In the last week we have seen our news feeds full of women posting photos of themselves without make-up to raise awareness and money for cancer charities across the UK. Originally starting as a marketing campaign by cosmetic brand Escentual.com the idea caught on and has since gone viral. Cancer Research UK set up text donation numbers and have since raised over £2 million from women texting ‘BEAT’ to numbers such as 70099 to donate £3.
On the surface this trend is great. However, seeing my friends posting photos of themselves without make-up, and indeed doing so myself has left me feeling saddened and concerned.
It should be said that I don’t wear make-up very often anymore. I love make-up and have always enjoyed wearing it. In my late teens and early 20’s you would not have seen me without at least foundation and mascara. However, years of 5a.m. starts for work meant that looking at the mirror in the morning, let along applying anything to my half opened eyes, was not really an option.
Having said that, when I came to posting a photo of my ‘no make up selfie’ something made me self-conscious of baring myself to such a large number of people in that way. Everyone else, even people who I probably have never seen without make-up before, looked gorgeous. I know pretty much everyone of my Facebook friends has seen me without make-up and yet there was, in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of dread about pressing ‘Post.’
Now if someone who doesn’t usually bother with make-up feels like this, then how must everyone out there who hates being seen without make-up have felt? The very fact that this became a trend just shows what a big deal it is for most women to show themselves without make-up. This makes the impact of the trend greater, and touching that so many women are prepared to put themselves in such an awkward position to unite together against a common cause. However, it also makes me sad.
As women we are proud of our independence, strength and right to be heard so it saddens me that women are in a very real way still so dependent on a mask to make themselves feel wanting to be seen. Now I am no feminist but the negative posts of ‘sorry to scare you’ and ‘I know it’s not a pretty sight’ from women who I know are strong and capable and yes very much beautiful, makes me realise just how much women need to change their own perceptions of their beauty.
There is a deeper issue here. Facebook is supposed to be populated with our ‘friends.’ We chose who to be our friends on Facebook and we interact with them on a daily basis. We share everything: our ultra-sounds, our weddings, our good days and our bad, our joys and our griefs And yet when asked to show our faces we find it hard. Friends are supposed to accept you exactly as you are. We are supposed to be honest and real and ourselves with them.
Someone very dear to me recently told me that they no longer use Facebook as it made them feel depressed and like their life was too boring. They said that even a night out that they had shared with friends and had been ‘ok’ somehow on Facebook got portrayed as the best night out ever. The mutation of reality made it seem like everyone else’s life was far more exciting and interesting that hers could ever be. How sad.
So this ‘no make-up selfie’ trend is great. It is great because it has given us a chance to connect with our friends in their natural, beautiful reality. What I would ask is that we all take a minute to reflect on how hard we have found it to be seen ‘naked’ to others and see if we can make a positive change not only to cancer research, but also in the way we think about our own faces.
More importantly than how we feel about ourselves is what we are teaching the next generation to feel about beauty. I implore every mother, auntie and friend out there to please think about the message we are sending the little men and women in our lives. I don’t want my son to grow up seeing women wearing make-up as more beautiful than those without. I don’t want my nieces to grow up thinking they need to wear make-up to be beautiful. I certainly never want to hear them saying any of the negative things others have said about themselves this week.
So please, please, please, no matter how bad you might feel about not wearing make up please don’t let them know it. I am not asking anyone to stop wearing make-up, but simply to think about the language we use about ourselves. Don’t let your sons and daughters hear you say bad things about your, or indeed their, appearances. These are the messages they will grow up to hear in their own heads when they get older. Let’s work together to ensure that in 30 years time a ‘no make up selfie’ would seem out of place in a world where we all expect to be seen exactly as we are.