Here’s Why "No-Makeup" Makeup Is the Latest Trend — And Here’s Why It’s Bullshit


Much like "natural" makeup, "no-makeup" makeup is among the most prevalent and annoying oxymorons in the beauty world. 

Most recently, no-makeup makeup raised questions when Sephora started offering a free "no-makeup makeup" class in a select few of its stores. In the course, women would be taught for 90 minutes how to wear makeup, using products like highlighters and bronzers in order to appear as if they're really not wearing makeup at all. 

Because, at the end of the day, what no-makeup makeup is actually telling women (the people this trend is mostly directed at) is that they need makeup in order to look like they're not wearing makeup. When really, a great way to look like you're not wearing makeup is to just ... not wear makeup.


As Allure noted two years ago, no-makeup makeup "actually takes some makeup — maybe even a few false lashes — to look beautifully bare-faced." 

It's not that we have a problem with the thousands of women who are embracing the idea of putting on a more natural face, and proudly tagging selfies with #nomakeupmakeup on Instagram. We have a problem with the term because it promotes the idea that makeup is mandatory, while also suggesting that proudly wearing makeup is looked down on. Essentially, companies are using the "natural look" to sell products instead of promoting self-acceptance.

Why should makeup be a secret? What are we trying to hide here? Isn't no-makeup makeup really just ... makeup? Why are these modifiers and categories of wearing makeup necessary? 

Why this is bad: Just as it should be acceptable to go out of the house looking like a Kardashian, it should also be acceptable to go out into the world bare-faced. With society already expecting us to look flawless whenever we leave our homes, we certainly don't need any more rules telling us that in order to look makeup-free, we should slather on some more makeup. 

But also, at the same time, we shouldn't be all that proud of our makeup, because there is this societally imposed burden on women to not look in the mirror too much, to not take too many selfies, to not love how they look or take pride in it, to avoid being referred to as "high maintenance."

An example of how society in 2016 acts when a woman unabashedly does all of the above? Kim Kardashian West. She takes a lot of selfies and loves the way she looks. And in the press, she is called "narcissistic" and "dumb."


No-makeup makeup implies the idea that wearing makeup is necessary for all women. Think about Dolly Parton's iconic line in Steel Magnolias: "There is no such thing as natural beauty." 

As much as we admire Parton, this line is entirely untrue — especially so long as women like Lupita Nyong'o and Salma Hayek walk the earth. Women are and can be beautiful without a speck of makeup on, but if they want to wear makeup, they can do that too. Who's telling you not to? Men? Fashion magazines? Pfft, who needs them? 

What really happens: What happens when we tag pictures with #nomakeupmakeup is that makeup then becomes an expectation, and skews the reality of what women actually look sans makeup — particularly on social media, where it's easy to get a false sense of what a bare-faced woman looks like. 

As a result, young, impressionable people are looking at pictures of women "not wearing" a ton of makeup and thinking "natural beauty!" but feeling bad when they really don't wake up like that — or wonder why their girlfriends don't. 

As a reminder: Women are humans, not aliens with magically darker and defined eyelids and separated, inked lashes. 

It encourages this idea that women are otherworldly and "perfect," when we are actually mere mortals. 

So, what's the alternative? The most helpful thing to do in this case is erase this phrase entirely. No makeup makeup could instead just be called... makeup, since its purpose can be to either lightly enhance what you already have, or to transform yourself into whatever you'd like. It's about expression, full stop. 

Rather than flaunting this ideal of "I'm not wearing makeup," why not embrace it? While the 90-minute course at Sephora may be incredibly helpful when it comes to getting a beautiful, fresh-faced look, let's not lie to ourselves: We're wearing makeup, and we should be stoked about it.