Beauty in a bag – can you live without cosmetics?

Anna Pursglove, journalist for The Daily Mail went not only without makeup but all forms of female grooming (she was only allowed to use a hairdr

Anna Pursglove, journalist for The Daily Mail went not only without makeup but all forms of female grooming (she was only allowed to use a hairdryer, basic shampoo and unfragranced shower gel) for a whole month. She then wrote about and insists the results were far from enlightening: ‘Has the rejection of outer beauty uncovered oceans of it on the inside? Honestly, no. I feel in no way liberated (although I’ve saved at least £40 on treatments).’

Before the experiment she said: ‘Grooming, after all, is a way of asserting ourselves in just about every sphere of life. Women do it to attract a mate, but also to compete in female company. We do it to show power and poise in stressful situations and to make ourselves appear poised and collected (particularly when we don’t feel it).’

The idea came about after a recent survey said ‘that two- thirds of women believe facing the world without full make- up is more stressful than a first date or a job interview.’ She wanted to see if she was such a woman.

Pursglove now believes she is such a woman.

This is the part where you would expect me to tell you that I took on the challenge and my results are a marked difference. The feminist I am. Alas I have not. Why? Well it’s simple. Am I such a woman? No. I already know that. One month without any form of grooming will quite frankly be too much. I can face the world without make-up and doing so is not stressful. It may get a little tense due to judging eyes of others but it is not nearly as stressful as a first date (If I ever get one) or a job interview (the good Lord knows I need one). I cannot go without grooming.

Grooming, pruning, primping, getting ‘did’ involves a range of things from face/skin/ hair care, hair removal to mani/pedi and makeup. Since the survey revealed most women cannot leave the house without makeup, I’ll give you my thoughts on that first.

I wear make-up. Often. I have an ‘everyday face’ which consists of foundation, mascara, blush and lip-gloss with the occasional eye liner. Have I ever left the house without it? Yes.

Sometimes I have to go without makeup. I’ve either run out of foundation and it’s difficult getting the right shade as most shops have every shade possible for a white person, from pale to a tan sun-kissed colour but nothing with a little more chocolate. I get most of my makeup online (have to wait for deliveries) or make the trek into London. During that time my face tends to be makeup free.

Then there are times where makeup means more to me. Just recently I complained to a friend while on the bus that I had forgotten to put makeup on which meant I looked diabolical and the sight of me will make babies cry and men prise their eyes out with the closest sharp object they could find.  Yes, I often have to tell myself to get over myself.

I have good skin, ‘black don’t crack’ and all that but for me makeup is more of a security blanket. It’s a confidence stabiliser. People often judge you on face-value. When you’re plus sized, curvy, round, fat whatever name you give it, people often see that and NOT you. So things can chip into your confidence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure skinny girls have ‘confidence denters’ too and there are a lot of plus sized women so confident the slightest remark wouldn’t cause a flutter. I’m basing this on myself. On my good days I am confident and makeup is something I WANT to wear to highlight my best features and on these days, a makeup free face would not be an issue. I fall into that ‘you’ve got such a pretty face, if only you’d lose some weight’ category so on bad days where I simply do not feel secure enough or even like myself wearing makeup gives me a boost. I’m human but I’d never wear makeup just to sit around at home or run errands and even on a bad day I can leave the house without it.

I can go without makeup for weeks, months (maybe) but not for life. Honestly if I did this challenge and had a wedding to go to like Pursglove did, I’d go but spend the entire time avoiding pictures just like she did. That I admit would be stressful because I’d be very self-conscious and that would prevent me from having ‘the best time ever’. I think it’s the special occasions where makeup is important because you want to look your best.

My beauty regime…I can’t live without that completely. There are days when I go without it but that’s usually laziness or time I’d rather spend doing something else. I get my eyebrows threaded, take care of my face/skin/hair and wax so I’m almost always preened. I use deodorant EVERYDAY, moisturise my scalp and crown every other day and tend to my nails myself. 

I WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE (unless life or death) GO WITHOUT WEARING DEODORANT and my hair ABSOLUTELY NEEDS MOISTURISER. I can live without the rest for two weeks at best. My T-zone will be the greasiest thing ever but I won’t die. In fairness my eyebrows are threaded once a month and my legs etc. once waxed remain hair free for weeks. So I go without that for weeks anyway.

