Breaking News: Well-Known Women Are Actual People Underneath Their Makeup

Makeup can be fun. It can be transformative. It can mean the difference between a red-rimmed, puffy, public admission of late-night debauchery and bright-eyed office decorum. It can be artistic, subtle, theatrical, expressive. Makeup can be great.

It can also be a complete pain in the ass.

Fresh off a two-day girls’ trip to Arizona, I feel I can say with some authority that skipping the liner-mascara-gloss routine (or primer-powder-bronzer procedure/shadow-concealer-foundation drill—whatever your poison may be) is incredibly freeing. Recklessly rubbing your eyes without the fear of smudging, clumping, or smearing feels like a heavenly embrace from your fingers to your lids (though your opthamologist may not agree).

Grabbing breakfast, splashing around in the pool, and reciting passages from Fifty Shades of Grey to your sunbathing friends without a worry about lipstick reapplication is so liberating (that embarrassing admission of poolside reading material didn’t go unnoticed, did it?).

And obviously it doesn’t take a girls-only getaway to facilitate barefaced abandon. Plenty of women save the makeup for special occasions, and many forego cosmetics altogether. It really comes down to personal preference, and as a society, we’re generally very accepting and tolerant of women’s individual choices.


Yeah, no, that’s not exactly how our culture operates. Clearly there are endless norms and expectations set by the media, our peers, our traditions, etc. regarding women’s weight, shape, wardrobe and more. We’re definitely not obligated to follow any of these helpful (i.e. oppressive) suggestions (i.e. laws of the land), but it’s hard to not feel gently encouraged (i.e. poked and prodded into submission).

But while everyday women certainly feel the pressure to keep up appearances, well-known female leaders and celebrities undoubtedly have it worse.

Nothing could have articulated society’s sucky stance on women in the spotlight quite like the recent brouhaha over Hillary Clinton’s makeup-free face.

In case you didn’t catch the hundreds of headlines (that’s actually a lie—Google News cites over 3,000 articles) dedicated to this earth-shattering story, allow me to summarize. During a trip overseas earlier this month (to talk about things like human rights violations in China and India’s reliance on Iranian oil—you know, the sort of stuff you’d need long lashes and a matte pout for), Clinton appeared in public sans-makeup. Cue chaos.

Outlets like Fox News and the Daily Mail were quick to point out how “tired and withdrawn” Clinton looked (right up top, in their articles’ ledes, no less). Others quickly jumped to her defense, saying the 64-year-old looked good for her age and others still claimed it was an issue of respect and the politician should have put her best face forward as a public figure. Clinton herself laughed off the controversy, telling CNN she basically couldn’t care less and that worrying about her appearance is “just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention.”

Two weeks later, I’m still confused as to why this was news. Unless Clinton was in Bangladesh to promote her new sassy line of Lip Smackers or announce herself as the newest easy, breezy, beautiful CoverGirl, why should we care what’s on her face?

In another inane debate over the right to bare skin, readers seemed shocked (shocked!) to see HelloGiggles’ very own Zooey Deschanel squeaky-clean and makeup free in People. Joining other celebrities for a spread in the magazine’s annual “Most Beautiful People” issue, Deschanel braved the inevitable backlash to show readers she’s a living, breathing woman under the glitz and glamor, and admitted she was “really terrified” to do so.

Just like clockwork, blog comments rolled in, dismayed by the dissonance between Deschanel’s high-definition-friendly New Girl look and her unadorned, freckled face. The snarkiest commentators (who, by law, should really be required to submit their own makeup-free photos along with their negative energy) tore down fresh-faced 14-year-old Paris Jackson. I’m sorry, I must have missed the national memo imploring all prepubescent girls to spackle themselves in the tradition of Toddlers in Tiaras.

Fed up with the makeup frenzy, 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord took to Twitter last week to show fans that television contracts and magazine covers don’t magically eliminate human imperfections. “I woke up this morning and decided I’m over Hollywood’s perfection requirement,” she Tweeted, along with a photo of her unadorned face. “To all my girls (and boys) who have ever been embarrassed by their skin! I salute you! I’m not perfect—and that’s okay with me!”

Grateful comments poured in, and the move was certainly gutsy, but the question is why? Why has it become an act of heroism and sacrifice for a woman to show her makeup-free face in public? Why are people outraged to know an actress is not a flawless automoton, but a blemished, laugh-lined human being? Why is it international news when a female politician sports glasses and skips the blush?

We’re all well aware of the double standard that exists around physical appearance. Regardless of all the progress women have made, equality is a long way’s off, and rigid beauty standards rage on (and on and on). But all the talk about Clinton’s bare face indicating a lack of respect made me wonder if there was some sort of male equivalent for the makeup propriety paradigm. Was condemning Mark Zuckerberg for donning his trademark hoodie to an investor meeting last week on par with criticizing Clinton for going makeup free? Was his wardrobe choice as “disrespectful” as her decision to walk out into the world without a layer of camera-friendly cosmetic coating?

