Bare your face

Should breaking down the defensive mask of make-up lead us to feel powerless or empowered?

How many times have you left the house having just slipped your can’t-go-without-it item of make-up in your handbag? And what would you do if you forgot it? The idea of going without any make-up can leave many of us feeling exposed and unarmed, particularly on an important occasion such as a date or job interview. So why can a bare face leave us feeling so unprotected, and why are we scared to let our true selves take the lead?

The idea of concealing and accentuating our features is not a contemporary one; the Ancient Egyptians used make up in the form of kohl, ore and even mashed cranberries, not only for decorative purposes but also to honour their gods. More recently we still rely on make-up, and it may not be a coincidence that while industries such as banking and real estate have suffered severe blows during the recession, the global make-up industry has seen a yearly growth of four per cent in the last few years*.

Curiosity as to why we cover up has puzzled researchers, including those at Harvard Medical School. In their study** participants were asked to take a quick look at images of different women. Initially, they found that those wearing make-up were judged to be more likeable, competent and trustworthy. However, the longer participants were asked to look at the women’s images, the less trustworthy they were perceived to be.

So, is our corrective concealer only camouflaging our blemishes or is it masking something deeper in our self-belief too? According to shame and vulnerability expert Brené Brown, any vulnerability felt in going make-up-free does not suggest a lack of power but a sign of courage in communicating a heightened sense of self-acceptance and self-worth. In her book, Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent And Lead (Portfolio Penguin, £18.99) she writes: ‘We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives’. If connection and belonging are reached through the courage of exposing our true selves, perhaps there is something to be said for proudly baring our natural beauty.

Our Beauty and Wellbeing team at Psychologies have been showing off their make-up free faces this week on Twitter. Why not share your natural beauty with us by posting your make-up free picture using #showyourface