The Problem with "Bedhead" and "No-Makeup" Makeup

I love actual bedhead. I think girls look awesome with really messy hair full of crazy natural waves, flirting with dreadlocks. In my opinion, hair looks coolest when you don't do anything with it, which is something I learned from my style icon, Alexa Chung, and her weird, clumpy bangs. Thankfully, a product exists to make my bedhead better than ever: Bb Texture, a “hair (un)dressing crème” that promises an “elusive undone-yet-done quality with a hint of grit, extra lift, and a tousled, shine-free finish.” So, basically bedhead — but a much more complicated version of it.

This video from Bumble & Bumble shows us how to use the (un)dressing crème. The girl looks great at the end, yeah? Fantastic hair, like she just doesn't give a damn about anything. She could walk across any office, department store, or scenster NYC street corner and she'd turn heads. And best of all, it only took a professional hairstylist and an expensive product to get her looking that way. Sure, her hair is “messy,” but in this context, that just means “perfect.”

Beauty is a high-stakes game, my friends. When we're talking about makeup, we're never just talking about makeup. We're talking about surfaces and authenticity, about fraudulence and femininity. And we've all got chips in the game, from multi-billion dollar beauty companies to individual females, the products of so much marketing and the recipients of so many looks.

Unless you've been living under a rock (in which case, you probably have fantastic hair), I'm sure you've noticed that two looks have been popular for a while now: “messy” hair and “no-makeup” makeup. Please note the scare quotes. The goal is to leave the house looking like you didn't try at all, as though you just blew into town on a tropical breeze with your hair a little tousled and your cheeks naturally flushed. These looks are a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge from society to individual women; everybody knows that's blush, but everybody pretends you were born with it.

But don't throw away a single product, because society does not want women walking around with messy hair and no makeup. They want women walking around with “bedhead” and “natural” makeup. They want their California girls with “beach waves” (note: not actual beach waves) and they want their East Coast girls looking “dewy” (note: not literally; that would require going outside). By all means, leave the house with “tousled” hair and a “bare face,” but don't you dare leave the house without any product on your body. You'll be perceived as less competent at best, unmanageable and dirty-hippie at worst.

What's ironic is that the makeup and hair industries have already colonized this look. Wanna look effortless? You've got your “airy” foundations and your “hint of grit” hair products, your "They're Real!" mascara and your "illuminating" highlighters (designed to make you look like you're glowing from the inside, I suppose, because that's what real supermodels do).

Why is it so important to look like you didn't put much effort into your appearance? Putting zero effort into your job looks bad. Putting zero effort into relationships is a surefire way to spend your birthday alone. But hair that screams “I woke up this way” is the Holy Grail of beauty. The premise behind these trends is that you're more authentically you. Your face is no longer hidden behind false lashes and red lipstick; your skin, and your inner self, are now allowed to shine through. You appear to be redefining your look on your own terms by remaining off the beauty grid, if you will. You look like you're not trying to play the beauty game. A girl with clear styling (a slick blow-out and dark purple lipstick, let's say) has more of an obvious front, and if that front is perceived as unappealing or a fashion faux pas, the conspicuous effort behind it makes the rejection all the more shameful. But “messy” hair? If someone thinks you don't look good, well, whatever. (Sure, you put in a lot of time to get it this way, but no one can tell.)

You're safer when it looks like you didn't try.

Image: iamtheo on flickr