On make-up and mentality

Public speaking. Reconstructive facial surgery. Telling someone you love them. Until last week, the list of acts I considered to be brave fell under a fairly conventional umbrella. Certainly, going make-up free didn’t make the grade. In light of watching blogger Em Ford’s ‘You Look Disgusting’ video, however, I’m not the only one being forced to reconsider.                

Ford suffers from adult acne and her make-up blog, My Pale Skin, is a masterpiece. Watching her tutorials is watching an artist at work; Ford isn’t reserved in showcasing the disparity between her looks before and after applying makeup. I’m particularly loath to refer to it as ‘transformations’ – the implication therein being that foundation hoodwinks, that concealer deceives, that lipstick lies.

“This is false advertising”

“Imagine waking up next to her in the morning”

“Trust no f*cking b*tch with makeup”

Directed at Ford via social media, comments such as these feature in her three minute long ‘You Look Disgusting’ film, and aside from the blinding stupidity of them (what would the internet trolls rather Ford do? Forego make-up, so as not to ‘falsely advertise’ herself? Alas no, because bare-faced, they ‘can’t even look at her’), they shed light on two things. The first is undeniably the power of cosmetics in providing confidence for women, and I refer not only to those with acne. But the second is the flipside of that- a growing dependence on make-up, the way it becomes a sort of armour, because once you know that make-up makes you ‘beautiful’, makes you ‘lovely’, why would you possibly ever be ‘gross’ and ‘horrible’ again?

Unrealistic expectations of beauty are as much fuelled by the cosmetic industry as it claims to solve them, and the profusion of perfect, filtered insta-girls, with flawless skin and dewy ‘no makeup’ selfies does nothing to amend this. The very nature of make-up tells us that its role is illusion- so why are we trying to pretend, and who to? For most of us, social media realises the possibility of our faces- conventionally acceptable or not- being shared, and judged by faceless others. Screens and oceans may separate the viewer from the viewee, but cannot shield from or deflect barbed comments. Perhaps it’s time to accept make-up as Em Ford uses it, not as warpaint, to ‘advertise’ herself to others, not as a shell, open as she is about her appearance makeup-free, but as a way to create and maintain an image of ourselves in our own terms.