The new make-up no make-up beauty schism
As the proverb makes clear, beauty is always subjective, never singular and always subject to the oscillations of culture. Understanding the dominant manifestations and the forces shaping them makes business sense. The global beauty industry, to paraphrase the famous words of L’Oreal, the world’s largest luxury brand, is worth it. Worth 265 billion dollars that is, and therefore of vital interest to brands.
The definition of beauty varies depending on where you look and whom you ask. Are you looking on Instagram at a generation of beauty influencers creating perfectly contoured, strobed and baked ‘Instaglam’ selfies? Or are you turning to the high-end editorial output of Vogue or professional make-up artists as they perfect the ‘no make-up make-up’ seen on designer runways? The answer probably depends on who you are, or at least aspire to be.
Two distinct beauty ideals seem to have emerged in tandem in the US and western Europe; one focused primarily on the virtues of make-up as a transformative medium. The face becomes a canvas onto which razor sharp cheekbones; voluminous lips and bambi-esque eyes can be painted using a plethora of contouring creams, highlighters, false lashes and lip pencils. The goal? A Kylie rather than a high fashion Kendall Jenner aesthetic.
The alternative approach makes a very big deal of the skin, of achieving a glowing ‘real’ complexion that needs little cosmetic help. Achieving this, the holy grail of the ‘no-make-up makeup’ trend, does however involve significant expenditure. Skin that is worthy of a ‘no-filter’ selfie is regarded as symbolic of health and wellbeing and as indicative of a life of prosperity that enables expensive self-care. Here beauty ideals are achieved through both expensive serums and gym, yoga and Pilates passes.
While the first beauty ideal apes reality television idols such as the Kar-Jenners, the latter draws more from Gwyneth Paltrow or the Olsen twins. It is easy to insinuate a class dimension to these beauty ideals, and perhaps certain snobbery around who gets to determine what counts as beautiful or desireable. The beauty influencers on Instagram are indeed influential, earning thousands of pounds from endorsements. Yet their legitimacy is hotly contested by makeup professionals, such as Pat McGraff, who argue that the Instagram aesthetic masks a woman’s natural, ‘true’ beauty.
The ‘no-make-up’ selfie, a relatively recent phenomenon among celebrities on social media, perhaps now carries the ultimate currency. Stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria often flawlessly appear without the need for a scrap of make-up. But how different is this ‘natural’ beauty ideal from one that celebrates a full face of cosmetics? While Alicia Keys no longer wears any makeup for her public appearances, crediting acupuncture, exercise and lifestyle factors for her healthy appearance, she does employ an aesthetician who preps her skin with a tint and applies false lashes to her brows for a ‘natural’ feathered look.
The point perhaps is that no beauty ideal is more ‘true’ than any other. And this is surely good news for everyone, brands included.
Image source: Seventeen
- Article by Alice Matthews