One is accustomed to seeing celebrity profiles beginning with avowals that the subject is wearing “no makeup,” and rolling one’s eyes. Yet, for a few seasons, either on the catwalk, sidewalk or information superhighway, a no-makeup look seems to be emerging as the gold (or beige?) standard. Makeup beauty.
In what is perhaps a bid for that modern buzzword “authenticity,” celebrities like Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow post selfies, proudly barefaced, sometimes with the hashtag #nomakeup. Slate suggested the no-makeup “trend” may be linked to normcore, a questionable fashion movement inspired by a suburban aesthetic, while other commentators think it’s a balance between pragmatism and feminism.
Emily Weiss, the founder and creative director of the beauty site IntoTheGloss.com, agreed that there’s a movement toward less-is-more. “Today, there’s an ease to dressing that’s crossing over into beauty,” she said. “It’s sort of the idea of breathability.”
Diane Kendal, a New York-based makeup artist, has become known for creating muted runway looks for designers like Prabal Gurung, Alexander Wang and Thakoon. Though Ms. Kendal says the look has always been part of her repertory, the scrubbed face “is definitely a nod to the ’90s,” she said. “That’s when a lot of the designers now were growing up and that’s something for them to reference. It looks much more modern and dynamic. Being fresh-faced gives you an air of confidence.”
Others who use the no-makeup look include the blogger Leandra Medine. Credit Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Ms. Kendal, who wears no makeup, says that for many in the fashion and beauty industries, perhaps like Emmanuelle Alt, Tonne Goodman and Caroline de Maigret, going bare is the everyday mode. “Makeup is about creating an image, maybe a fantasy, and we’re working with it every day,” Ms. Kendal said. “I don’t wear it because it’s not about me.”
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Ms. Weiss agreed. “A full face and fake eyelashes are not the norm with editors,” she said, adding that “I’m really low maintenance” is the most common claim of her interview subjects, often models, actresses, stylists and editors. “We’re conditioned to think that you should be a bit embarrassed of your beauty routines or how much you do,” she said. “The more you do, the more sort of frivolous you are, maybe.”
When the blogger Leandra Medine, known as the Man Repeller, wrote a post last month explaining why her daily routine doesn’t include makeup (part laziness and part comfort with her looks), it was so popular it crashed the site, she said. The article, which she said was written in 20 minutes, addressed comments (some of them insults) about going out in public without cosmetics. Ms. Medine said the response was overwhelmingly positive, but she was surprised it had struck such a nerve. “I don’t necessarily see my not wearing makeup as a social comment or that it’s because I work in a female-dominated industry,” she said. “I don’t say in the morning, ‘Look Leandra, here are a bunch of women, put that bronzer down.’ It’s more that I’m busy and whatever helps you get out the door and go to sleep easier.”
Sutton Foster, the Tony-winning actress, is also a fan of the bare face. Though Ms. Foster is often in full pancake makeup, rouge, lipstick and lashes, playing glamorous characters onstage such as Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” her usual offstage look is makeup-free. “In the morning, getting ready and going out in the world, I’d rather spend my time doing other things than staring at myself in the mirror,” she said.
It was to her delight, then, that her latest leading role, in “Violet,” which opened April 20 at the American Airlines Theater and concerns a young woman on a quest to rid herself of a facial scar, required zero makeup (even the scar was left up to the audience’s imagination). It’s the first time Ms. Foster has appeared onstage without base or a flick of mascara, she said, and it was a creative decision by both her and the director Leigh Silverman to convey Violet’s vulnerability and, later, strength. “It would dilute the message, which is discovering inner beauty, if we had Sutton wear concealer and lip gloss,” Ms. Silverman said. If you wear a fresh face proudly, she added, “it shows confidence.”
Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue also uses the no-makeup look. Credit Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Yet, for most of the play, Violet is a drab wallflower. On stage, at least, a “done” face still connotes attractiveness, Ms. Silverman acknowledged. “We’re putting on an escape, and for the public, there’s still that expectation.”
Ms. Medine said of the no-makeup look, “Essentially, it’s going to be tethered to feminism, but we’re in a very different era of whatever feminism, which has become a dirty word, is.”
Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford and author of “The Beauty Bias,” has made even stronger statements on the topic. Makeup expectations, particularly in the workplace, are “about gender subordination,” she said.
“Women are subject to much more rigorous standards for their appearance,” Ms. Rhode said. In Silicon Valley, top male tech entrepreneurs can get away with shoddy grooming, jeans and T-shirts, she said, while women like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer appear in full makeup. “There’s an assumption that a woman is somehow less professional if she doesn’t wear any makeup at work,” Ms. Rhode said. “But it’s really women being subject to a double standard. They are faulted for caring too much or not enough. Either they ‘let themselves go’ or are ‘vain and narcissistic.’ ”
Ms. Rhode hopes that makeup or lack thereof will one day be separated from competence. “I gave a lecture today and I want to be judged by my content and not the color of my lipstick,” she said. Ms. Silverman, who wears little makeup, but admits that she may boost her mood by slicking on a bright lipstick, is more lenient. “For me, I can be a good director and run a Broadway show without having to wear makeup, but I’m also behind the scenes,” she said. “Maybe someone else feels different. It’s really a choice.”
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