The rise of makeup-free and fresh-faced looks online and on the red carpet aren’t always the ‘natural’ vibe we believe they are.
Ask the girlies anywhere and you’ll hear that many of us are no longer rocking the full-face makeup that had us in a chokehold during the mid-2010s.
We’ve traded HD brows, dark lipstick, heavy matte foundation, and contour for softer and more natural makeup looks that incorporate skincare-based products.
The ultimate goal for many is hydrated skin, blushed cheeks, and a glowy complexion – if we decide to wear any makeup at all.
While some might see this trend as getting closer to embracing a far more natural version of beauty, it’s hard to ignore the fact that products, skin treatments, and cosmetic ‘tweakments’ aimed at enhancing our appearance are being marketed to us at a rate like never before.
From skin-perfecting tonics to wrinkle-reducing baby Botox and complexion-evening red-light therapy, there are now an endless number of non-surgical but lasting tweakments available to those interested in enhancing their beauty.
These treatments promise not to change our appearance drastically, but to improve the quality of our existing features. Is this a step in the right direction or just new beauty standards repackaged?
The emphasis on perfect remains
While beauty regimes of the past were defined by the ability to cover up flaws with various makeup tricks, today there is an increased focus on preventing and eliminating flaws altogether.
The ‘no-makeup makeup look’ is, after all, considered a huge flex – one that those already meeting Eurocentric beauty standards will execute with ease. The rest of us mere mortals are left to strive for this idea.
Rather than investing in a full-coverage foundation, individuals are now more likely to research which skincare products can rid them of their perceived issue, such as dark spots, enlarged pores, acne scars, or redness.
Those looking to even out skin texture won’t reach for pore-blurring primer, but instead to chemical peels and vampire facials to achieve an all-over rejuvenation that some have naturally, thanks to genetics.
Instead of overlining the lips or buying a plumping gloss to create a temporarily fuller pout, many people are choosing to get the lip flip procedure – a specialised way of injecting filler, which looks a lot more natural than traditional methods.
On top of this, the affordability of tweakments like baby Botox is allowing people to continue to look like themselves, but to appear ‘fresher’ or ‘more youthful’ without breaking the bank. Such procedures require zero downtime, meaning nobody can ever be 100 percent sure if someone has acquired Botox unless someone tells them.
When it comes to investing in beauty, we might be spending our money differently. But deep down it is clear we have not suddenly embraced our ‘natural’ selves. The goalposts of what it means to be ‘naturally beautiful’ have merely shifted – and so has the cost of scoring.
Natural or not natural?
What makes modern beauty standards difficult is that a beautiful face void of makeup doesn’t mean that thousands of dollars haven’t been handed over to cosmetologists or facialists to achieve it.
In this way, the standard of beauty can be raised by subtle, costly, and indeterminate procedures that take place over time.
Watching The Kardashians (a guilty pleasure I’m willing to admit to), it’s easy to wonder how the sisters look even better in make-up-free scenes than they did a decade ago, especially as many of them are approaching or are already well into their 40s.
But it’s important to remember that celebrities have invested an unthinkable amount of money into skin care products, specialist facials, subtle procedures, and other more invasive treatments behind the scenes.
They may look natural, as these treatments occur to create change and prevent ageing over time, but this ‘natural’ beauty is the result of regularly dealing with certain aesthetic concerns – and paying a massive price tag that comes with that.
In the end, trying to keep up with beauty standards is the hamster wheel women will live and eventually die on if we don’t slow down or step off altogether.
Make-up on or make up off – embracing yourself fully is the number one way to always shine.
I’m Jessica (She/Her). Originally from Bermuda, I moved to London to get a Master’s degree in Media & Communications and now write for Thred to spread the word about positive social change, specifically ocean health and marine conservation. You can also find me dipping my toes into other subjects like pop culture, health, wellness, style, and beauty. Follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and drop me some ideas/feedback via email.
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