Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Nude Truth

Yesterday's FOTD (Day 18) Challenge theme was "Nude".

Now I'm fairly sure that Nymphette didn't mean it literally, but that's how I decided to do today's face. Nude. Bare. Naked.

Here I am, naked-faced, freshly scrubbed and clean from the shower. I swear to you that all these pictures are completely unretouched. I took all of these with my Nikon Coolpix digital camera, under a 100-Watt Daylight bulb, and with flash.

I'm in the process of learning to love my bare face. I think it's a struggle that all women (and men, of course) face at some point in their lives because from the time we're 12 we see these perfect faces in magazines. We know intellectually that those faces are airbrushed up the wazoo, but it doesn't change the fact that these are the images we're being presented with that are deemed "beautiful" in society. It's as if magazines, the heralds of the fashion industry, are telling us that "in order to be beautiful you must have flawless skin, no red in your eyes, not a hint of crack in your lips. And you better believe that if anyone is going be put on our magazine covers she will be altered digitally within an inch of her life so that she fits this criteria." 

Perfect skin, perfect teeth, perfect nose, perfect makeup, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect. And girls grow up with this impossible ideal as the measuring stick they hold their own image up to.

I've never had what I thought to be "good skin". My skin breaks out easily with those large, painful pimples that leave horrible scars. I've finally found a way to calm them down and the scars have begun to fade but my skin is still far from perfect. My eyebrows are sparse, my eyelashes thin and wimpy. I have a crazy massive forehead, weird broken capillaries around my nose, an uneven complexion, open pores on my cheeks, small eyes, wrinkly lips....I could go on and on and on about my imperfections. For a long time, I did.

People would tell me I was beautiful, but I never believed them because They were seeing the made-up me. The me that never left home without mascara, eyeliner and lip gloss at the very least. There came a point in my early 20s when my skin was so bad I would never even come out of my room without foundation on. I was convinced I looked like a monster. And no matter what your face looks like, if you feel horrible, you're going to project that into the world and that's what people will see. And that's how I felt.

Before you scoff, it's important to understand that this is not about vanity. The face is the first thing people see. It's how you read people, it's how you remember them. And it's easy for us to get to a point where we feel that our faces are our only real advertisement, since people make immediate snap judgements about us depending on what we look like, whether or not we're wearing makeup, etc. We tend to judge others very harshly, we all do it or have done it in the past. And the sooner we all admit that to ourselves, admit that we can be an extremely, painfully superficial lot, understanding that this is how we have been taught to be for generations, and it doesn't make us bad or good, it's just the plain truth, the sooner we can begin to get past it.

I'm not sure when the transformation of how I feel about my face began. But at some point, recently enough that I'm still aware that my thought process is different than it used to be (in other words it hasn't quite become completely effortless yet), I began to realize that my face is just my face. The good and the perceived "bad". I also began to fine tune the way that I feel about the concept of "beauty" in general, and I began to be much more comfortable in my skin. I stopped giving away my power by taking oh so seriously what the image industry said I should look like or what mean, horrible people said about me and my skin, my looks, my weight, my hair, whatever. By letting all those outside of me dictate to me how I should be feeling about the face and body I was born with, I was giving away all of my power. So I took responsibility for giving away my power, and then I took my power back.

One day I took a photograph of my bare face and studied it. And I realized that I really do like my face. I think I'm beautiful in my own unique way, as everyone is. I have always steered very clear of the word "ugly" because beauty in of itself is so subjective and I hate to put that on anyone. And I truly have yet to come upon a face that is really what I would call "ugly",  but I was subconsciously calling myself ugly. And so I cut myself some slack and now, at 30, I can proudly say that, all in all, I really do like my face. I'm ok with my "flaws". I've even learned to love the widow's peak that I absolutely loathed all the way through my teens and 20s. After the birth of my daughter I cut my hair, which was a 20-inch security blanket that hadn't been cut, only ever trimmed, since I was 8 years old. With much less hair, I had no choice but show off my face. I even began to leave the house without makeup, long before my skin began to clear up. Much of it was conscious decision-making, like not wearing makeup, and the rest was just my mind following my actions.

Here's what I do like about my face: I love the colour of my skin, the shape and colour of my eyes, my strong, high cheekbones, the shape of my nose, the firmness of my skin, my few freckles, my unique moles, my smile, and the fact that my eyebrows are naturally nicely shaped.

 In a nutshell, here's how I think about Beauty and Image:

  • I believe that we are all beautiful. In a world where everything is so different, how can we hold up one standard, impossible or not, and expect everyone to conform?
  • I believe that you should take care of your skin and your body and your face not because you need to do so in order to make yourself into someone else's idea of beautiful, but because they are the only skin, body and face you have, and I believe they should be treasured.
  • If we spent half as much time appreciating our faces as we do looking at magazines that give us false images as our ideals, we would be so much happier. 
  • Makeup should never be used as a mask to hide your real face because you think there's something wrong with it. Makeup is fun, it's a way to be creative and to enhance the parts of your face that are your favourite. Makeup is an art, a tool, a toy; not a remedy, a cover-up or a miracle fix-all.
  • When you are confident, you immediately appear more beautiful. The mind is an amazing, powerful thing.
  • You can create any image you want. Define your own image completely separate from what magazines and the unforgiving "Beauty Industry" tell you that you should want to look like. Decide what is beautiful to you and pursue it.
Dare to go bare! You are perfect in your imperfections, for we are all imperfect, and that is what makes us wonderfully unique.



  1. Mandy,

    I totally endorse your POV. It does take alot for women today to see themselves "raw"...the hurt and pain that many have had to endure...this is what they see looking back at them...

    But it takes one step at a time...your recommendations are a good place to start...

    As an MUA myself I have had many ladies say how they do not like themselves and how they look...I usually give them the same speel and tell them that the beauty they see in the photo, in their eyes is there within...remove the is still there...Be proud of who you are...

    I know this is long..but one last thing...someday your daughter is going to read this blog and she will be extremely proud to know what a strong, beautiful woman her mother is.

    Blessings to you always


  2. Awww Cher, thank you so very much for your kind words. I know that I had to fix my own self-esteem in order to raise a strong, self-appreciating woman. I am doing it for me so that I can be a good mother to her.

    Thanks for reading! x

  3. Mandy girl you were always, and continue to be, absolutely stunning, even more so au natural.

  4. There's a surgeon general warning for cigarettes but nothing for these fashion houses whose ads have distorted the images stamped on young impressionable minds. If only we had a barrage of persons like yourself, Mandy, as role models to advocate natural beauty and being comfortable in your own skin on those young minds.

    1. Thank you so much Tam. It means a lot that you you say that. I want to continue to inspire young girls! Thanks for reading!

  5. You look a lot like J-LO... but I'm sure SOMEONE has told you this before me!? Anyways, yes, you have a great skin tone (I'd kill to be naturally tan instead of vampire white), you also have a lovely nose (similar in structure to mine, I must say!) and most of all, your eye shape- not to sound even slightly offensive but-ever when you do that winged liner look, it really brings them out! :) Some people don't even have nicely shaped eyes after trying every makeup trick in the book, so I just wanted... to you all of this after reading your blog :) And it took me about 30 or so myself to accept my face for what it is... not a zillion compliments well do a darn thing if you don't love yourself first!

    Really enjoyed reading your (very eloquently written) blog. Ciao 4 now :)