The #NoMakeup Movement: Good For You, Not For Me

by Liz Henry
Originally Published: 
nomakeup movement
Liz Henry

Not wearing makeup is apparently a thing. Thanks in large part to Alicia Keys and her #NoMakeup movement, women are showing off their natural faces on social media. Even Kim Kardashian, before she was attacked, showed up to a Paris fashion show sans makeup. This is all wonderful, great, #sobrave, and blah, blah, but I’m going to defer to Amy Poehler’s motto on this topic, “Good for her! Not for me.”

I wear red lips, fake-ass eyebrows, and a full face every single day of my life. This is how I do me. This is how I like to do me, and it’s not a reflection of anyone else. I can’t be more clear about this: How one woman chooses to present herself says nothing about you — it’s not a comment on what you should wear, how you should act, if you should wear makeup or not. In fact, if I could make a personal plea to the members of Lady Fight Club, there only needs to be one rule: There are no shoulds.

If Alicia Keys or Becky from the Block feels just fine without wearing makeup, great. However, if I like to wear eyebrows like other people put on pants, it doesn’t make me a liar. If I meet up with a makeup-less friend, my first thought isn’t, “Looks like your contour was set to frumpy today.” Nope, my first thought is, “Yay! I have a friend!”

I have my feminist street cred: I’ve read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, I have a degree in women’s studies, I even wrote a terrible slam poem in college about being a feminist who loves makeup. As embarrassing as that admission happens to be, and as quickly as I dropped that class after reading the poem, my true self is not being held captive underneath a thick layer of Rimmel’s Stay Matte foundation in True Ivory. Every time I paint my pout in MAC’s Ruby Woo, I don’t look in the mirror and kiss the whore staring back at me.

Alicia Keys wrote in Lenny, Lena Dunham’s newsletter, “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Who can’t get behind that kind of personal journey? I get it, I really do, yet my journey swings the other way. I’ve been perfecting my eyebrow game for almost two decades. Without my painted on brows, my forehead is a mayonnaise ocean without islands — snap a photo and I’m basically Fester Addams.

Is this being cruel to myself? Nope, it’s being honest, and I have one life to live and if I’m going to be an Addams, it’s going to be Morticia with the warmth of Wednesday.

When I met my husband, my brows were thin, painted on noodles. A year into our relationship, he told me he didn’t like them, and in an effort to please him, I changed my appearance. I felt deeply self-conscious and unlike myself, yet I stuck with it. We were young then and stupid — him having the balls to tell me what to do and me being pathetic enough to listen. That would never happen now. We’re teammates who respect each other enough to not go there because, seriously, who fucking cares.

After I received our Christmas portraits from Sears, I swore off what he wanted for good, and I haven’t looked back. That was 12 years ago.

When I put on my eyebrows, I’m not covering up emotional distress or layering poison or believing that women need to look perfect in order to succeed. What I’m doing is choosing me and what I want — which are fly-ass brows with a tip sharp enough to kill a man and red lips crimson enough for the murder scene.


It’s a false equivalence to assume makeup guarantees a lack of freedom or that a clean face means living without fear. Women are complicated, full people with a host of desires and expressions who defy simple labels no matter how hard patriarchy works to stick us into neat little categories — which, by the way, only ever amount to two: this or that, one or the other, virgin or whore, happy mother or fuckless spinster. The goal of patriarchy is opposing teams, folks. It’s smart like that, so why take the bait?

Which I won’t.

If you feel good, do you, boo.

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