Rosanna Smith, assistant professor in the Terry College of Business, was lead author of a study discussed in Phys.org. The study examined the impact of the #nomakeup trend which has taken over social media in recent years. The trend aims to market a more “natural” look for makeup users and encourages people to post pictures with the #nomakeup hashtag.
Smith published a study of this movement in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and argued that the trend might not be as progressive and accepting as it seems.
“The movement claims to be about empowering women,” said Smith. “But our research showed that the no-makeup movement actually exacerbated a key tension that women often have to manage: they’re pressured to look attractive or maintain a set of beauty standards. But they’re also punished or ridiculed for putting effort into maintaining those standards by wearing makeup.”
Smith points to the reality that #nomakeup isn’t about stopping makeup use, but rather celebrates make-up techniques that make it look like someone doesn’t need makeup for a blemish free or perfectly toned face.
“We wanted to see which look is rewarded more by others: real natural beauty that is truly makeup-free or an appearance that has been enhanced with makeup in a way that appears natural,” said Smith.
Smith says that the results of her study show that there is positive feedback on posts that claim to be makeup free when they do in fact have makeup on, giving a false message that #nomakeup celebrates makeup free beauty.
“These results are consistent with prior work that has shown that being aware that a woman is wearing makeup can lead the woman to be judged less positively,” Smith said. “This reinforces the bind women are in: You need to look good but not like you tried. Given this, it’s not surprising that some women feel pressure to hide their effort.”
Smith applied her conclusions to the entire natural beauty movement, believing that they don’t actually help women with their self-image or confidence and indirectly shame women who may use tools to supplement their beauty.
“Only a lucky few can wake up looking naturally beautiful—at least by society’s standards,” said Smith. “If we elevate natural beauty and implicitly shame beauty work, will we simply just end up reinforcing inequality?”