Ever since the day my sixth-grade fingers wrapped themselves around a tube of sparkly blue eyeliner, I’ve been fixated on cosmetics. It’s a heavy burden to carry (quite literally, my makeup bag is cumbersome); a habit that drains my bank account; and a passion that prevents me from ever qualifying as a “low maintenance girl” (trust me, I took a Buzzfeed quiz).
It’s not surprising then, that in my twenties I found myself working as a beauty editor, waxing poetic about the shadows and lipsticks and cheek stains that made me practically explode with excitement. What is surprising though, is a lesson I learned the second I moved to the makeup mecca of New York City: none of the cool kids wear makeup.
Keep reading for my theories about the phenomenon!
I should qualify “cool.” Of course, there were plenty of cooler-than-I’d-ever-be people strutting down the streets of Manhattan with kohl-rimmed eyes, fuchsia pouts, and neon-orange cheeks. Those people just weren’t working in beauty, which by my newbie barometer was the pinnacle of all things holy.
The first time I witnessed these “cool kids” in their natural habitat was my first beauty editor event in Soho. There I stood, back practically glued to the wall, as I soaked up the scene. There were nonchalant low buns; natural, plush pouts; bushy—but sculpted—brows perched perfectly on blemish-free faces, yet miraculously—to my awe and horror—nobody seemed to be wearing an ounce of makeup! I suddenly felt weighed down by my foundation-laden face and obvious cat-eye liner. Was I at the wrong event?
The phenomenon continued to baffle me even when I should have grown to expect it. At fashion week, beauty editors darted through the chaotic clusters of makeup artists and models, iPhones in the air, as they recorded every last detail of the beautification process. Lipsticks, brushes and blushes littered the scene, but once again when I glanced around at my fellow editors, there was nary a smoky eye or red lip among them.
So, what gives? Why are these ladies, with access to piles of free product and infinite knowledge, keeping their faces bare? I have a few theories.
While the scene may have been short on makeup, it was not short on vanity. From facials, to eyelash extensions, to brow tinting, to lymphatic massages, the cool girls tried it all. Their faces were plucked, prodded, massaged, and smothered in the most decadent skincare products, and in the end, a lot of them didn’t need much coverage. When you spend so much time perfecting your skin, why cover it up?
While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment (90s grunge?) somewhere along the line, trying too hard—whether it’s your outfit, your hair or your makeup—became passé. In an era of “I woke up like this,” visible effort is the biggest no-no of all. Nowadays, strands are “undone” (though loaded with texturizers to look so); skin is “nearly nude” (save for concealer); and lips are “just bitten” (I’m looking at you, tinted lip balm). If cool factor and exertion have an adverse relationship, it’s no wonder everyone’s walking around looking like they rolled out of bed and slipped on Celine.
As the term “normcore” swept through fashion over the last few months it made me wonder, is minimalist makeup the cosmetic response to this “normal” movement? Slate thinks so, and the New York Times even chimed in on the fresh face as the “new beauty standard.”
Whether this movement is making its way to the masses, or just an isolated surge of practicality, all I know is, on those few days I do go bare-faced in public, I feel as trendy as a pair of Birkenstocks.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments!
For more from Jessica Hagy, follow her blog, The Lady Freak, and catch up with her on Twitter @Jessica__Hagy.