t have to wear a full on mask of makeup to stand proudly in front of the world… But I cannot say that I am not disappointed that we are still expected to look beautiful without makeup.

Today I am at work writing this article, and after I leave work I will go to class. I am wearing no makeup- exposing my blotchy cheeks, dark circles under my eyes that rival those of a corpse, and red dry spots that are the ghosts of pimples past. I can’t say that I do not feel a little self conscious, but I can say that there is an undeniable happiness running through my veins because it doesn’t matter!!! It doesn’t matter that I don’t look perfect, it doesn’t matter that literally no one cares enough to think about how I look one way or the other, and it doesn’t matter whether or not Alicia Keys has anything to do with my choice of wearing makeup or not. What matters is that whether I choose not to wear any makeup at all or buy a 24 pack of lipstick is totally my choice and I should be able to feel happy either way.