An Open Letter to “I Woke Up Like This”

If we’re now pouring our dollars and time into face masks and brow gel instead of red lipstick and cake foundation, how liberated can the New Beauty actually be? Basically “no makeup-makeup” is threatening to bankrupt us all, ahh! By Casey Ireland.

If you wake up after a full night’s sleep and don’t take a selfie of your dewy serum-ed skin, did it really happen? If you aren’t hashtagging your beauty products, your top shelves, or your Brooke Shields eyebrows, do you really possess them?

I think it’s 2016 and everyone should be able to do what they want to their own GD faces. Pluck or don’t pluck, bleach that mustache or leave it be, wear foundation or don’t. I really don’t give a shit— it’s not my business, and it doesn’t seem particularly feminist to police what kind of face a woman feels comfortable presenting to the world. What I do have an issue with is the complicity of “no makeup-makeup” with the beauty industry’s standardization and manipulation of what it means to be attractive and female. If we’re now pouring our dollars and time into face masks and brow gel instead of red lipstick and cake foundation, how liberated can the New Beauty actually be?

Again, I keep cautioning myself to not actually get invested in the beauty routines of other people. I think I’m failing. I’m shelling out for new Glossier products and trading notes with my buddies, too. I still groom and aestheticize my medicine cabinet so my boyfriend thinks I’m a luxurious yet low-maintenance nymph. I do the sheet masks, and I drink the lemon water.

Aiming for healthy is a good thing. It’s not wrong to advocate for the benefits of not smoking, not blackout drinking, and occasionally breaking a sweat. But definitions of “healthy” shouldn’t be standardized beyond the general “doing this thing will give you cancer” by beauty blogs or cosmetics companies. Green juices cost endless amounts of money. Getting colonics can perforate your bowels. The lasting effects of preventative Botox in your 20’s are still super unknown. Denying yourself gluten if you don’t have Celiacs is just cruel.

There are definitely some good things about current representations of women in the beauty industry. Some social media-driven beauty campaigns do include a wider demographic swath of women than old Max Factor ads. Lupita Nyong’o’s partnership with Lancôme is huge— so is the presence of women like writer-model Paloma Elsesser and Xiao Wen Ju in advertisements and product write-ups. Business owners like Emily Weiss or Miranda Kerr show an increase in women handling the conception and production side of the industry. But while beauty brands are trying to be more inclusive, they’re still trying to sell us shit. Regardless of ethnicity, weight, or socio-cultural background, we’re still supposed to pick up the products they want us to.

Freckles are in. Big eyebrows are in. “Show your imperfections!” these ads tell us. “Be natural!” But what if natural for you isn’t poreless, ceramic skin? What if you don’t have naturally big eyebrows or full lips? What if you got cellulite at 15, or have cystic acne, or have baggy under-eye circles? “Don’t worry,” these ads say. “We can make you naturally perfect.”

If a model, celebrity, or someone with a considerable disposable income “wakes up like this,” there’s no credit reel which thanks the custom brow designer or the eyelash extender. There’s no shout-out to the facialist, or the poly-ceramide complex, or the baby foreskin cream. We’re supposed to look effortlessly beautiful, but we sure as shit aren’t supposed to talk about it. These efforts for perfection go on behind the scenes, and are meant to. No one wants to talk about their expensive YSL lip gloss anymore, or scour eBay for Chanel Vamp. Just like Coach signature bags are out, so is overt branding with your makeup.  Instead, we as consumers spend our money perfecting and glossing and toning in private. The faces we show the world might not have foundation on them, or fake eyelashes, but they also aren’t effortless— chances are, they’re still coated in cash.

If I sound jealous or bitter, I guess it’s because I am. Selfies cripple me with embarrassment, I constantly forget about my mustache, and I’ve had cobwebs of eye creases since I was a teenager. I have to remind myself that beauty is a business, or else I’ll feel constantly disappointed by what I don’t have. I forget that sometimes when I tell myself that a new moisturizer will make me look like a nonsmoker, or that a highlighter will cover up the fact I haven’t seen sunlight in weeks. I wish I wasn’t so susceptible to a well-branded eye cream, but I, too, want to look like a French girl. Give me green smoothies to cancel out my late-night Taco Bell run. I’ll take all the hyaluronic acid you’ve got, but don’t expect me to wear eye makeup in public. I, too, would like to be my best self— a poreless, smoothed-out, brow-filled version of myself that would take a quarter of my income to maintain.

But more than that, I’d like to be a smarter consumer. I’d like to read fewer beauty blogs and more articles on ecofeminism. I’d be happier if I spent less money on serums and also less on Taco Bell. I’d like to spend the money I give to cosmetics companies in ways more holistically beneficial to my health, like actually signing up for the tap dance classes I’ve been talking about for years. I want to move more, think more, and prod at my face less. Plus, they say that exercise makes your skin glow.



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