Last Friday, my friend tagged me (and several others) in a photo of herself she posted on Facebook. Her caption: “No makeup! No filter! No shame! Ladies let’s share a photo today 100% natural! Support women with breast cancer!” My friend, a makeup artist and hair stylist (you can imagine that we share some of the same interests), was participating in a viral trend in which women post selfies sans makeup. The #nomakeup selfies phenomenon turned into an explosive fundraising campaign, earning at least $25.6 million for Cancer Research UK.
Seeing the photo of my friend got me thinking about the struggle many of us face accepting our own natural beauty. In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Vivian Diller examines the slow shift occurring in the portrayal of women’s bodies in editorial, advertising, and film media. She cites the 2004 Dove campaign for Real Beauty as the first major corporate effort to expand our definition of feminine beauty. Since then, the movement has gotten stronger. Endorsed by celebrities like Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz, this shift has encouraged many women—of all ages—to redefine what beauty means to them.
It’s thrilling to witness this positive message gaining momentum. In fact, selfie culture (which we so often condemn for being self-absorbed) seems to illustrate that our definition of beauty is in fact widening—or at the very least, selfie-ing provides a platform on which women contend with the conflicting definitions of true beauty, i.e. natural vs. perfect(ed). I often return to Nicole Hoffman’s article #Selfie Culture and the Perfect Woman in which she explores an app (Perfect365) that allows you to edit your selfie for clearer skin, brighter, larger eyes, and more intense makeup, among other things. The existence of this app shows that despite progress, we’re still battling against unnatural ideals.
Becoming a beauty editor forced me to give more thought to where I stand on photoshopping myself and wearing makeup.
To address the easier of the two—makeup: For me, makeup is a form of self-expression. My love of a good shimmery eyeshadow or a sweet, rosy blush is much stronger than my desire to “cover-up” or create illusion. That’s not to say that I’ve totally conquered the latter, however. To be honest, there are times when I don’t feel myself until I’m wearing mineral powder and concealer. This isn’t a very healthy feeling. I would like to be completely at ease with my appearance when I’m not wearing any makeup. That’s one of reasons why I really admire my friends and the thousands of other women who participated in #nomakeupselfie.
Photoshopping—People sometimes ask, “How is Photoshop different from makeup?” Since I started posting beauty tutorials on Peaceful Dumpling, I’ve given this question some thought myself. While it’s true that a good portion of the campaigns against photoshopping celebrities and models revolves around disabusing us of unrealistic bodies, focusing on my face alone doesn’t excuse me from the conversation.
All of my photos for beauty tutorials are retouched—not including lighting, etc. I never reshape my face, and being only twenty-five, I don’t “need” to make my skin “younger.” I do however, target blemishes. I confess, Photoshop is the concealer I wish I had in my makeup arsenal. Does this mean that Photoshop, in this context at least, is “no different than makeup?” Is it, like some things, safe in moderation?
I don’t know. I do know, however, that I don’t want to look like someone other than myself, and I don’t want to create a false perception of what I really look like. I do want to promote the acceptance of natural beauty in the best way I can.
While I plan to keep using Photoshop to adjust the clarity of my skin–these slightly retouched photos do look more professional, I also plan to keep working towards accepting my face without makeup.
In the spirit of this sentiment and in support of breast cancer awareness and women everywhere, I’ve included a few photos of myself without makeup, Photoshop, or filters. These photos, taken over two years almost exactly, also show how veganism has changed my skin and my life.
Also in Self-Love: On Stretch Marks – Learning to Love Body “Imperfections”
Photos: Mary Hood