Between rounds of truth or dare and Spice Girl dress up sessions, my friends and I would navigate a confusing territory where we would try to be a mix of nice, pretty, popular and cool. Despite my parents’ good intentions, I became seduced by the desire to be beautiful. Seventeen magazines and Claire’s Accessory stores pulled me and many of my friends under their spells. At sleepovers, we traded lip glosses and spent hours making each other over while wondering which boys liked us.
Had we had Instagram at our carefully manicured little fingertips, I can only imagine the digital evidence I could have left behind during this young and vulnerable phase. As a teenager and in my early 20s, I used makeup and fast fashion as a crutch. If I’d had a bad day, eaten too much, or felt undesirable, I would turn to the beauty industry to make me feel better on the outside about who I was on the inside. They were easy, often cheap solutions, but they were no long-term fix for my self-esteem.
I started to wonder if confidence has little to do with spending money.
Every human has a different relationship with their face and body, but I believe that modern society has made it particularly hard for women. For some women, makeup is genuinely about expression and creativity. I have watched many talented women on YouTube turn faces into canvasses, and this is inarguably an art form. For others, it’s a cover up for severe acne or eczema. I am not anti-makeup but I do believe that, as consumers, we should all be aware of the reasons why we choose to buy.
Many makeup wearers are already consumer-conscious, searching for products to enrich their appearance with a smaller impact on the environment. I have a proposal for all beauty seekers currently reading this, have you considered ditching beauty supplies?
The makeup free lifestyle saves you money and time. It’s a lifestyle that most men and many women know well. You can achieve a similar feeling of confidence and self-expression, without supporting an industry that profits from telling women they’re not enough.
No makeup means less packaging and less waste from makeup cases, brushes and wands. It also means less worry about any of the questionable ingredients in the product, and it means we aren’t putting products on our faces that have potentially been tested on baby rabbits, or exploited third-world workers in their making.
Is it possible for women everywhere to enjoy our bare faces - blemishes, wrinkles and all?
This is the question I’ve posed for the past two years during the month of November, when I raise money for girls’ education in Africa, in exchange for photos of women without makeup. My campaign is called No Makeup NoFEMber, and a lot of people have jumped onboard in the past two years. Some have chosen to donate, while others have sent makeup-free photos of themselves to share publicly online. For every makeup-free, bra-less or hairy photo women send in, we donate $5 AUD to the charity One Girl.
The aim is to address gender inequality worldwide, while also raising questions as to why women often feel the need to meet a certain standard of beauty, by wearing makeup.
When researching One Girl, I learned more about horrific situations happening to women in Uganda and Sierra Leone. Often, girls there become child brides or are sold into slavery. They lose their chances at an education and their lives plus their children’s lives suffer because of this. It’s a glaring gender disparity, but many people I know have little experience or knowledge of the topic. No Makeup NoFEMber is a platform that generates conversations more engaging than cosmetics, filters or selfies, and we are also raising money for an important cause.
You can donate at fundraise.onegirl.org.au/nomakeupnofember or follow the campaign at @nomakeupnofember.