The recent photo shoot for the feature of Paper magazine stars Christina Aguilera with a noticeably fresh and radiant make-up free look coming as a shock too many. Magazine covers and brands are using barefaced models and celebrities more widely; yet, the Paper issue got such a reaction that it calls to question whether covers should start to go makeup free more often.
In a recent interview the singer said it was a “liberating feeling to be able to strip it all back”, calling the make-up free look ‘raw beauty’; however, like a lot of women, Aguilera still enjoys having a glamorised look. Journalists are calling the musician unrecognisable in her stripped down feature with some fans asking why she chooses to ‘hide’ a beautiful face under all the make-up. Obviously this is down to the fact that we usually see Christina Aguilera on our screens with high eyeshadow, dark red lipstick, extreme blush and draped in old Hollywood glamour. But perhaps the ‘unrecognisable’ Aguilera is pointing to something more prominent – the realisation that we have become accustomed to seeing stars picture perfect, caked in make-up and a galaxy away from our reality, altogether forgetting that celebrities, too, are people.
As magazines paving the image of fashion, beauty, and trends, don’t they have an extent of responsibility to portray a healthy image? This is not to say that a glamorised look or well-beat face is not healthy, but rather that a publication that highlights made up looks as well as truly natural looks is healthier than one which only highlights the made up looks. The consistent problem with overdone make-up on cover models is that it perpetuates an unrealistic ideal towards the publication’s audience with the need to cover up flaws. Even when some publications have gone “make-up free” they are in fact using minimal or skin toned make-up to create a natural look on the model rather than simply using the fresh face.
With younger audiences in mind, the worry is always going to be about the internalising of self-deprecation and the need to fit a certain criteria of beauty standards. However, some media platforms have already taken a direction towards freshed face beauty for a minimalistic modern look. Issues such as January 2016 Rolling Stone for Adele, Allure 2014 with Rachel McAdams and February 2017 with Alicia Keys, Vogue June 2016 with Kim Kardashian, and Glamour August 2016 with Mila Kunis.
The feat that magazine companies face might include the need to keep up with the everchanging face of the fashion and beauty industry. In the ‘90s and ‘00s beauty was determined by the few such as icons like ‘the big five’ known as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer (replacing Tatjana Patitz) and Christy Turlington.
“Beauty revolved around a ‘be this way’ attitude” (Dove, The Changing Face Of Beauty: 2004 to 2024) with waxes, Spanx and eyebrow plucking setting new high-maintence standards for beauty and fashion. Makeup on ‘90s covers was light with more colour emphasis on the eyes; yet, even this classic look would have required many powders and hidden airbrushing to be achieved. The preference for a paler complexion with the occasional beauty spot on the upper lip (seen on Crawford and Madonna) showed beauty as being free of flawed skin, hairless and with attention is drawn to the eyes.
“Beauty revolved around a ‘be this way’ attitude” (Dove, The Changing Face Of Beauty: 2004 to 2024)
Now, in the last ten years, beauty and fashion has shifted so that naturalism is being celebrated along with experimenting with make-up. The rise of lifestyle bloggers has especially encouraged a new market for glowy dew, everyday looks and nourishment of the skin. Beauty has also moved away from the ‘be this way’ attitude paved by a few, to a growingly inclusive perception of beauty. “Niche is the new normal” (Dove) as looks that celebrate individualism are now widespread rather than discouraged, such as tattoos and coloured hair. Similarly, make-up is being used in new ways for self-expression with trends such as contour and highlight, but this trick of defining features also encourages a more natural skin-toned look which brings us closer to braving no make-up as a collective.
The make-up free covers taking the freshed-face approach have gathered attention, great reactions and in turn, good sales; so, publications needn’t worry about losing out on good features and business. If they magazines see their true role as influencers to the beauty standards of the new generation and readership, perhaps they will consider opting for make-up free front covers more often.