"To be honest, I think you wear too much makeup on your skin," my roommate said to me as we walked back from class on a Tuesday, "You don't need it."
This was a pivotal moment for me, sort of a light slap on my Revlon-concealed cheek. Too much makeup? Impossible.
"I have acne and red spots and dark circles," I replied, "I have to cover them up."
She sort of shrugged nonchalantly, "I don't think your skin's bad at all."
If you think about our society's definition of "bad skin," acne, redness, wrinkles, brown spots, bags and dark circles all fit the bill. Yet, my roommate was telling me point-blank that my skin isn't an unpleasant or unattractive factor of my appearance; rather, by masking it underneath layers of foundation and powder and bronzer, I was shelving the widely-endorsed beauty notion of "less is more" and coming off as... fake.
Isn't it interesting how much American culture reinforces the idea of perfect skin, though? I see it everywhere. Advertisements for foundation fervently promising to conceal crow's feet. Advertisements for spray tans boasting the achievement of dark, fresh-off-the-beach glows. Advertisements for Botox sincerely pledging to reduce dynamic wrinkles. Advertisements for concealer swearing to effectively mask any and every pimple. I even found an ad for laser treatment which read, "Take years off your face with just one treatment."
These cultural conceptions of beauty raise many questions for me: What's wrong with having evidence of life on one's face? If a woman is 60 years old, what's wrong with looking 60 years old? Shouldn't zits be treated as trivial (which they are), instead of something that need immediate attention and concealment? Why is it deemed more attractive for a person to look like she just came back from a week-long vacation in Panama?
Almost every morning until that Tuesday, I woke up and coated my entire face with liquid foundation. I followed it with a patting of pressed powder and finished off with a dusting of expensive bronzer. Then, and only then, did I feel confident enough to look strangers in the eyes.
But, after my roommate woke me out of my cosmetic-induced slumber, I decided to go easy on the skin makeup. I still covered up the bigger blemishes with a concealer stick and hid my dark circles and blotchy T-zone with a few drops of foundation, but I didn't conceal the small scars of acne, the faint red blush on the sides of my cheeks or the freckles near my nose.
And you know what? The world didn't freak out at my flawed face. I was expecting a few brutally genuine assertions like, "Hey! Your skin looks kind of crappy today!" In actuality, I didn't hear a peep from anyone.
The craziest part is that I felt, and still feel, good about myself. Flawless skin is overrated, anyways. I'd rather be myself, in all of my natural imperfections.