It’s not a fair comparison I guess, but that’s probably because women are still unfairly singled out, scrutinized, and summed up based on their sex appeal. And in our society, sex appeal isn’t limited to clothes, curves, or confidence. It’s painted on with sometimes-fun, often-obligatory makeup magic.

My mascara-free eyes deserve a good reckless rub right about now.

Images via NY Daily News, Jezebel and Twitter.

  • Liz Kelly Zook

    I don’t think it’s a respect issue. I think America, in most ways, is still in a 1950’s mindset where people are expected to never make anyone else uncomfortable.
    It’s not about being disrespectful at all. It’s about being unpleasant. I think it’s an issue that we, as a whole, need to get over.
    Hilary Clinton’s job does not require mascara. So it’s not really something we should expect from her just because seeing her without make-up makes us uncomfortable. She’s great at her job. End of story. The same goes for Mark Zuckerberg. He doesn’t need a suit to program. He needs to focus. And if that focus restricts him from catering to what makes others feel comfortable so be it. The world would be a completely different place without both of them. We should be grateful that they’re here at all – not criticizing how they manage their appearance.

  • Siobhan Kümm

    Every once in a while, I say “Screw it!” and go without the concealer, tinted moisturizer, mineral powder, eye primer, eye shadow, eye liner, and mascara (and usually, I wear all of that for a “natural” look)…but, I always feel less pretty when I do.

    I’m trying to do it more often, because I know that it’s society’s perception of beauty that is making me feel that way. Behold the power of the media upon society. Can you imagine if they used their power for good?

  • Serena Perry

    interesting that this is the SECOND article i’ve read today about women’s naked faces and i left the house today without all of my own war paint. I feel EXTREMELY blessed to be standing at the door of FIFTY and still be able to leave the house without being all made up. It is liberating. I do consider myself a FEMINIST and I just HATE that society judges women on their looks and it’s also mind boggling (to me, at least) that some women can totally change their appearance with cosmetics. I just read a book in which a man acknowledged that after meeting an attractive woman one night at a nightclub, he was wary about their next meeting in daylight because she may now look “NOTHING” like the night he met her in the nightclub in full make-up, nails, weave/wig, spanx, etc

  • Brittnee Ash

    I ran across this article on Tumblr via Leopold Gursky (, and was delighted! About a month ago I realized I was relying pretty heavily on my makeup routine (cover up, powder, blush, shadow, eye liner, mascara, and a nice matte lipstick in any shade of red ^_^). The realization that I felt “naked” or “gross” in public without that ritual prompted me into committing to a makeup free week. I work retail at a store with relatively high appearance standards, and was a bit nervous. To my utter amazement I received compliments almost every day from my co-workers about my “natural beauty”. My customers weren’t repelled by my makeup-less appearance, and my male co-workers still smiled and greeted me with the same warmth. It was incredibly freeing, and did wonders for my self-confidence. Now, I’ll opt for a makeup free day a couple times a week withouth the shaking knees ;).

  • Kelly McColeman

    Should we fake gasp that all these women looked – alright, even beautiful? It’s not really news to see ‘Pretty women still pretty without makeup’. Trying to knock famous women down for not wearing makeup, or worse not instantly losing baby weight and wearing a bikini is crazy. Makeup should be for fun, and it shouldn’t be ‘OMG look at ‘famous person’ without makeup/photoshop/whatever! NOW I feel better about myself’

  • Valerie Anne Francisco

    I don’t think wearing makeup versus being fresh-faced is a respect issue, at least not consciously. I think it is more so that women are expected to look “put together” even when just going on an errand or taking a walk? Why? Because we have been ingrained to compare ourselves to models and celebrities, so when we see a famous person fresh-faced we are truly stunned that they look…well… average.

    Here’s the thing, though: Celebrities and models are still at an advantage even when fresh-faced… in a way. Yes, they will receive criticism because the public finally knows what they truly look like. However, at least most of them have great skin (something which I will NEVER have, despite me having tried almost EVERY acne product) and/or unique features (Angelina’s lips, for instance).

    Anyway, I feel extremely self-conscious when going into public without makeup. This is due to my skin, though :(

    • Anonymous

      I have been using Mary Kay makeup rvmeeor since 1994/1995 and it’s by far my favorite one to date. I’ve tried many other brands and this one is great because it gets rid of all that makeup gunk in just a couple sweeps of the cotton pad. It doesn’t tug on your eyelashes and it is extremely gentle for being such a powerful product. I don’t use any other Mary Kay products, but this one. I haven’t worn Mary Kay in years, but I continue to buy this product over and over again. I love it. If I could I’d give it 10 stars, I would.

