This morning I received a press release, which in itself is nothing new: I get so many that I tend to just skim then delete them. But this one caught my eye as it’s a topic that I’ve often thought about and discussed with friends: make up free selfies and photo editing.
According to a survey, 95% of the women polled* don’t believe that celebrity make up free selfies actually show a naked face. This in itself doesn’t surprise me: in recent years consumers have become more and more savvy of beauty, and also a bit more suspicious of how things appear online. We’ve all heard too many stories about Photoshop, FaceTune, and even people photoshopping out crowds or altering skylines to get that perfect shot…! I can’t count the number of images I’ve looked at that declare ‘I woke up like this!’ when it’s obvious they’ve had eyelash extensions, a brow tint, botox, fillers and a bloody good facial. So technically, yes, they *did* wake up like that. But is it ethical to make out that they had no help? Is it kind?
And that is the bit of the press release that really hit home for me: nearly two thirds of those polled said that these kind of images left them feeling unhappy about their own make up free faces. So even when we know that it’s not real, it still has an impact on us.
A few years ago New Look and One Poll** conducted a survey on the use of Photoshop in the media and the results were just as scary. 15% of the people aged 15-24 polled believed that the images they saw in the media were accurate portrayals of the celebrity/model – this really surprised me as I assumed that the younger generations were more aware of this kind of thing. Even more upsetting is that 33% of the women polled felt that the body they aspire to is not possible for them to achieve. This is genuinely heartbreaking. And its not just ‘normal’ people who are affected: even Cindy Crawford once said that she wished she looked like Cindy Crawford!
Although social media in general seems to feed into this pressure for perfection, I think Instagram is by far the worst offender. Every time I scroll through my feed I see pictures so highly edited that these women look like aliens: no pores, hair, or fine lines. It’s actually a bit eerie and completely unrealistic. I’ve just discovered the wonderful Katie Jane Hughes, a make up artist who puts a huge emphasis on the beauty of natural skin, and all the texture and imperfections that come along with it. I am a little bit in love with her and hope that we start to see more make up artists and bloggers embracing a more natural look. Here’s a recent post where she talks about the bonkers editing she sees every day:
⭐️ It’s simple if the makeup looks too good to be true then it most likely is. I wanna start a movement of skin realness… where we embrace our skin and the story it tells. I want to encourage people to be real with themselfs to set realistic beauty goals for others. Hate to sound preachy but as a makeup artist seeing skin represented the way is being represented here on IG is hard to watch. Some hashtags if you wanna post your real skin moment #PoresRule #HappySkin
I’m really torn on this issue because obviously we all want to project a certain image to the world. We’ve all chosen flattering angles and great lighting to give us some help. I arch a brow to pull the skin around my eyes tauter. I pout my lips slightly. I turn my head to the side to mask a nose broken many times (that’s a story for another day!). I’ve used FaceTune to remove mascara smudges under my eyes, or a wonky lip line, or an errant eyebrow hair that just will not lie flat (and I’m trying to stop myself doing even those small edits because real is real is real, right?) But the thought of editing out my rosacea or downplaying it with Photoshop horrifies me and I promise I will never do it. I know what it’s like to want to portray a different face to the world, to tweak a picture to give you a bit of a confidence boost, to want strangers on the internet to say you look nice, to fear people seeing the ‘real’ you. But it’s not healthy, for me or you.
When I get messages from people who say that my skin looks ‘flawless’ (this sounds like an awful humble brag, but when you have a skin condition I think you’re allowed to brag about your skin appearing flawless after an hour of careful make up application!) it makes me feel a bit like a fraud. The power of baring your naked face is something that is vastly underestimated, especially when everywhere you look online there is a picture perfect life that is beyond anyone’s reach, even to the person who has posted it.
I’ve realised that the messages I get from people thanking me for posting make up free selfies – like the one below – are much more valuable to me. I’m actively trying to give my social media accounts a balance: in one selfie I’ll have a full face of make up and I’ll be feeling pretty good, and the next day I’ll show that most of that confidence washed off into the sink. Yep, it’s scary to be vulnerable and yes I’ve had shitty comments from people because of it. But knowing that it’s helping others to feel more normal, less pressured, to feel represented in a world of flawless mannequins… to me it’s worth it.
*Research conducted by ChannelMum and Benefit – 1,205 women polled.
** Research conducted by One Poll and New Look – 2,000 women polled.