I have a confession to make. It isn’t something I’m terribly proud of, but it is a singular, honest truth about myself and I want to come clean about it right the fuck now:
I am guilty of false advertising.
I never really thought of my daily rituals as “false advertising” until recently when I watched “You Look Disgusting,” a short film by Em Ford, a beauty vlogger from London. Her emotionally-charged video documents some of the most hurtful comments she has received in response to her natural face before her skin is magically transformed from severely-acned to perfectly flawless by way of heavy makeup products.
The results of her efforts are strikingly beautiful, certainly worthy of a magazine cover, yet the negative commentary does not stop once her “disgusting” skin problems are hidden from view. Instead of the praise one might expect, Ms. Ford is accused of “false advertising” and verbally attacked for misrepresenting her looks whenever she covers her blemishes with concealer.
Since when is altering one’s appearance considered a crime?
To some degree or another, aren’t most women guilty of that misdeed? Using specialized (and often grossly over-priced) tools of the beauty trade, we pluck, we shave, we squeeze, we treat. We contour, we highlight, and we conceal until we have successfully morphed our faces and bodies into our preferred versions of ourselves before we dare set foot outside of our homes.
The truth is, most of us do these things not for the benefit of others but so that we might develop a greater sense of self-esteem through the process of making ourselves more presentable to a world where appearances are seemingly everything.
According to the reactions that Ms. Ford received however, we are damned if we don’t do those things and we’re damned if we do.
I’m reminded of the day my neighbor stopped by unannounced while I was kneeling outside in the sun, weeding the flower bed around my porch. I was spending the day at home so I hadn’t bothered to apply anything to my skin beyond sunscreen; between the blazing heat and midday sunshine my rosacea was in full bloom across my cheeks and nose. My neighbor inquired, bluntly, about why my face was so red. I shrugged and gave a mumbled response about the 90ºF summer weather, realizing in that moment that he had never seen my natural face.
That’s entirely my fault, and I suppose it’s due to my own false advertising. While I don’t typically wear heavy makeup, I never leave home without wearing foundation, at the very least. For those of you who have rosacea you too probably appreciate the value of a good concealer. I have found one and that shit is a godsend. If they ever stop making it, I will be cast adrift on a salty sea manufactured from my own tears.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? In order to make myself feel better about facing the world every day, I use makeup to conceal a quality about my physical body that I don’t particularly like. I also pluck stray eyebrow hairs, occasional coarse chin hairs, and an entire peach fuzz mustache I can’t fucking stand. Thanks for that, Italian genealogy. Honestly, I don’t feel like my best self without the performance of those face-altering activities, and I’ll be damned if I will ever allow somebody to make me feel badly about my personal choices.
Think about your own daily beauty routines for a moment. Why do you do them? Are you afraid you’re somehow presenting yourself to the world under false pretenses in the same manner as I? No? The way I see it, there’s really only one modus operandi for the complete avoidance of “false advertising”:
Wake up and roll out of bed. Do nothing to alter yourself for the rest of the day. Don’t brush your hair or your teeth, leave your face bare and unwashed, skip the deodorant and avoid every temptation to don a set of clean clothing. Only then can you greet the world au natural, displaying the untouched, unchanged, and truest form of your very real, physical self.
Sounds like a completely bullshit plan, right?
Why not try this one instead: Get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, pluck whatever you want to pluck, apply makeup sparingly or liberally or not at all—it’s your choice, entirely—and then go about your day being the badass person you choose to be. To hell with what anyone else thinks.
Being true to oneself is never, ever false advertising. Do whatever the fuck makes you happy and makes you feel good about yourself. It’s nobody’s goddamned business but your own.