Why can't we all just go makeup-free like Alicia Keys?

In the May Lenny Letter, Alicia Keys told us that she was quitting makeup forever.

“Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn’t put on makeup,” wrote Keys.

“What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it??? … And I promised I would approach things differently this time regarding my image and allow my real self, as is, to come through.”

And so, fuelled by this illogical fear of her ‘real self’, Alicia called it a day with her make up brush, and has dared to bare ever since.

This journey of ‘uncovering’ her true self shines through in the lyrics from her latest album, especially in “When a Girl Can’t Be Herself“:

In the morning from the minute that I wake up,

What if I don’t want to put on all that makeup?

Who says I must conceal what I’m made of?

Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem.


In fact, even the front cover of the album features a makeup-free Keys.

Apparently, she walked into the studio fresh from the gym, and her photographer Paola said – “I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too!”

In the months since, Keys has stayed true to her word, appearing everywhere from her Vanity Fair photo-shoot to the BET Awards red carpet sans make up. And she looks AMAZING.

Speaking about it with the girls from the office, their first questions were pretty standard: “Yeah, but I bet she still looked good?”

“Did her skin look nice?”

“What was she wearing?”

Regardless of the fact that she stripped down to her bare naked skin, we were still looking for a reason to judge her. Even without makeup, we wanted to compare her skin, her outfit, her hair, anything we could cling on to, to keep her suspended in the Celebrity Judgement Zone. We grabbed for dear life.

But maybe it was because, deep down, we all felt distinctly uncomfortable at her decision. Why? Because it meant that we should be able to do the same.


And, if you’re anything like me, you’re not exactly sure that’s possible.

I have been lucky, very lucky, to be blessed with clear skin. Even through those desperately awkward days of puberty, I managed to avoid pimples or acne or redness. Into adulthood, my skin has remained clear, albeit with considerably more wrinkles than my teens.

And yet, I can’t leave the house without makeup.

I’m not talking a full cake face; but a slick of mascara, a hint of blush, a quick swipe of concealer under my eyes…it makes me feel better, somehow. Not that I never leave the house without make up (trust me, I do) but truth be told, I wilt a little if I run into someone I know.

And little wonder.

Multiple studies have shown that women who wear makeup are perceived in a more positive light than those who do not.

A research paper from the University of Stirling in Scotland noted that, “Men think women who wear make-up are more “prestigious”, while women think women with make-up are more “dominant”.”

Yup, it found that make-up will change the way women perceive other women.

Well, “duh”… How many times have you hiss in a bitchy whisper to your best friend “oh-my-goddd how much makeup is she wearing?”

But it turns out, wearing makeup is such a powerful aesthetic shift, it can even impact your chances of landing a job.

“Whether the interviewers will view her as attractive, dominant, and/or prestigious [from her mak up] can affect her and the interviewers’ actions, and perhaps the outcome of the interview itself. Thus, understanding the potential implications of cosmetics use are important not only for the wearer, but also for the perceiver,” the research paper said.



I once read that a women not wearing makeup is akin to a man going to work with a stain on his tie. It’s not too bad if you’re just running to the shops, but not really polished enough for the office.

Without makeup, the harsh realities of the human face are laid bare; there are dark circles and wrinkles, sun spots and freckles, pimples and redness. Unlike men, very few of us actually choose to embrace the crumples and creases of ageing. It’s just not polished.

Imagine a woman embracing deep laugh lines with the same vigour as George Clooney or Leonardo Di Caprio! Neither of them seem bothered by the lines on their face – if anything, it adds to their character.

DIY face mask. Post continues below video.

But with more and more women like Alicia Keys posing without makeup in the media, we start to see our unmade face to be ‘normal’. Beautiful, even.


And I’m not just talking about taking a #NoMakeupSelfie in exceptionally good lighting with lip-gloss and blush and a tiny bit of mascara and maybe the Snapchat beauty filter… I mean living it.

Going to red carpet events without it. Posing for an international magazine without it. Writing about it. Promising to go without it.

“Once the photo I took with Paola came out as the artwork for my new song “In Common“, it was that truth that resonated with others,” Keys said.

“I hope to God it’s a revolution…’Cause I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Ironically, not wearing makeup will actually make for cleaner, brighter skin. Investing in caring for the skin you have with healthy eating, exercise, chemical-free products, and regular facials will mean you won’t have to wear makeup.

But your ‘nude’ face sure does take some getting used to. I have scrolled my phone for a good ten minutes, and honestly cannot find a photo of myself without any makeup. Why? Because I don’t like what I look like without it.

And for me, that’s just as dire as poor body confidence, or feeling negative about the size and shape of your body. It’s time to feel comfortable and BEAUTIFUL in our own skin.

So, here’s the question: would you be brave enough to go without makeup? And will we ever reach a point where a makeup-free complexion doesn’t constitute bravery, at all?