Beauty is skin deep — until the world reminds us that it really isn’t.

Alicia Keys has lit a fire up under some folks with [her] choice to go #makeupfree. When she showed up to the MTV VMAs bare faced, the critical wagons circled and we were once again reminded that everyone is beautiful if we look as great as her without makeup.

We want all women to feel beautiful in their own skin and we keep pushing these ideas that beauty is about what’s on the inside and not the outside. Dove’s global “Real Beauty” campaign set out to disrupt the status quo of beauty standards by creating a platform where beauty of all shapes, sizes, and hues — are celebrated and recognized. In 2006, P&G created My Black is Beautiful as a platform to spark a broader dialogue about black beauty. Both campaigns seek to get woman all over the world to be catalysts to redefine beauty standards. My Black is Beautiful wants to encourage women to embrace their beauty and serve as resource and inspiration for other women to celebrate her uniqueness.

However, with two highly visible and popular campaigns, black women still face criticism and lack of support in taking bold steps to move away from or redefine these standards.

Alicia Keys and others have sparked a movement. A movement that encourages women to move away from the pressures of meeting beauty standards fueled by women’s insecurities of feeling that what she sees in the mirror is unacceptable to society and thereby unacceptable to herself.

Before the #NoMakeUpMovement, I stopped. I stopped waking up earlier just to spend 20 minutes putting on makeup. I stopped buying all types of products to smooth out the appearance of my complexion. I went for the clean look. If I wear any cosmetic enhancement — it’s lip gloss, lipstick, simple eyeliner, and a bit of mascara. I stopped because I wanted to get to a place where I accepted myself when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t only wear concealer and foundation because I enjoyed them, but being a dark girl, it was a way to appear more color friendly to myself and others. Every time I was putting on my makeup, I knew I was doing it not for myself, I was doing it to be accepted. I wish I could say I that I am so confident in my skin — that other people’s perceptions of my beauty don’t matter. But this is simply untrue. Even in all that I do to maintain a level of confidence that is rooted in my own beauty — it is indeed quite difficult.

Its difficult because you know you are beautiful until someone reminds you that you aren’t. Both the Dove and P&G campaigns highlight images that I can actually see myself within. In both campaigns I see variations of beautiful, bold, and captivating women. I can see myself there. But as soon as an image or YouTube video show up in my timeline, I am reminded that women of color are still having a difficult time feeling comfortable in their unaltered appearance.

I watched a video where a woman spent at least 20 minutes transforming her face. The face at the end of the video — looked extremely different than the face at the beginning. Like many women she had imperfections on her natural skin. So she demonstrated how she can transform using a series of products. It was jaw dropping, mind blowing, and sad all at the same time. What was most disheartening to me was that we feel this pressure to be visible and be visibly made up and dolled up. I never see any women during my day to day travels — who look like this. So where does this pressure come from? And why do we feel it’s necessary to conform to these standards of beauty?

I think some of the opinions I have read and heard recently remind us that we are beautiful until we are not.

While listening to the Tom Joyner morning show yesterday, Sherri Shepherd and Sybil Wilkes were weighing in on the matter. As they discussed Alicia Keys’ bold appearance, they made it clear that only Keys can make this choice and those of us who aren’t “as beautiful” as her, better keep our concealer on.

I respect everyone’s opinions and choices. Like Alicia Keys said, “Y’all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn’t mean I’m anti-makeup. Do you!”. Sherri and Sybil’s comments go beyond their individual choice of being seen without makeup. Their comments imply that there is a standard, in this case, Alicia Keys, and if you don’t meet that standard than you are not beautiful enough to appear natural. They even made mention of Tamron Hall removing her makeup. They hinted that it was not a great ideal.

So while we are telling women to embrace their own beauty, we are saying unless you meet this standard, fall back and make sure you spend unreasonable amounts of time and money to look aesthetically pleasing to the masses. Hide your face and create another one that is more acceptable.

I think everyone like Keys said — should “do them”, but we must be very careful in telling women that they are only beautiful with those enhancements. There is very thick line between lip gloss, lipstick, mascara; and several pounds of makeup to create a brand new “beat” face. Especially when it is used to conform to someone else’s idea of beauty other than your own. Its a line that is not necessary to cross, because its very unrealistic. And we shouldn’t be telling women that unless they look a certain way — that they have to hide who they are to meet this unrealistic standard.

Unapologetic Black Woman, Policy Professional, Activist, Lover of Politics, Mom of Twins, Doctoral Student, Writer

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