Why Has Makeup Gotten So Minimal?

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Photo: Imaxtree

By the end of Fashion Week last fall, I had become bored of nude makeup. The first five times, it was interesting — but a beauty editor reporting on nude makeup is like being a weather reporter in Hawaii. Surely, I thought, spring would be different. Spring is light! Spring is pretty! Spring brings lip colors (usually)!

But instead, several shows this month — from New York to Milan to Paris — have again featured next-to-nothing makeup. Nude lips became even nuder — your natural lip color, flourished only with an untinted lip balmPerspiration was the inspiration. London nails were left notably bare, in the city that practically birthed nail art. There have been a very few lip colors in Milan. Glitter was on the clothing and not on the eyes at Versace. (And then, there was truly no makeup at Marc Jacobs — news so significant that it even popped up in our building's elevator news report.)

As makeup artist Diane Kendal — who created many of this season’s “fresh” and “natural” looks at Alexander Wang and Marc by Marc Jacobs — put it, it's a "weird time for beauty and hair right now." She explained: "I think it's hard to create a look that’s modern and relevant. Modern women don’t wear much makeup. Unless you are doing something with a set like with Marc Jacobs or Prada, it can look a bit gimmicky and doesn’t translate so well, like you are trying too hard."

Photo: Imaxtree, Getty Images

Backstage beauty, for a second season, felt like 50 shades of nothingness. When makeup artists detailed their inspirations backstage in New York, I found that fresh was a code word to describe next-to-nothing makeup with a slight hint of blush, and natural meant next-to-nothing makeup with a shade of taupe. I wasn’t ready to utter the word normcore, but some hair and makeup people thought there might be a connection. As hairstylist James Pecis told me backstage at Honor, "This whole season has been about normcore, which I think should really be called boringcore.” Boringcore? “You know. Low ponytails.” I counted. On September 5 alone, there were seven low ponytails seen at shows, including Jason Wu and Wes Gordon. In Milan, hair was either sweaty (as seen at Marni) or in a low pony, as seen at Prada, Fendi (with some ponytail ornamentation), and Ferragamo.

Low ponytails and no makeup are hardly cause for alarm, but it’s notable that so many designers and makeup artists have chosen to make this season’s runway beauty so deliberately minimal. Maybe the paring down of everything is a reaction to social media — where color and eye-catching beauty is exhaustively popular, and the right lip color and dip-dyed hair can practically forge someone's street-style identity. Or maybe we're just all suffering collective exhaustion from trying too hard.

For the woman who regularly uses little makeup, let's take this as a sign that we keep doing what we're doing. Not trying hard, after all, will always be cool.