Popped up: Glossier sets unattainable standard with ‘no-makeup makeup’

Stylized pink and green bottles from the Glossier makeup store
Graphic by Greta Long

Blemishes, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and zits. Internet personality Bunny Meyer, better known as grav3yardgirl, famously described these beings as face demons — a term that I find especially apt. 

All these words name the unwelcome guests that visit our dermis from time to time. We benevolently refer to these guests as acne. Though stressful for those who have fallen prey to this condition, acne is normal. 

Throughout high school, I experienced relatively blemish-free skin, something that I now wish I never took for granted. However, as I started college, the breakouts began. Having fought the uphill battle with dry-flakey skin for most of my life, I was now faced with what’s known as “combination skin.” My dry and flakey face was in good company with an oily t-zone and skin so prone to breaking out that it felt like being looked at funny would prompt a painful outbreak.

To put foundation and concealer on, or not to put foundation and concealer on? That is the question. Not only did I now have a brand new slew of steps to my skin-care routine, but as a makeup-wearing person, I had to find a new way in which I could both enjoy the play of makeup, but also keep from provoking new breakouts. Though not a requirement, I also wanted to use makeup as a means of covering up some of my acne. 

Previously, foundation and concealer were not really on my radar. Now though, I was concerned with finding makeup that can achieve some coverage, not clog my pores and provoke new face demons, while also avoiding clinging to and highlighting my historical dry patches. 

This was all going on at the time when Glossier brought the “no-makeup makeup” look to the forefront of the internet’s cosmetic society. “No-makeup makeup” is when one’s makeup is super lightweight and barely noticeable, designed to “enhance” one’s natural features. Instagram’s algorithms began dangling this brand’s posts and the “no-makeup makeup” trend in front of my face every dozen or so posts. Though I agreed with the fun, confident and fresh tone of their advertising, I did not see myself in the dozens of clear-skinned models smearing sheer skin tint over arbitrary parts of their clear-skinned faces. 

On Oct. 10, Glossier made an Instagram post where spokespeople described what “Glossier Skin” is like. Among the adjectives articulated were words like “clean,” “healthy,” “natural,” “loved,” but, most importantly — “dewey.” I found this post quite striking. What do these words mean exactly in the context of how my skin looks? Moreover, does my skin, or anyone else’s skin with active breakouts and acne scarring, fit the Glossier in-crowd? 

Touting a slogan that says, “Skin first, makeup second,” you’d think that Glossier’s posts would be more centered around conversations of skincare and taming some of the symptoms of problematic skin. 

But their website’s homepage features almost entirely makeup (aside from two serums) at the very top under a category named “The new beauty essentials” followed by more beauty products spotlighted under “Beauty inspired by real life.” One would have to scroll past countless makeup products, makeup routines from Glossier representatives and an “about” section before viewing the skincare section, “Skin first.” Furthermore, their Instagram page is dominated by posts advertising their makeup products. So, are they really “Skin first?” 

Glossier has become increasingly more inclusive with widening shade ranges and casting models of different genders and ages for their promotional content. But what is it that they are promoting? 

The coverage of their stretch concealer and skin-tint are notoriously light, and the happy glowy faces of the blemish-free models elicit a sense of guilt in me for wanting more coverage. As a regular user of their cloud paint, solid perfume, boy brow and lip gloss, it would be wrong of me to say that Glossier is bad or fatally flawed. However, their advertisements frequently feature models with near-flawless skin, a population that does not reflect their consumers. 

I looked at the “Glossier in real life” page, which describes itself as “Real people show you how they wear Glossier.” These beautiful people are probably some form of paying customers, but they all feature smooth, glowing and near flawless skin. I myself, a paying customer, can attest to the fact that I do not necessarily look like that when I wear their products, and I must not be the only one.

This all leads me to wonder what constitutes “natural beauty” according to Glossier and brands like it who almost unabashedly gatekeep the concept through their advertising. Are their marketing and advertising exclusionary in a way that’s not widely discussed? In the words of Glossier, what does it mean to “look good?

Hannah Avalos PO ’21 is one of TSL’s pop culture columnists. She’s an English major and recent transfer student who loves creative writing, picking out which earrings to wear and finishing the books she starts reading.

Facebook Comments