Is Natural Makeup The Same As Natural Beauty?

by Gina Jones 2

Currently, my favorite part of the internet is James St. James’ Transformations YouTube series, where everyone’s beloved club kid — quite shockingly born in the same year as my mom — invites people, mainly drag queens, mainly ex Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants, to recreate their signature looks onto him. It’s a new twist on the makeup tutorial videos that attract cult followings from around the world. Of course, the main reason I watch them is to drool over Milk and laugh at Bianca Del Rio, but the makeup is still important to me, too.

When you openly declare yourself to be a feminist, people (for some inexplicable reason) begin to ask you how you can possibly support [insert semi-derogatory characteristic or form of expression here] whilst claiming to be a feminist. The most ridiculous one I have been asked is, "How can you sexualize breasts," bearing in mind that I’m a queer woman and firmly believe that tits are great.

I’ve also been asked how I, as a feminist, can like drag queens. If I'm being honest, it's mainly because of the playful nature towards the gender binary represented by the queens that I love, as well as the never-ending appreciation and celebration of female aesthetics. That’s definitely not to say that individual drag queens can’t be horribly problematic, but rather that I personally love almost all gender performance art. As well as the fact that a glittery, campy drag queen epitomizes everything I aim to be with my personal look. My dream is that one day people will mistake me for Adore Delano (I’ve even changed my star sign to Libra).

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The fact that I don’t believe any makeup look to be complete without astonishing (almost atrocious) amounts of highlighter and gold eye shadow probably contributes heavily to why I have never watched a "natural makeup tutorial" video. I have never wanted to look natural, so makeup has never been about such a quest for me. Realistically, I want to portray myself aesthetically in accordance with my perceived personality — otherworldly.

Personally, my "natural" face is the one covered in makeup. It is how my face appears for the majority of my waking hours — though if you sleep in your makeup, then you are a heathen, because sacrificing excellent skin for a glittery slumber is idiotic even by my standards. When I’m not wearing makeup, I rarely look at myself, but when I do I’m constantly staring into any reflective surface I can find. Although I have learned to come to terms and even like my bare face, I still feel my bare face is not my "true" one, and I’m comfortable enough to stretch my metaphor to it not being my "natural" face as well.

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When I saw Molly Soda’s newest art piece for New Hive, I was intrigued at the notion of watching some natural makeup tutorials, mostly because Molly Soda’s twist on them seemed inevitably fascinating. The piece explores the effort and cost of appearing "natural" (with the use of a vaguely shocking $84.43 to a ridiculous $350 — from 9 minutes and 21 seconds to 15 minutes and 40 seconds). What is the cost of looking as makeup-less as possible? Why does it take as long as I take to create my "unnatural" look? Many men wish to call any makeup a "cheat" (as though the patriarchy isn’t responsible for the beauty industry), and now these women teach us how to actually cheat — to look flawless as well as looking like you have no makeup on. Because for whatever ludicrous reason, there is a huge difference between a bare face and a "natural" one.

The main issue that comes to mind for me with the concept of "natural" makeup is that it is creating an even higher standard of beauty that women are meant to achieve. When I am wearing all of my makeup at once, as much red lipstick as possible and a hundred coats of mascara, it is obvious that underneath I don’t look like that. However, I’m working with what is already there and cosmetics enhances my beauty rather than falsify it. So why does there exist falsehood in my glitter when there isn’t falsehood in your layers of Bare Minerals?

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With the rise of a natural look that includes over $200 worth of products and a quarter of an hour, it means that the "I woke up like this" vibe is expensive, classist and maybe even sexist. What happens when you go out into the world donning your natural makeup, pull somebody in by looking like you’ve been photoshopped, then wake up the next morning with your face on the pillow and three pimples clearly visible? Your previous night’s partner isn’t going to have a hernia just because you look human again. But if "natural" is being crafter to mean "flawless," how much worse will we feel when our eyebrows are missing in the morning? If my natural face costs half my salary for the month to achieve, what does that mean for my nude face?

Realistically, I know a lot of the stares I get in the street when I’m wearing my favorite makeup looks aren’t due to my fabulousness, but because over the top eye shadows matched with a strong lip are a thing of the past. Whilst some people will think that I’m breaking every rule in The Makeup Bible by wearing both at once, I feel that if I’ve spent my money on makeup, I want you to know that I’m wearing it! In the end, it comes down to personal taste and no woman should have to feel ashamed for how she presents herself to the world. But at the same time, no woman should be made to feel that her bare face is "unnatural."

Images: Getty