The naked face by Angela Caldin
Alicia Keys has decided to go without make-up and this has caused something of a stir. She wrote a forceful essay in which she discussed the pressure women face to uphold beauty standards and made a promise that she would stop covering up. “Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing,” she wrote.
The search for enhancement
It has to be said that Alicia Keys is a very beautiful and striking woman who looks absolutely stunning with or without make-up. But what about the rest of us mere mortals who have been led to believe from a very early age that our features would benefit from cover-up and general enhancement? There’s no getting away from the fact that from earliest times women have used all sorts of substances to improve their appearance. Over the centuries, they have used burnt matches to darken their eyes, berries to stain their lips and (apparently) young boys’ urine to fade their freckles. They even swallowed ox blood in an attempt to improve their complexions.
Throughout history, women put their health at risk with many of their home-made cosmetics. In some cultures, they used arsenic, lead, mercury, and even leeches to give themselves the pale appearance which was thought to be essential a few hundred years ago. Make-up has come a long way since those days, but we are now expected to use the many, often expensive, products available to have smoother cheeks, redder lips, more defined brows and longer, curlier eyelashes.
For my own part, I gave up on make-up a long time ago. It seemed too much like hard work to put it on in the morning and take it all off again at night only to start the whole process all over again the next day. Plus I had a tendency to rub my eyes so that mascara and eyeliner got distributed all around – panda eyes, I believe the phenomenon is called. But then I was lucky because in the jobs I had, nobody was bothered about whether you wore make-up or not (at least, I don’t think they were) and nobody asked me to leave the premises if I turned up bare-faced. Some women are not so lucky, as these examples from The Guardian show:
Last year one of the UK’s biggest hotel chains complained to my manager after a meeting because I wasn’t wearing enough make-up. But because they were a client, paying us for our services, no action was taken. I had spent days preparing for that meeting, but none of my hard work mattered because I wasn’t wearing lipstick.
Anonymous, 28, marketing agency
I was told in a meeting by an American consultant that if I wanted to be taken seriously, then I needed to wear make-up. I told him that since he was not wearing make-up, I presume I shouldn’t take him seriously. At the time I was the team leader in charge of designing a £40m database.
Jenny, 59, former computer systems analyst
Things are getting a bit more complicated now with various make-up ranges for men on the market and with Eddie Izzard all glammed up in his pink beret and red lipstick. I think, all things considered, I’m coming down on the side of live and let live: if you want to wear make-up to make you feel good, whatever your gender, that’s fine, but if you don’t, stick to your guns and don’t be unnerved by people telling you that you look tired and/or ill.