Thursday, 3 February 2011

No Foundation

Elle magazine interviewed the French make-up artist Dany Sanz in its latest issue, and asked her what the biggest make-up mistake a woman can make is. Sanz's reply: "Skipping foundation. If you go outside without any makeup, that's a mistake. Everything is green, and you look ugly." I have been skipping foundation for the past ten years. It never occurred to me that I must have been looking ugly all along.

I wore a lot of make-up for a brief period of time in my late teens. Foundation, concealer, powder, brow pencil, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick... in other words, the whole slap-on. I can't remember if I thought that wearing make-up made me look pretty, or whether I was just playing along with what I assumed I should be doing since I was on the verge of being a woman and all that. When I started modeling and made my way to Milan, the first thing my booker told me was to lose the make-up. "Foundation, eyeshadow, lipstick, it's too much, all that stuff makes you look old", she said. I was given permission to wear a tiny bit of concealer (I have never had perfect skin), brown mascara, a brow pencil and the occasional touch of plain lip gloss, apart from the times when I went out to parties. I have never looked back. Apart from party make-up or the random phase of feeling like I needed to change, I have been almost bare-faced. These days, more often than not, I skip the mascara as well. If I look pale (which is often) I will put on some liquid blush, and for those occasional times when I feel like I need more "umpf", I go for some bright red lipstick. I can hear Dany Sanz roar all the way from Paris: "Disgrace!" These are the contents of my make-up bag:

A few years ago, while working in clothing retail, I often felt like I looked less pulled-together than my co-workers, and I tried to find a foundation and some other make-up products that would fix the problem. A sales assistant / make-up person at the M.A.C store found, among other things, "the perfect foundation" for me, but I found the application tedious, my skin got worse, and it troubled me that I could see the make-up. (You always can, no matter how expensive, how liquid and light, how high-tech the product might be. Foundation is foundation. You might be able to fool a man, but I have never, ever encountered a woman wearing foundation that I wouldn't have been able to see.) There is an awful lot of talk about women wanting to look natural with the help of make-up, and it does disturb me that there is often nothing natural about the products we are supposed to use. We are bombarded with pictures of airbrushed celebrities to the extent that many of us can't even remember what real skin looks like.

I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to wear make-up, even lots of it: make-up can be, and often is, a lot of fun. A lot of women feel like they have to wear make-up. Whether it is bad skin, self-esteem issues or just a habit, who knows. My sister falls in the odd category of having stunning but huge eyes that just seem to require at least some eyeliner and mascara - otherwise she looks sort of ill. I, on the other hand, am so used to not wearing make-up that I feel like I look funny wearing it.

The no-make-up regime has also made me very wary of women's beauty-products in general. I have become suspicious of the common skin care mantras and the ingredients in face creams, cleansers, hair dyes and shampoos. I have stopped wearing hair conditioner, as well as skin toner and night cream, among others. The few beauty products I have are organic. Against all odds, my face hasn't fallen off. To say that I was deeply concerned about the power of large cosmetic companies in women's everyday lives would be an understatement.

I am very much against the idea that I make a mistake every day when I refuse to wear a product that covers my skin. It's my skin, it's my choice. And Dany Sanz, just that you know, I don't look ugly.

Top: H&M
Cardigan: Valtteri flea market
Dungarees: Rosie's old
Scarf: second hand, UFF
No shoes, just slippers...

P.S. I counted eight starlings on our bird feeder this morning. Seems to me they must have been hungry...


Shey said...

I'm so glad you wrote this post! I join you in the club, I was never much of a make-up wearer because I hate to take it off at night or before the gym, sometimes I would wipe my face with my sleeve, you know because you don't want to stop your workout just to go get a towel for your face, and I would hate seeing make-up on my sleeve. Today I use Blixtex tinted balm which I've used for years, a bit of eyeliner and a bit of powder blush. That's it, my skin is pretty good so I don't have to use concealer and I think I look much younger without make-up than with make-up on. I think you are beautifuland don't need much make-up at all. You look just fine to me. The thing about wearing make-up that always makes me not want to wear it is those horrible celebrity pictures without make-up who look dead...I just don't want to worry about someone taking my picture when I look like that. =S

Cynthia said...

I seriously can get by with just four items, moisturizer, a mineral powder foundation that can double as a concealer if needed, taupe eyeshadow, and lip gloss, so I know how you feel.

Yes, it's probably a "terrible mistake", ha ha. I don't think so. My skin gets to breathe all day and doesn't have a layer of goop sitting over the top that feels like prison.

