Why we should stop caring about no-makeup selfies

no makeup selfies

A photo posted by Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) on

This week, Tyra Banks did something that is apparently a pretty big deal: she posted a photo of herself on Instagram without any makeup at all.

“You know how people say #nofilter but you know there’s a freakin’ filter on the pic?” she captioned. “Or maybe there’s a smidge of retouching going on but they’re lying and saying it’s all raw & real? Well, this morn, I decided to give you a taste of the real me.”

“I wanted to smooth out my dark circles so badly!!! But I was like, ‘Naw, Ty. Show ‘em the REAL you. So…here I am. Raw. And there YOU are… looking at me, studying this picture. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Whoa, she looks ROUGH.’ And if you are, great! You deserve to see the REAL me. The REALLY real me. #RawAndReal.”

And, well, that’s fair. Makeup-free selfies have garnered traction since Beyoncé told she woke up like this (#flawless), and peaked last year during the makeup-free selfie challenge for breast cancer awareness. Celebrities have also joined in on shedding their concealers, foundations, and whatever else for Instagram posts, and in April, Amy Schumer asked fans to post their no-makeup selfies as part of her “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup” sketch.

Which is great. One of the worst myths about makeup is that you need it—or worse, that not wearing it is bad. Because god forbid your under eye circles or PMS-induced acne come to light. Our faces are our faces—our circles, bags, and wrinkles are badges of honour for a life bravely lived. But while living a life that’s product-free is a cool thing, lest we forget that choosing to wear makeup is okay, too.

In an ideal world, not wearing makeup should be as groundbreaking as not wearing jeans. It’s a choice that affects the wearer exclusively, and to shame somebody who’s not participating in the beauty industry is a damaging, dangerous practice that’s led to everything from self-esteem issues in teen girls to self-harm. But makeup can also be a means of artistic self-expression. And like fashion, can be used to armor and/or suit up. As the late Lynn Dell Cohen once said, “I dress for the theatre of my life.” Why can’t makeup be a part of that production?

Ultimately, to wear or to not wear makeup should be a question of personal choice, not a right or wrong choice. Wearing makeup does not mean that someone is hiding. It also doesn’t mean that they are caving to pressure, or victims of a beauty-crazed society. When I wear lipstick, I wear it for myself. I like how it looks, I like how I feel in it, and I’ll change the colour depending on my mood or vibe. I feel fine without lipstick, too, but I like wearing it, and I like how I feel in it, and I don’t think it makes me better or less exposed than anybody else. Do I expect other people to wear lipstick? Absolutely not. To expect anyone else to do something I’m doing is some high school-level nonsense that makes as much sense as forcing pals to wear pink on Wednesdays.

So what we should be doing instead is ensuring that there aren’t any misplaced senses of superiority. Tyra Banks used her makeup-free selfie as a means of channeling realness and/or rawness, effectively creating a conversation and also empowering herself (which is fantastic—her face, her choice, and that’s how it should be). Amy Schumer’s sketch and call for makeup-free selfies was a response to boy bands and male artists who shame women into looking a certain way (natural, but not-so-much). The breast cancer awareness challenge? That’s up for debate: I’m sure you weren’t alone in seeing posts that threw shade at women who weren’t participating. (Reminder: judging other women helps no women, ever.)

Because ultimately, to wear or to not wear makeup is a personal choice. A makeup-wearer is no better than somebody who doesn’t wear makeup, and vice versa. We’re all just people who get to wake up and decide what makes us feel most comfortable that day. To throw on concealer doesn’t make anyone less real, and to go foundation-free doesn’t connote anything other than, “This person isn’t wearing foundation.” Let’s celebrate less of the logistics of our personal choices, and instead celebrate our right to have a choice. Wear makeup because you want to. Don’t wear it because you don’t want to. Real beauty is about more than our eyelashes, anyway.

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