Why Do Men Hate It When Women Wear Heavy Makeup?

No-makeup makeup caters to those at a cosmetics crossroads. Characterised by dewy, glowing skin, brushed out brows, soft pink cheeks and fluffy lashes, it’s for those who feel naked with a bare face but don’t want to look too 'done'.
The idea of natural makeup is nothing new. In 2007, beauty vlogger Michelle Phan released one of YouTube’s earliest natural-looking makeup tutorials. But in recent years, no-makeup makeup has become a beauty mainstay, spearheaded by the likes of Meghan Markle and Zoë Kravitz and co-opted by makeup giants such as Glossier and Perricone MD. Encompassing natural nudes and pinks, creams, serums and light coverage, no-makeup makeup allows freckles to shine through but hides hyperpigmentation, acne and 'less than perfect' skin texture. At first glance, the look seems to counter overt displays of consumerist beauty culture, appearing to subvert the kinds of gendered norms that some sectors of feminist thought rally against. However, no-makeup makeup is still steeped in a societal hatred of women’s inauthenticity. Symptomatic of the patriarchy, it is an indication of how far we still go to ensure that women don’t take up too much space. 
For 21-year-old student Imogen, natural makeup is a look that takes around 30 minutes to achieve. She admits that a heavier face of makeup probably takes about the same amount of time. "I’m still wearing Glossier’s Boy Brow and Stretch Concealer, Lancôme mascara, Laura Mercier primer, The Body Shop lip balm and maybe some nude lipstick. Oh, and of course a moisturiser!" she says. When asked how much she thinks her no-makeup look costs, Imogen muses: "Easily no less than £100." Imogen is acutely aware that to look as though she were wearing 'too much' makeup would be to open herself up to criticism. "When I was younger I posted a photo on Instagram where I’d contoured my face and used lots of bronzer. I got loads of negative comments, even from people I don’t know, saying things like 'You look so fake' and 'This is way too much makeup'," she says. 

For as long as women have worn makeup, it has given men, and society at large, cause to mistrust them.

Not limited to Instagram comment sections, this sentiment is popularised across the internet. "Take a girl swimming on a first date," reads a widely circulated meme with side-by-side photographs of a woman before and after applying makeup. "This is why I have trust issues," reads another. For as long as women have worn makeup, it has given men, and society at large, cause to mistrust them. From ancient Rome to Victorian Britain, cosmetics have been associated with things like virtue and sex work. As such, they’ve been contentiously tied up with questions of morality. In Renaissance Italy, a woman's beauty was a reflection of her character, Victorian sex workers were referred to as 'painted women' and Christianity has made many a link between cosmetics and sin. In the bible, the evil queen Jezebel had 'painted eyes' and as Dr Brooke Erin Duffy, associate professor at Cornell University, wrote for Vox: "In 1657, Puritan clergyman Thomas Tuke condemned women’s use of cosmetics with the caution, 'A painted face is a false face.'" 
Over 350 years later, this belief still rings somewhat true. One 2017 study found that 63% of men think women wear makeup in order to trick them. Meanwhile, in the workplace, many women feel pressured to wear makeup to get ahead. "Women are expected to be effortlessly, naturally beautiful in a way that requires things like makeup and filters, but if you go too far you are seen as a fake, a fraud or narcissistic," explains Dr Duffy. "This sets women up for intense scrutiny, and ultimately failure." By wearing 'too much' makeup, we are seen as duplicitous. By wearing 'too little', we are not playing by the rules of the game.
This is even more pronounced for women of colour, says Dr Duffy. "Women of colour have the additional burden of dealing with criticisms about 'passing'," she explains. "There’s a deep-rooted cultural anxiety starting with the early 20th century cosmetics industry, where women of colour were told both to make themselves look more like the cultural norm of the moment — this very heteronormative white version of feminine perfection — but at the same time not conceal who they truly are." 

Women are expected to be effortlessly, naturally beautiful in a way that requires things like makeup and filters, but if you go too far you are seen as a fake, a fraud or narcissistic. This sets women up for intense scrutiny, and ultimately failure.

Dr Brooke Erin Duffy
With the 21st century came the advent of social media and even more intense surveillance of women’s appearance. Today, TikTok is awash with young boys and men informing women that they 'look better natural' and YouTube comment sections are overflowing with commenters eager to let beauty vloggers know they look better without so much makeup on. "Women face even more scrutinisation in public realms, like social media, for being inauthentic or not ‘real’. From questioning whether a woman is representing her true looks to believing her accusations of violence," Dr Duffy says. Online, it can be hard to know what is reality. Paired with the hypervisibility created by our online profiles, this leads social media users to call out anything which, in their eyes, verges on inauthentic.
Charlotte Fox Weber, a psychotherapist and the author of upcoming book What We Want, says: "Even working remotely has intensified our intrinsically human need to identify inauthenticity." This may be partly to blame for our obsession with images of makeup-free celebrities. Famous women who dare to present themselves in public as anything less than perfect have their makeup-free looks 'outed'. "When we do this – find these flaws in others – we feel it levels the playing field. It makes celebrities more relatable and makes their looks feel like an achievable goal," adds Fox Weber. But are they really that achievable? Alicia Keys has been venerated for her natural appearance but even that no-makeup look is a beauty routine more costly than the average person can afford. The compulsion to remain flawless while makeup-free persists. 
The cultural pressure for women to diet and make their bodies smaller is well known. It’s a tale as old as the patriarchy, and speaks to a societal demand that women take up less space. Could no-makeup makeup be an extension of this? Fox Weber explains that, in therapy, "the women who come to see me often worry about being ‘too much’ — the men worry about not being enough. Women feel like they have to look pretty but can’t wear too much makeup, they also can’t eat too much. With women, there’s a real fear of excess."
It's not difficult to link women's fear that men (and others) might deem our makeup excessive with our ready acceptance of the no-makeup makeup look. Natasha, a 28-year-old software engineer who wears minimal makeup, learned from a young age that men might judge her for her makeup choices. "When I was really young, my older brother used to tell me women are more beautiful with natural makeup. So he said that if I do wear makeup, it needs to be done in a way that men don’t know I’m wearing it," she says. There’s psychology at play here, Fox Weber adds. "It’s so often about being wanted. But we sometimes worry so much about how we are being seen, we struggle to know what we want ourselves." This can manifest as women worrying they are wearing too much makeup, talking too much or coming across as too emotional or opinionated. "It’s paradoxical," she says. "Women feel that by being 'too much', they are inadequate, they are not 'enough'." 
Makeup can be empowering and the subtle glow of almost undetectable no-makeup makeup truly is an art. We each have the freedom to express our bodily (and facial) autonomy in whichever way we choose. However, it's important to question whether we are policing ourselves. What is so terrifying about being considered to be fake? Why does proving authenticity fall so heavily on women? Be kind to yourself and your makeup kit. If you feel like it, bring those coloured eyeshadows out now and then. Wear as much or as little makeup as you like; it's entirely up to you.

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