You look great. I don't even know who Dany Sanz is, who's she to say?

vasiliisa said...

Well, they say things like that, so that they wouldn't bite the hand that feeds them. Cosmetics is a HUGE industry.

I suffered from acne until my thirties and now that I finally feel confident about my face, I just don't like covering it with all that stuff. Sometimes I wish I enjoyed make up more - on certain days it would pep up my face or add an element to an outfit - but I can't force myself.

Actually a lot of women don't realize I'm not using foundation. When I mention it, they're genuinely surprised to find out that my skin looks like that au naturel. I personally think it's far from perfect, but I seem to get away with it :)

jesse.anne.o said...

Foundation is seriously disgusting-looking half the times! I agree, you can ALWAYS tell.

Teenysparkles said...

Agreed. We have a TV doco/show here called "Whats really in your...", which I watch with much trepidation. They don't use scare tactics, it's just common sense and chemistry. The shows that stuck with me were those on moisturiser and anti-ageing creams. Moisturiser temporarily makes your skin feel dewier but it is actually training your skin to not moisturise itself, making it drier. so you use more moisturiser. The anti-ageing creams - even the expensive ones were shown to make no visible difference besides being great quality temporary moisturisers. I'm frightened of the chemicals we slather on our skin - so now only wash my face with water and a flannel, and I no longer moisturise. I probably look disgusting!!!!

Gauss said...

I have a message for this Dany Sanz person, but your blog is much too civilized for me to post this comment. I like your post, as always.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought of make-up as of some, so to say, tribute to society that we women have to pay for one reason or another. Somewhere quite deep in me there lies a feeling that if I go out to work, I should be wearing make-up. I don't know who put this undertow notion into me, and I don't want to senslessly blame media, but I do suspect that it's another thing we women do to each other. We make each other guilty. You're not wearin' 'ny make-up? What sort of a woman are you? You'll never find a boyfriend/husband, etc. Women I work with - despite their being otherwise quite lovely - remind me of some kind of modern freakshow. When I look closely at them, I can see their oddly applied mascara, the eye-shadow crumbles, the borderline of a concealer, the uneven line of lipstick. Some of them are quite hopeless with make-up so why do they do it? Make-up done badly is far more ugly than no make-up and yet they choose that instead of accepting their faces the way they are.
I fall for the make-up craze when I go to work but try to resist it. I sometimes paint one of my eyelids pink and the other green for the sheer fun of it ;) And no, I don't use a concealer, which probably condemns me to being forever ugly but what the heck.
PS. No, you don't look ugly, by no means, you're a natural beauty. :)

greatbleuheron said...

Love this post--thanks. I wear minimal make-up: mascara and some color on my lips (until it wears off), just because I think I look better that way. But foundation has never made any sense to me. It looks bad, it makes me break out, and worst of all, I hate how greasy it makes my skin feel. Yuck. I think lots of the hard push on make-up is just a consumerist plot anyway. Oh--my word verification is "gonelard," which is precisely how I feel when I wear foundation.


Rad in BK said...

I feel the same way. And I have very far from perfect skin. Even with my blotchyness and blemishes, I still think my natural skin tone is better than a bottle. I do wear a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen from teaching days, but often I forget. Foundation is important if you're being photographed, but for everyday life, it looks too theatrical. Plus, as I've dealt with skin issues since adolescence. I just don't think it's possible to fake perfect skin. Plus, who says I'm supposed to have flawless facial skin in one tone? I'm not a cartoon character.

Anonymous said...

Here is the sister with huge eyes ;)!
I'm so happy you wrote this post!
This is my receipe: I remove mascara and eyeliner with baby oil, occasionally i use organic soap. The best advice I ever got is to forget about my skin!.
(But if you leave your beauty products, you have to be patient; it takes 4 to 6 weeks for your skin to "recover" from all that "skincare.")
Same goes for hair too. Don't dye. I use organic hair color to cover the grey. I wash twice a week, with water or organic shampoo. (For 4-6 weeks you may have to survive with a little greasier hair untill your scalp gets use to.)
And this is the thing I hear when I talk about this stuff: "It's easy for you to say, you have a good skin/hair, I HAVE to use foundation because I haven't got a good skin, I HAVE to wash my hair every day, and wear tons of hair products, or the hair looks dead."
Oh well, have you ever tried skipping those beauty rutines of yours? By the way, hair IS dead. The only thing there is to do, is to eat well!
This is another thing that amazes me. People spend so much money on skin and hair products, but then eat unhealthy food..
This is a topic that makes me really angry, it really does. It seems that perfectly smart women don't want to know about this, they want the lies that cosmetic industry tells them, and most of all, they want to compare and complane about various products or about their own skin or hair.
Skin(also scalp) has it's own natural "flora", it renews by itself, and it shows if you don't get enough sleep, smoke, eat wrong or stay indoors all the time..
The saddest thing is, that men are slowly but surely falling for this too...
I've noticed that the older I get, the less I wear make up. It makes me look older! I'm alomost 37 now, but when I look at the women who are the same age..I don't want to look like that! I don't want to look so "made up" that it sometimes reminds me of drag queens...

