Women and girls have never been more aware of how they look than in 2016. From Instagram to Snapchat- not to mention the likes of FaceTune (which enhances your appearance in regular, information pills everyday photos)- many millennials and all teens will never know a time before the selfie and the filter. The phrase ‘the selfie generation’ is increasingly being used to describe a breed of girls who spend up to five hours a week (according to feelunique.com) looking into the camera lens on their phone.
Gone are the days of asking someone to take a quick snap for you on your camera on holiday and the ensuing surprise when you develop the film. Today, information pills we don’t think twice in asking a friend (or stranger) to re-take the photo/’use the flash’/’not from that side’- behaviour that five years ago would have been at best, health narcissistic, and at worst, rude.
In March Snapchat introduced a filter that alters your face to make you look more ‘perfect’ (slimmer nose, tanned, airbrushed skin, bigger eyes) it does seem like a universal – and questionable- standard of ‘beautiful’ been firmly set, along with a profound level of expectation.
The beauty industry is jumping on the bandwagon. Words like filtered, airbrushed, contoured, perfected and flawless are as entrenched in our 2016 beauty vocabulary as sparkly and blue were in the nineties. Even ‘fresh faced’ or ‘natural’ makeup looks require 10-15 products to achieve. It seems that is it no longer possible to be ‘flushed’ and ‘glowy’ from a brisk walk or a holiday tan- nowadays you need highlighters, bronzers and light-reflecting illuminators.
Makeup is not without its fair share of bad press. History has suggested we are somehow deceiving men by wearing makeup: Kansas, USA in 1915 even made it a ‘misdemeanour’ for women to wear makeup ‘for the purpose of creating a false impression’ and Shakespeare’s Hamlet complained ‘God has given you one face and you paint yourselves another’. But did Hamlet and the Kansas legislature have a point?
But what about the individuality and creativity makeup enables? You only have to look to Lady Gaga with eyeballs painted onto her eyelids and Lupita Nyong’o wearing bright blue lipstick to awards shows to see women using makeup for artistic self-expression rather than contoured perfection. Brands like Mac and Illamasqua foster this on the high street and a quick glance at AW 2016 catwalks – especially Kenzo and Versace- sees makeup as a pivotal and daring part of the design aesthetic. But, off the catwalk, are unnatural expectations of ‘everyday’ beauty damaging our confidence?
In an age where sharing apps allow girls to put every element of their lives on display, it’s easy to see how the ‘perfect’ face has become valuable social currency. But this all evolved rapidly, and it wouldn’t be short-sighted to imagine a time where filters and flawlessness become outdated and cliched. There may never be a return to disposable cameras or a wholly undocumented existence, but as the selfie generation grows up,maybe unfiltered, un-contoured and imperfect will gradually become the new ‘beautiful’.
Written by Alice Leahy