Each week our no-holds-barred contributor Grace Gold picks apart a hot beauty topic. It’s our version of an op-ed—with lipstick, laser treatments and eyeliner.
It used to be that glossy before-and-after makeover photos dominated magazines and television shows. But now the pendulum is swinging to the makeunder, with celebrities leading the charge to a simpler and more spare take on beauty.
Take, for example, Emily Maynard from "The Bachelorette" and her transition from flashy platinum blonde hair and dramatically smoky eyes to the softer honey locks and subtler shadows that she wore this past season. Her makeup artist, Gina Modica, told YouBeauty that “a lighter foundation and less powder give her a more youthful look.”
And then there’s the xoJane makeunder series in which the goal is to transform glammed-to-the-hilt women into more natural and approachable versions of themselves. "The Real Housewives of New York City" star Jill Zarin is the latest subject, going from lashy and lipsticked socialite to beachy and glowing girl-next-door.
Even the notoriously shellacked stars of "Jersey Shore" have taken up the challenge. Recently, Snookie posted a Facebook shot showing her eyes free of her trademark layers of kohl (joining other celebrities who have been revealing themselves online wearing no makeup at all), while Sammi Sweetheart traded in black shadow and a spray tan for chocolate brown liner and apricot blush.
Reader responses to makeunders are almost universally and effusively positive. We’re so used to seeing celebrities in red-carpet photos with perfectly blended contour and nary a hair out of place that it makes more bare shots seem all the more relatable and shockingly intimate. It’s as if we’re glimpsing the genuine person behind the lustrous image.
There is also a powerful lesson to be learned in makeunders that reaches beyond celebrity into the realm of the everyday makeup lover.
We often get so used to applying cosmetics in a certain way, using specific techniques, shades and products, that our routines can lack the imagination and creativity that led us to them in the first place.
So here’s a proposition: Give yourself a makeunder. Pare down to the freeing basics, and see where it takes you. If the idea is scary, give it a go for just the weekend.
When I took on the challenge as an experiment and wore only concealer, mascara and lip balm, I was able to see exciting new possibilities in the mirror that I wouldn’t have considered had I gone through my typical makeup routine. From now on, I plan to institute a self-makeunder at least once a year.
Without my usual bold stroke of eyeliner, cool-toned blush and trusty pink lipstick, I saw the potential for smudged shadow, warm peachy blush and barely-there lips that had me digging deep into my stash to play. Reimagining my look felt surprisingly exhilarating, and I found myself wondering why I had taken so long to try something new.
And like the makeup artist for "The Bachelorette" observed, more than a couple of people said I looked younger. (And one made it a point to smartly clarify, “But I don’t mean that you looked old before. It’s just different, in a younger way.”)
Although I’m sure the makeup contributed, I bet it was the shift in perspective and willingness to try something different that others were in part noting. After all, keeping an open mind and embracing change is what keeps you young.
Would you give yourself a makeunder?
Photo: Getty Images (before)