Eline said...

Ugh, that women's comment is so sad! It's only going to perpetuate the idea that women are inherently ugly and need all sorts of aids to look even remotely normal or attractive, and also the idea that a woman should always be attractive and that ugliness is something to be damn well ashamed of. Gah! I used to feel that way and it was incredibly repressing; I could never go out anywhere without make up, I could not take my make up off at night if someone slept over and felt always awkward and sadly also ashamed whenever I was make up-less. I got over it quite easily when I discovered feminism but I think I'm one of the lucky ones. I recently threw away all my make up but only because it expires so quickly. I still like a dash of 60s heavy eyeliner.

JRose said...

Wow, I'm ugly too and I never knew it! With you in that category too, I feel I'm in good company. I agree with you, though, visible foundation looks bad. And I wear only light makeup (mascara, maybe some light eye-shadow or blush) and then only when I want to be fancy. Not even once a month. I hate the idea of feeling like I NEED to "put on my face" to look good, so I just don't wear makeup very often. Incidentally, Dany Sanz is a shallow jerk.

CompassRose said...

Hah! I think wearing foundation is the biggest mistake a woman can make. It looks (in my opinion) disgusting, in real life, on anyone, visible no matter how expertly applied, and it doesn't really "hide" anything when you're within talking distance, either.

For film or formal photographs, fine. But for daily use? Why? No!

The Huntress said...

I have never worn foundation. I can't stand the thought of covering my skin constantly, not allowing it to breathe. I wear eyeshadow, eye pencil and mascara most days, but that's because I like colours and often my eyeshadow co-ordinates with my clothes.
I'm guessing the buy who wrote that probably isn't very attractive!

vesperbeauty said...

After reading your post and all the subsequent comments, I sense a little smugness over how "over makeup" you all are. Just because people use and like makeup does not mean that they don't feel beautiful without it, nor does it mean that they've "bought into" a giant cosmetics conspiracy to make women dependent on makeup. I find these kinds of comments just as judgmental as the ones you mention in your blog post.

I have a good friend who has wonderful skin tone. She hardly ever wears makeup, and she looks healthy and natural. Not everyone is so lucky, and some of us want more help than others.

I enjoy how I look both with and without makeup - especially now that I have no active acne and few scars. It gives me confidence and allows me to express myself. Just like clothes. And it's just plain fun!

The Waves said...

Thank you for all of our comments! I have to say I was a little surprised to see comments from so many no-make-up-wearers! I was expecting to hear more people say (like vesperbeauty did) that make-up is also a lot of fun and can be a form of self-expression just like clothes.

I guess my beef with the make-up industry in general is that they have a very loud voice, and that the voice of those of us who do not want to wear make-up is rarely heard. It boils down to the freedom to choose, really. It always really annoyes me when someone (like that French make-up artist) tells me what I should or shouldn't do with my face or body.

Thanks again, for all of your comments!

Eyeliah said...

I gave up makeup at the beginning of summer. At first I had trouble adjusting to my makeup free face, I didn't look as "young" and "fresh" as I thought I should, luckily I got over the self esteem issues. Now when I try to put on even a small amount of makeup I can feel my face become irritated. When I want to look more polished I put on a tinted Burts Bees chapstick. Maybe once a month for a night out I'll add a touch of under eye concealer, eyeshadow and clear mascara.
I switched to a natural shampoo and no conditioner, brushing my hair 100 strokes has been making it shinier than it's ever been. For my moisturizer when I need it is pure coconut oil (from the grocery store), 100% shea butter (love) or I also this olive oil/ chamomile/ beeswax mix that is to die for. I'm done putting chemicals all over my body, slowly but surely I won't be putting them IN my body anymore either.

P.S. It's nice we are catching up a the same time :)