ramblings: fast, functional, and fictitious, or what I can’t quite overlook in minimalist makeup campaigns

Photo credits to Unsplash/freestocks.org

‘ramblings’ are exactly what they sound like. Just thoughts that can’t quite be shaken from my mind, spilled onto this page. 

I thought about starting this post with a reference to how minimalist makeup has seemed to suddenly taken the world by storm, but I quickly realized this would be inaccurate.

Minimalist makeup brands have been dominating the cosmetic scene for quite some time now. No surprise, their surge in popularity runs parallel to the niche it serves, the modern working individual: Independent, focused, efficiency-prioritizing, and results-oriented. Brands like Glossier and Milk Makeup have come forth with some of the most innovative makeup products and packaging that I’ve ever seen, catering toward those who don’t quite jive with the brash glamour of brands like Too Faced and Urban Decay nor want to become habitual luxury beauty devotees.

Let’s take a closer look at minimalist makeup (a blanket term I use to refer to this niche) for those unfamiliar with it. One word immediately comes to mind when attempting to categorize these brands: simplicity. Say goodbye to the bright purple gemstones atop your eyeshadow primer (@ Urban Decay) or the three-dimensional gothic typeface gracing your contour palette (@ Kat Von D). Packaging is sleek and pure, relying on neutral colors like white, black, and transparent. The usage of the products themselves screams candor; most advertise “one swipe and you’re done!” application.

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A lineup of Glossier balm dotcom tubes. Photo credits to Instagram/@glossier.

What an idealistic dream; but the fact that this remains a dream and not a reality for myself and many other individuals is where I take slight issue. For the vast majority of advertising campaigns in this niche, diversity of skin issues is simply not present. Read: It’s not going to help me if you demonstrate your product used on a model with an already flawless complexion.

As a cosmetics consumer (oh, I consume my fare share in makeup), I find the most effective form of advertising to be video demonstrations of the products in use. For example, Milk Makeup has done an impeccable job curating a specific style of demos to match their eclectic, clean products. But when 85% of individuals will suffer from acne at some point in their lives, I find it absolutely necessary to include the widest range of skin types and issues for any cosmetic demonstrations cross-campaign. For most before-and-afters, I find myself in awe of the model’s skin before the makeup even comes on, which seems to defeat the purpose of showcasing an effective product (example: one of Milk Makeup’s demo vids below. Seriously, check out their whole YouTube playlist of these, they’re addicting).

I’m no stranger to the frustrations that abound after unboxing a foundation brimming with promises of full coverage without looking like I dipped my face in a paint can, only to be eventually disappointed. Especially when I was in high school and middle school, lack of confidence regarding my skin took a hit on my self esteem and was inhibiting in certain aspects of my social life. I don’t think my friends from school saw my face without makeup until I was a senior (I went to the same school since the first grade).

Acne. Scarring. Vitiligo. Rosacea. Only those who have struck gold in the genetic lottery can avoid skin detriment of some sort (which should normalize these types of problems, but that’s a rant for another day), but only recently did I finally have the joy of seeing one (ONLY one) video featuring a model with imperfect skin. It was refreshing, but only reminded me of what a rare occurrence such a video was (check out the vid below).

Wasn’t that refreshing? And her skin isn’t even truly that much of a departure from a ‘perfect canvas’ at all.

Lets revisit the idea of the modern work-hard-play-hard individual: they need makeup set to face the reality of an unpretty day-to-day life (sweat, oily skin, blackheads, hormonal acne, glamorous, huh?), so give us demonstrations not meant to ‘pretty’ the unpretty but to flex the speed and effectiveness these brands claim to embody.

I know my request may seem paltry to harp on, but middle school me, when she was first painstakingly learning how to do a cat-eye and trying not to be nervous about her skin as she was dropped off at school, would have loved to see models with zits here and there. She wouldn’t have wanted to be left out of one of the most exciting developments in the makeup world, as brands at the top of their game release product after product characterized by sleek design and innovative formulas.

Show me the power of your makeup, include a variety of diverse skin types (they’ve already done an incredible job of displaying skin tones, AND Glossier just launched a campaign for their Body Hero products featuring major diversity in body size, which I LOVE), and the minimalist makeup brands will surely prove to be unstoppable. If these brands are after ‘real’ people, show them to me.

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An ad for Glossier’s Body Hero in the NYT. Seeing this diversity in body size and departure from the stick-skinny models we’re accustomed to seeing in magazines fills me with so, so much joy, so featuring models with skin problems in order to normalize these issues shouldn’t be that big of a next step.

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