I recently came by an article by Sydney journalist and author Katrina Lawrence. It was published on Mecca Memo, a blog-like section of the makeup store’s website, late last year. She wrote that French beauty was less about changing yourself but rather improving yourself. It was a nice message until it was followed by a list of products between $46 and $326. Natural beauty has a price tag, and don’t you forget it.
Yet magazines perpetuate the ideal of effortless beauty. And nobody does au naturel better than the French, right? We are positioned as plebeians in the countless articles of how to look Parisian, beauty tips and secrets from Parisians, how to eat like a Parisian and not get fat (like a Parisian), and so on.
The philosophy of so-called French beauty is the notion of enhancing, rather than hiding or changing, your features – beauty is an attitude, not any one particular look. But the truth is that the je ne sais quoi quality is not as ‘natural’ as it seems. Even French “it-girls” like Jeanne Damas and Caroline de Maigret admit the extensive care behind the au naturel look.
Effortlessness takes a lot of work. You want to wake up beautiful, so you slather products on your face before bed. The beauty industry capitalises on the natural look – if it’s achieved with the use of its own products.
Blemish-free skin is praised only when there is no make-up involved, which explains the marketing of many foundations which now promise a natural finish, such as the company Too Faced’s aptly named ‘Born This Way’ foundation. It also demonstrates why BB creams and similar products which simultaneously provide coverage and work to fix blemishes have become increasingly popular.
Beauty vloggers on YouTube also take us through the process of achieving a ‘no-makeup makeup’ look, requires an average of at least ten products. The message is this: buy these expensive products, spend an hour arduously applying them to your face, but play it off like you spent only five minutes getting ready. This is normalised far more than decisions to not wear makeup, style hair, shape eyebrows, remove body hair, etc.
Personal grooming, attitude, and beauty should be a choice, and not the tiring, impossible cycle it is today. Effortless beauty has become an unattainable oxymoron – beauty should be a choice, and not a fallacy perpetuated by impossible media standards.
This article appeared in the autonomous wom*n’s edition, Wom*n’s Honi 2018.