Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Feminism... or laziness?

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WASHINGTON -- Is makeup going away? Is it the End of Makeup? We've seen hordes of #nomakeupselfies -- all pale, chapped lips and hooded eyes -- on Twitter and Instagram and, oddly, as part of a cancer awareness campaign; we've seen New York runways drowned in "raw beauty;" and now, ABC reports, brides are forgoing blush and shadow to achieve a "more natural look" on their wedding day.

"I think it's a big trend for brides and couples alike," said Anja Winika, site director for TheKnot.com. One bare-faced bride added: "I wanted to look presentable for my wedding day, but didn't feel like makeup was part of that process.

Though cosmetic sales are rising, a survey conducted by StumbleUpon last year found most women between the ages of 18 and 25 -- 67 per cent -- use fewer than three products in their hair and beauty routines. Only 20 per cent use four to seven products, and a tiny three per cent use more than 12. (I want to meet those people.) The call of fresh-facedness is even stronger for women over 25, 72 per cent of whom limit their makeup use to zero to three products. (The data varies by region, with easterners overall painting their countenances more than women from the West and Midwest.)

I'd love to believe the women who are now eschewing makeup just love the way they look or can't be bothered. That is how fashion writer Leandra Medine, a.k.a. the "Man Repeller," explains her powder abstinence: "The reason I don't wear makeup is because I am lazy," she says. "I want to know that if I don't wash my face, I won't tarnish my pillow. I don't want to see the ingredients that constructed my previous night's visage wiped off into a towel. I also read somewhere that if you sleep with mascara on your lashes they are 70% more likely to fall out. So as far as I'm concerned, maintaining real lashes that aren't quite as plump as they can be is 10 times more compelling than having none at all."

Her money quote: "I am who I am and even if that infers 'ugly as (hell),' I think it's, I don't know, beautiful."

Medine's confidence, bravery and eyelash pragmatism is thrilling. But her philosophy has nothing to do with what those celebrity selfie-takers and au naturel brides are up to. These women are clearly pursuing Cosmetic Normcore.

Like regular Normcore, no-makeup makeup seems to proceed from the assumption that, as Simon Doonan put it in Slate, the "final fashion frontier" in an "era that embraces the distinct, bespoke and quirky" is to reject fashion itself. Coupled with that irony is the modern emphasis on authenticity -- which often seems pretty phony. So wearing no makeup allows you to check all your supertrendy boxes: You are "real," you are perversely glamorous. Thus, on the cover of W magazine, gorgeous Rosamond Pike takes a washcloth to her face. Gwyneth Paltrow's skin looks as clear and pure as the water she's drinking in a photo she posts to Instagram. Scarlett Johansson appears, untouched by mortal brush or wand, in a Vanity Fair Hollywood spread. A bride who has taken the time to wind flowers through her hair on her big day refuses a sweep of colour to her cheeks. One starts to suspect these particular statements are less about not wearing makeup than pulling off not wearing makeup.

Of course, that's not everyone -- it's not all the people tweeting out #nomakeupselfies for cancer or choosing not to spend 15 minutes primping in front of the mirror because they'd rather listen to a podcast. But to the extent even the more benign face nudists seem to think their identities flower forth in the absence of cosmetics, I disagree. Your body is just your interface with the world. That's no more or less true when it's wearing lipstick.

As for me, I put on two swipes of blush, eyeliner (both over and under the lids) and lipstick every morning. My reasons are resolutely bland and predictable: I think judicious colour improves the way my face looks (which matters to me). I also find the daily ritual soothing and believe there might be some good to come from interposing a bit of shimmer between me and the world. Like, world, I have upped your daily dose of shimmer. You're welcome.

-- Slate

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2014 A2

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