    • Anonymous

      YPg2Zy rjwswmlnwnpz

  • Sarah Williams

    My daily makeup routine. Foundation and a little mascara. Sometimes without the foundation on days I just flat out forget. I feel for people that have the need, whether it be work, self image, peer pressure, etc to go through a 20-30 min routine every day. I love playing with makeup to go out and special occassions 😀

    • Anonymous

      No, not really. I never tgohuht I had good skin but now I realize that my skin was so much better than I tgohuht about 3 months ago. After I started on new birth control, I also started using Studio Fix Fluid by MAC that aggravated my skin even more. A real acne sufferer would probably not say that my skin is bad, but compared to what it looked like before it’s really bad. It takes me down and I can’t even go to the store because of my self esteem. I also got some pimples on my chest and shoulders, just a few and small but it’s enough for me to cry, haha. I am switching birth control to my old pills that didn’t ruin my skin, I’m going to a derm and take even better care of my skin. Hopefully it will go back to the way it was!

  • Jess Allen-Summers

    How funny, I literally just blogged about this today! ( I think it”s really interesting and I wonder whether a big part of the appeal of make-up is more about how we feel than actually how we look to others, and if we feel good, we act like we look good, therefore we do look good. Pretty clever eh?!


  • Corey Podell

    Its so disturbing everytime I go to even just the supermarket or drugstore and see the makeup that is being marketed specifically to little girls! (not to mention the insane mothers and upsetting shenanigens that happen on Toddlers and Tiaras) I remember not trying makeup until I was a teenager. People need to let kids be kids!

  • Cheri Lockhart Woolley

    Zooey looks just as beautiful without makeup, all 3 of these women do.

  • Alex McKelley

    I’m still in high school and whenever I choose to skip the makeup my own family doesn’t wait to comment on how “tired” I look, making comments like, “makeup is your friend!” It’s insane! Makeup or no makeup, it doesn’t at all affect someone’s beauty!

  • Ella Tisdall

    This is without a doubt, the best article I have read this year. Sums up what I have been questioning internally these past few weeks – thank you. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Robert Remillard

    For far too long women have been forced to place too much emphasis on their apperance because men have refused to take their minds seriously. The cosmetic industry has been only happy to oblige this and continues the barrage women with the “Appearance Is Everything” rhetoric. Even my wife, who now has 2 post grad degrees and is currently working on a PHD, will not leave the house without makeup. Until the attitudes of women themselves begin to change the respect that has been long in forthcoming will likely be delayed even further.

  • Hailey Case

    I remember a day during a hectic time this last semester at college that I accidentally headed off to Psych class without my makeup (gasp!) and felt so naked the whole class and instead of going to work down the street right after, I called in and said I was going to be late because I drove back across town and went home to do my makeup. The whole ordeal felt so superficial, yet I felt that everyone could see the acne and blemishes on my face and that was all they saw,it was terrifying, but all in my head. I think that because there is such a high standard for female perfection we can’t go around looking like ourselves and feeling confident about it. My makeup has become a protective coating, like a mask I wear so that everyone doesn’t see how imperfect I look underneath.

  • Hannah Epperly

    I’ve never been all that into make up. Maybe I’ll wear mascara and eyeliner if I feel like it but most of the time it’s just something I don’t think about. I figure if someone can’t accept me for who I am without me having to put on a face they can screw off. I’m not against make up though. I get why most people love it and feel the need to wear it and I completely understand.. I almost wish I did because of the pretty packaging and the cool eyeshadow but meh. Too much work!

  • Catherine Green

    Your articles are always so intelegent and good. Great job Michelle.

  • Evangeline Mahalia Basson

    I dont really see the need for all that make up, I wear eyeliner and mascara in the winter just to open my tired eyes a little more but in summer the most I wear is mascara and I wear lipgloss just to avoid chap lip. I can’t stand the feel of foundation or anything else like that, I just like to mostiourise daily . I’ve never worn foundation apart from when my sister tried to make me and I looked awful afterwards so I took it off and twice I’ve put a little under my eyes before a night out so I dont get bags…but it didnt really work that much so I dont do it anymore…I think its definately true that less is more :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t feel as attractive wutioht makeup (same goes for dressing up); for me, it’s a way of playing up my best features, a beautifying tool. However, it’s not so much a question of beauty as of looking polished, well groomed, like I take care of myself. The thing is, if I decide to go out wutioht makeup, odds are I won’t bother with dressing up and doing my hair either, so I tend to look messy. I do look a lot younger wutioht makeup, so I guess that’s a plus.I had a pretty serious car accident about 10 years ago which left me with hypertrophic scars on my cheek. I could have had plastic surgery to correct that, but after having spent 4 weeks in hospital and another month in a physical rehabilitation center, I was sick of doctors and hospitals, so I decided to leave them as they were. They have faded a lot (as my dermatologist predicted they would), but the habit of not going out wutioht foundation or TM has proved pretty hard to kick, although I have very clear skin otherwise.Great question, by the way!

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