I’m disturbed by the “no make up selfies” method of raising awareness of breast cancer. There’s a vibe about the whole thing that these selfies are somehow brave, different, and radical. Really? Exposing your real face is brave? What is so scary about your actual skin?
Who have we become, that make up is not a fun way of glamming up for a night out, like a formal dress and sparkly earrings, but an essential part of our day to day routine? Why do we tell ourselves, each other, and our daughters that their faces must be hidden behind a thick layer of goo in order to be acceptable out in public?
“Oh my gosh, I ran to the shops without make up, just to get milk, and wouldn’t you know it? I ran into someone I knew. So embarrassing!”
Here’s my confession: I don’t wear make up anymore.
I used to wear the occasional bit of eyeliner and mascara, but the truth is it always seemed like a lot of work for a pretty small return. I certainly couldn’t be bothered plastering goo all over my face. I don’t even do it for formal occasions.
And you know what? I’m not ashamed of my face.
I don’t have any problem with people choosing to wear make up, and I do understand that it can be fun. Indeed, I like to use purple hair chalk and paint my arms with henna from time to time, when I want to look a little different.
What bothers me is the assumption that make up is compulsory. That being seen without a layer of paint is almost as embarrassing as being seen naked. I understand the desire to cover up spots and blemishes, but really? Everyone gets them. It’s just skin. These days when I get a spot I don’t give it a second thought. I’m not interested in being judged on my face anyway. My best features are my heart and brain – judge me on those by all means. My face is not who I am.
I’m often struck when I’m walking or riding around my local area by the way I am suddenly part of the world, rather than shielded from it by a car. In a car you are separate, just passing through. On a bike or on foot you are in the world, experiencing it in all its messy glory.
I wonder if make up is a little like a car – it’s a shield. Armour against the world. A barrier between our insecurities and anyone who might judge us.
When I first stopped wearing make up I was a little self-conscious. What if people judged me? But these days I don’t even think about it. This is me, spots and all. But then I started seeing all these no make up selfies going around. And they worry me. This is bravery now? This is radical? To show the world your real face?
How did we get here? How on earth did we arrive at a place where showing your own face unadorned is an act of radical bravery? And how do we get back?