How will no makeup for a month affect me? Not much, I won’t die and the sky won’t fall but it’s my snuggly security blanket for days when I am not practicing self-love. If I had to, I would. How will no grooming affect me? A lot, the sky will fall. Without deodorant and my hair removal sessions and face cleansing routine I’ll feel dirty. Pure filth.

I fear I may begin to sound ‘preachy’ but reading this article got me thinking and I feel I should share my thoughts.

Pursglove said: ‘This anti-grooming mission has made me appreciate that my reliance on beauty treatments was a little excessive…’ What struck me were the words she used- ‘reliance’ and ‘excessive’.  The problem is when women depend on makeup and beauty treatments to the point that they forget their own beauty. I don’t need it to survive or to be beautiful I simply like having it around and I think most women feel that way. How many women were involved in the survey? How many women is two-thirds?

Another of Pursglove’s findings was the hypocrisy with which women deal with natural beauty and makeup. She said: ‘Women are highly disingenuous about the importance of looks. We’ll merrily tell our daughters that their naked faces are beautiful, while applying layers of make-up to our own skin. We have no problem taking a high moral stand along the ‘no woman should be judged on her looks’ lines, while simultaneously lampooning any famous female who appears in public looking unkempt. With our constant judging of each other, we women are our own worst enemies.’ 

She has a point. Women can be brutal. Is it society’s obsession with ‘looks’ resulting in a dependency on makeup? Is it the media that encourages us to judge others when they highlight any celebrity-made fashion faux pas, when they’ve gained weight or left the house looking anything less than glamorous? Perhaps the lines are blurring and makeup is no longer being used to heighten natural beauty/hide blemishes but is now seen as beauty itself or perfection. If so, who is responsible for the need for women to be perfect?

In The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, she explains ‘it is about men’s institutional power’ and society (which let’s face it is patriarchal) as a whole can create pressure on women to look and act in a certain way. While much of Wolf’s work is still valid society has grown up a little since its publication, rendering Wolf’s implication as one-sided. Women also play a role in the way society views women (by extension what is feminine and what constitutes a good woman).

Most men I know except for the one or two ‘lads’ like natural looking girls and find a fully loaded face a turn off. Pursglove admitted that her friends [I’m assuming her girlfriends, they may be men] thought she looked ‘ropey as hell’ and that her husband genuinely didn’t see much difference between her made-up face and naked face. So who is setting these standards? 

The media, whether in magazines, online even television is burgeoning with beauty propaganda telling us how to look and what to wear. Are these high standards set by men for us women to meet? Or are they set by women and then men assimilate it to be the norm or the expected? Is it a combination of men and women? Is it the fashion world/Hollywood? It’s a bit what came first? The chicken or the egg. The values and views of society are forever evolving but right now getting laid or coupled up, making money and even getting famous are at the top of the agenda; and they all revolve around the way we look. 

Pursglove touched on it when she said that grooming was essential to snag a mate and compete with other women. I do not agree. The peacock lesson is one that is taught to the girls in my family by the men in our family. Adult peahens are grey or brown in colour whereas peacocks are iridescent blue-green or green coloured. Why? Sexual selection. Peahens do the selecting-they already have all they need to attract a mate and do not need anything more like the peacocks who need ‘extras’ to catch their eye. I do my best to apply this knowledge daily. I’m not saying look dowdy or frumpy but then again even the frumpiest girl can attract someone. My granny always says ‘Every bread has its cheese.’

Look the way you want to look. That feeling of being free to look however and being strong enough to look that way in spite of what society thinks is hard to come by but I’d rather be judged/disliked for who I am/what I look like than liked for someone I’m not. The important thing is not to get caught up in looking a certain way at the expense of who we are. A balance must be struck.

Looks are important but the way someone acts is far more important than their appearance or if they are preened within an inch of their life. I do not wear makeup or groom myself to compete with women and don’t do it for men either. I do it for me. Motive is what is key. There’s a marked difference between looking after/pampering yourself and relying on your makeup bag to get you out the house. I believe most women would agree and can easily leave the house without it. Or is that my naivety?

If anything Pursglove’s experiment gives us something to think about. Are we really that shallow? Is the reliance on cosmetics something we should worry about? Should the media come under more scrutiny for their portrayal of beauty? Are we women our own worst enemy? We should look good/take care of ourselves because we love ourselves and not look good in order to love ourself. If only beauty propaganda focused on self-acceptance and self-love. Maybe it’s a first world thing.