When Pamela Anderson attended the latest Paris Fashion Week completely makeup-free, the 56-year-old created an online frenzy.
I first saw a photo of the makeup-less actress on X (formally Twitter). She was smiling ear-to-ear while attending the Isabel Marant show, skin glowing to the gods, in a gorgeous yellow dress. Seeing a woman her age, with her level of fame, that happy and free while bare-faced was exhilarating.
An Instagram post by Jamie Lee Curtis flooded entertainment news with the caption reading, “THE NATURAL BEAUTY REVOLUTION HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN! @pamelaanderson in the middle of fashion week with so many pressures and postures, and and and, this woman showed up and claimed her seat at the table with nothing on her face. I am so impressed and floored by this act of courage and rebellion.”
Just a few weeks ago I had floated the idea that I might start wearing less makeup, possibly no makeup, to my best friend.
She was supportive and loving, but I still heard a murmur of worry for me in her response. As a woman in my 40s, apparently the act of leaving the house without makeup is somewhat revolutionary.
I know the logic doesn’t track. Men are out here with blemishes, dark circles and wrinkles every single day, seemingly without worry. For women, though, it’s a more complicated journey to step out the door without makeup on.
After I saw the photo of Anderson, I made the mistake of skimming through thousands of comments on social media posts of her. With every scroll, I felt my exhilaration seep out of me. The majority of the comments were positive and encouraging, but the ones that weren’t were brutal. I wasn’t surprised, but they still made me sad.
The pressure I feel to post a good selfie is immense, and I’m an aspiring author with 1,100 Instagram followers; in other words, I don’t have a big audience. Still, the lighting, the angle and, yes, the makeup, have to be just right. I cannot fathom what it must be like for a celebrity to be photographed, well, anywhere.
Tabloids have historically published photos of bare-faced stars to shock, often to paint them as unhinged and unwell. For any woman to go without makeup can feel like a daring choice to be completely ourselves — and a way to push aside the patriarchal grip that still has us by the throat.
But it’s more than that. Anderson wrote on Instagram alongside photos from Fashion Week, “An adventure in Paris with fresh eyes…There is beauty in self-acceptance, imperfection and love.” I believe Anderson’s decision was more than self-acceptance; it was an incredible act of self-love. She looked like she genuinely felt beautiful and she owned herself. That is powerful.
But we don’t all need to go without makeup all the time. I love wearing makeup; the ritual of it, the packaging, the transformation it brings. But I don’t love the pressure to look a certain way, whether it’s subconscious or overt. Sometimes, I just don’t wanna. And I want to feel as OK going without makeup as I do when I’m made up to perfection.
I hope more famous and influential women make the choice to go makeup-free and encourage others, both in and out of the public eye, to follow suit. It doesn’t have to be a lifestyle: Just seeing more women showing their makeup-free faces from time to time would be movement toward its normalization. Ideally, our beauty standards can be pushed to a more authentic and autonomous place.
We’ve already seen the beauty industry gravitating in that direction, with trends like “Clean Girl Makeup” and “Glass Skin” all over TikTok and Instagram. Brands like Merit Beauty, Glossier and Westman Atelier offer high-performance products that cater to quick “no-makeup” makeup routines that give you “skin that looks like skin.” We’re getting closer.
Ultimately, it is women like me who want to wear less makeup — and feel less social pressure to — who will need to make more of these bold moves, whether or not other celebrities do. Recently I’ve been going bare-faced when the stakes are low, to places such as school dropoff, the grocery store or a quick coffee with a friend. For me, the magic is in owning the choice.
I’m no Pamela Anderson, but maybe soon I’ll have enough love and grace for myself and my naked face to take a selfie that celebrates it.