In today’s social media-driven age, there are a lot of photos of famous people out there looking like fair makeup-free celebrities. Most people know that images for magazines and advertisements are often airbrushed and photoshopped, but these days, face filters and editing phone applications can produce instant face and body alterations with some of us none the wiser.
It can be very hard to tell which celebrities and influencers actually look like, and some celebrities are pushing the beauty standard in the direction of unedited casual beauty, while others are posting photos that look like their celebrities who don’t wear makeup, when in fact there are face adjusting filters on their selfies.
Is this deception or cheating? I would argue that the celebrities themselves are not to blame for an unattainable beauty standard, but the society that produces that standard and creates methods of reaching an even more extreme version of that standard is to blame. I think what is most important is teaching people that their looks are not the sole indicator of their status or worth in the world and that images aren’t always reality.
What are the ethics of beauty standards, and how can I consume media in an informed way?
Beauty standards are created by society and can slam down hard on those who are constantly under society’s magnifying lens. There can be a lot of pressure for young women especially to look a certain way, to the point that they place their worth and value in their appearance instead of any of their other qualities.
There are a lot of beauty campaigns and activists trying to dismantle our societal standard of beauty both because of the psychological effects the standard has on us and because of the fact that beauty standards at their base are rooted in classism, racism, ageism, fatphobia, and sexism. Youth, European features, thinness, and often appropriated non-European features on European bodies are all in the standard of beauty that we hold as a norm today.
More and more trends are promoted by celebrities
Many trends of cultural appropriation have been promoted by celebrities who are appropriating a different racial identity. The Kardashians have a bad track record of doing this with their wearing hairstyles like “box braids” which is a different word for cornrows, a hairstyle that has historically gotten black women fired or kicked out of school. On the Kardashians, women who are not black, this hairstyle is seen as trendy and cool.
The standard of beauty that demands women remain thin has been around for quite a while, and social media has created a platform for people to consume images of thin or fit women constantly, causing a huge uptick in body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, and eating disorders, and the age at which young girls become dissatisfied or ashamed of their figure is getting frighteningly younger and younger.
When it comes to skincare, there is this idea that perfect skin is attainable for all people, so long as they wash their faces correctly, when in fact skincare is another subsection of corporate beauty and aging is impossible to reverse with a topical cream. People are far more shocked to see photos of older famous people without makeup, particularly older women without makeup because our thirst for youth and our standard of young taught skin as the epitome of beauty is relentless.
There are so many anti-aging creams, masks, potions, and tonics out there that are supposed to somehow take 30 years off of your face overnight. This pushed people to get botox, facelifts, and other plastic surgery to stall the effects of aging, and the age at which people are doing this is getting younger and younger.
At this point, people in their early twenties are getting “preventative Botox” in order to ensure that their faces will stay wrinkle-free in the future. Is this necessarily bad? It depends on the situation. Botox is expensive, and definitely a luxury afforded to those who have the disposable income to spend on such a thing.
Do the celebrities who have had plastic surgery enforce an elitist standard of beauty more than those who don’t?
Maybe, but again, it is not the individual celebrities who are to blame for this because they are not the ones who created the beauty standard and our beauty standard is so ingrained in popular culture that if they didn’t adhere to it, they might lose acting roles or contracts. So unfortunately they are part of a positive feedback loop, a vicious cycle upholding unattainable physical appearance.
But don’t fret! As long as you know that these celebrities who work within that popular culture world don’t just wake up and look flawless, you are informed enough to know that the pictures you see on social media or in the media, in general, are often not what they seem.
The camera angles alone can do so much to change the way a person’s proportions are translated into an image. The people who take and edit these photos are employed on the basis that they know how to work angles and make celebrities look like they are the best-looking celebrity, even actors without makeup or actresses without makeup! Even the best-looking celebrity without makeup could be caught off guard by a paparazzi and look entirely bad, and that’s why it’s important to remember that you can’t get a full idea of what someone looks like from an image.
So how does this relate to celebrities with and without makeup?
The issue of whether a celebrity is wearing makeup or not doesn’t always make for a big political statement. In some cases, even celebrities who aren’t wearing makeup may have had plastic surgery, photoshop, or have a filter on the picture, or just simply have been in the tiny percentage of people who were born to fit exactly into the beauty standard. They may still be upholding the beauty standard when they are given praise for looking a certain way whether that be naturally or with the help of additional features like filters or makeup.
But makeup isn’t everything, and some people use makeup as a tool to express their creativity! There should be no shame in celebrities wearing or not wearing makeup. It can be nice to see some photos of celebrities who don’t look glammed up for the red carpet and look more like a normal person and that is great! But through and through I think comparing yourself to a celebrity in terms of looks is never a good idea.