According to new research, 44% of women feel vulnerable about how they look without make-up on. Here’s why trying to go make-up free every so often – and encouraging our friends to do the same – could be the answer.
The images we consume – whether that’s via social media, on the TV, in films, or in our favourite magazines – play a massive role in shaping our perception of ourselves and the people we see around us.
It’s no surprise then, that when the majority of women we see in today’s media are pictured wearing make-up, that we feel the pressure to wear make-up ourselves – and that pressure leads to another, more concerning problem: according to exclusive new research commissioned by Stylist, almost half (44%) of women feel vulnerable about how they look naturally without make-up on.
You may also like
How social media is changing the way we see our relationships
It’s important to acknowledge that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing make-up – for many people, it’s an important form of self-expression, or it helps them to feel more confident and empowered – but when almost 50% of us are struggling to feel comfortable in our own skin, it’s important we sit up and take notice.
Of course, the answer to this issue is far from straightforward. But according to recent studies which looked at the impact of #makeupfree images on social media, the solution could lie in a communal response.
According to a recent study, conducted by a group of researchers at Macquarie University in Australia, the presence of make-up free selfies next to some idealised, “perfected” images reduced the harmful impact of the latter image on the self-esteem of the participants, meaning they were less likely to want to change aspects of their face, hair and skin.
A November 2019 study also found that women who viewed unedited make-up free images were less likely to make appearance comparisons with the women they saw in the pictures, reducing the harmful effects of comparison culture.
In this way, trying to go make-up free more often in 2020 not only has benefits for our own levels of self-esteem, it can also help the women around us, too. It makes sense that, when we’re constantly bombarded by images of women with perfectly made-up faces, we’re going to begin comparing ourselves to them.
It may feel like a daunting step to take, but going make-up free, sharing make-up free images and encouraging our friends to go make-up free helps to address that imbalance – and that’s vitally important.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Love Women series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers.
1. We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals
5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.
Recommended by Lauren Geall
Michelle Obama’s letter to her younger self is a must-read for anyone with self-esteem issues
Alicia Keys' #nomakeup revolution: “I don’t want to cover up anymore"
Female astronauts shut down sexist questions about make-up in space
A quarter of women don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, but this campaign is changing that