There’s been an unprecendented rise in the popularity of ‘no make-up’ make-up as of late. So far in 2018, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera have overhauled their public personas, proudly presenting their stripped-back faces to the world, and the Kardashians – who arguably made extreme eyebrows, ‘popping’ highlighter, eyelash extensions and lip fillers the norm – are beginning to tone down their beauty looks.
According to research by Mintel, 54% of millennial beauty consumers in the US now prefer a more ‘natural’ make-up look. Yep, it’s now cool to look like you aren’t wearing any make-up at all. And flawless skin – the type that looks poreless and dewy, even under the close scrutiny of an iPhone X camera – is in.
A key brand spearheading the minimalist beauty trend is Glossier, which creates products "beauty products inspired by real life." The brand’s marketing strategy – all done through word of mouth and social media – is genius. Glossier’s pared-back, millennial-pink packaging is cool; its Instagram feed, which projects the same aesthetic, is slick. I enjoy Glossier. I wear Balm Dot Com and shower with Body Hero Daily Oil Wash every day. I went to the Glossier pop-up in London last year, which was so magically immersive and buzzy that I came dangerously close to buying a £45 fragrance, You, that doesn’t smell of anything apart from my own skin. It’s safe to say that I’ve been sucked in.
But while I like some of its products, I also have issues with the company. I don’t believe that it’s as inclusive as it’d like to be. Take its Perfecting Skin Tint, for example – it comes in five shades. We’re living in the age of Fenty Beauty, which showcased 40 foundation shades when it launched, so presenting such a limited offering doesn’t cut it any more.
Then there’s Glossier’s saccharine tone of voice, which assures shoppers that it’s a friendly, cool company, run by friendly, cool people, and that – because capitalism is wild – buying its products will also make you friendly and cool. But amidst the plesantries, a slightly patronising lilt slips in here and there. Perfecting Skin Tint won’t "hide your freckles, spackle your pores, or erase any other evidence that you are, in fact, a real human being," says Glossier.com, as if anyone who likes to minimise the apperance of their pores is doing something wrong.
Overall, Glossier reminds me of the cool girls at school; they were generally pleasant, but at the same time they made it very clear that you weren’t welcome to sit with them at lunch.
Perhaps looking like a real human being is slightly overrated, anyway. "The [Perfecting Skin] Tint doesn’t cover anything," blogger Beauty and the Cat writes in a review. "Just look at the model photos and GIF demo on the Glossier product page. Those women are the embodiment of #iwokeuplikethis. And then there’s me…"
The thing is, stripped-back make-up is perfect if you’re young, flawless and your facial features align well with societal beauty ideals. For those of us who have large pores, acne scars, spots, redness, fine lines or under-eye bags – things that are inevitable once you’ve spent so many years on the planet – and are used to using make-up to draw attention away from these features, it’s hard to envisage feeling comfortable with slipping on a barely-there base and a little bit of clear eyebrow gel and heading out every morning.
Make-up, like fashion, should all be about self-expression. Which is why I’d like to make a case for pushing against the ‘no-make up’ make-up movement, if you don’t feel comfortable with it, and slapping it all on. Embrace the confidence boost of a bright red lipstick; revisit the glitter eyeliner you played about with in your teens; channel your inner 60s heartbreaker with lashings of black liner and layer upon layer of mascara; wear two sets of strip lashes at a time; get ridiculously impractical acrylics and go all-out on the nail art. Make-up should be enjoyed. It shouldn’t be prescriptive.
If I’m going to spend £25 on a lipstick, I want people to notice it, not just mistake it for Vaseline or see it as a subtle, ‘natural’ tint. I’ll have the larger-than-life bright orange shade, thanks.
Life is too short to only wear make-up that doesn’t even look like it’s there.