There seems to be an obsession around about looking naturally beautiful at the same time, and this might be because it seems to be the hardest thing in the world and that human beings strive for the impossible. It has become a stereotype that the highest and hardest stage in art is to look natural and effortless, and looking pretty without appearing to have made an effort is unfairly expected every day from girls in our society.
Who hasn’t heard this comment: ‘Oh yeah, she’s pretty, but it’s because she wears SO much make-up!’? I just want to say: so what? Is beauty less valuable when it is unnatural? Make-up is considered in a pejorative way, as if it were forgery, a fraud to deceive people, as if women who use it were selling something that they do not have. In his ‘Praise of Cosmetics’ written in 1863, the French poet Charles Baudelaire was already going against the persistent idea that nature is good and artifice is bad. This moral foundation to the concept of beauty still lingers in our minds today, and it concerns not only ‘artistic art’ but also more prosaic artifice like make-up and aesthetic surgery for instance. One of the arguments against aesthetic surgery is that God or nature ‘gave us the body we have’ and that ‘we should accept ourselves as we are’.
The point is not to criticise this moral rejection of make-up. Rather, my intention is to highlight the moral association from which these little phrases, which pass through our head or that we casually say every day, might come from. It is now up to you to decide what you think of make-up. However, I do have one criticism: there is an enormous social pressure to look not only standardly ‘fit’, but also for that beauty to look natural and effortless. As a literature student, I very often come across misogynistic authors who satirize feminine vanity. Despite mocking an excess of artifice in women, they expect women to be beautiful naturally (for their own enjoyment) and debase them when they are old or ‘ugly’ (I am thinking in particular of some of Quevedo’s poems). Sure, vanity may have an important part in women putting on make-up, but the problem is that they often do not have the choice of showing themselves without anything on their face, at job interviews or parties for instance. Men, on the other side, seem to be completely exempted of that pressure. It is not only that they save an incalculable amount of time, they also escape the objectification women are subjected to. Baudelaire, who is also considered a misogynistic writer, states in his ‘Praise of Cosmetics’ that it is almost a woman’s ‘duty’ to make-up in order to be closer to perfection. She must be divine, supernatural, an ‘idol’.
Not only does nude make-up take part in the objectification of women, it is also in my opinion a swindle that attracts us like a magic spell. In the ‘fraud’ of make-up it is the most subtle kind of deceit, one that is supposed to achieve the supreme stage of beauty, natural and effortlessness all together. But really, the no make-up make-up actually comes down to two things:
- Less make-up, literally. There might be an ‘art’ of making-up without appearing to have done so, but if you want to save yourself the ridiculous amount of youtube ‘no make-up make-up’ tutorials, you can never go wrong with just reducing the amount of make-up products you use. As simple as that.
- Two keywords: clean and neat. Everything seems to revolve around achieving a clear and healthy-looking skin, neatly plucked eyebrows and open, bright eyes. Oh, and clean hair does help. This is where social inequality strikes, because no, rich people are not all naturally gorgeous. A healthy life style that includes a balanced diet and exercising and products for the skin and the hair are a lot more accessible to a social category who can afford it or to people who chose to invest money in it.