Alicia Keys is all over the place right now for her decision to go makeup free at the VMAs. In fact, she’s given up makeup altogether. Some people are applauding her bravery while others are pointing out that she’s kinda genetically blessed anyway, so is she really being brave?

alicia keys- makeup free

Genetics are definitely in her favour. She a beautiful woman. However, I don’t think that makes what she is doing any less brave.

Your Face, Your Choice.

When it comes to your face, you should do as little or as much to decorate it as you please. If you look like Alicia Keys, yeah, some might argue that you don’t really need makeup.

I will always argue that you don’t need makeup. It doesn’t matter if you look like Keys or if you more closely resemble Mrs Doubtfire; you will pretty much never actually need makeup.

Makeup is a choice. Most days, I choose not to wear it. That decision is not an example of my personal bravery. It comes down to my priorities. When I’m working, it’s generally for long hours and often overnight. If I have to choose between a little extra sleep and putting makeup on, sleep wins. Every. Single. Time. I actually really like makeup. Experimenting with different products can be fun. But it’s a nice freedom, knowing I’m not obliged to wear it every day.


Early in life, women begin to learn the way society expects them to look.  Girls are given dolls that are thin, yet shapely, dressed in clothes that are fitted to show off every unrealistically moulded curve. Their faces are perpetually smiling and made up. It wasn’t that long ago when Tasmanian artist, Sonia Singh, started taking these dolls and removing their makeup. The videos of her ‘Tree Change‘ dolls went viral for a reason; seeing a doll like this, without makeup, was revolutionary.

The pressure to conform continues into our teen years, with every image from magazines and ads through to music clips showing women who meet the beauty standards that are accepted in our society. Alicia Keys wrote about how her personal no makeup revolution came about. She talks about small yet interconnected moments in her own youth, feeling inadequate and needing to change (her hair, her face, her body) in the same endless quest for “perfection” that many of us begin as young girls. We start to conform to these ideals before we are even mature enough to grasp what we are buying into; a mind-frame where we are never quite happy with how we look.

alicia keys quote

There are some women out there, like Tess Holliday, who are already doing a beautiful job of turning beauty standards on their heads by being gorgeous while wearing bigger sizes. I don’t know of any other high-profile women ditching make up in the way that Alicia Keys is.

Celebrity Skin.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to be a woman constantly striving for perfection. It can’t be ignored, though, that female celebrities are under even more pressure to be perfect. Their looks, from makeup to their post-baby bodies are dissected in the media factors like weight and age can be actual barriers to getting work, no matter how qualified or otherwise suitable they might be. So how hard must it be to step away from the mask that makeup is, to show your face in a world where that can actually set you back?


Thanks for the advice, Patriarchy!

Makeup Free & Brave.

How many times have you flicked through a magazine in a waiting room that promises pictures of stars without makeup? Or maybe you’ve taken the online clickbait to see the same thing. The images we are normally exposed to aren’t entirely real and we know that. We love a glimpse of a bare-faced celeb to remind us that they are still people. A famous woman showing off her laugh lines or a pimple is a small reminder of her humanity.

Going without makeup, for me, is not brave. I don’t work in an industry that expects me to be made up.  My social circles are filled with people who wouldn’t even think to question my decisions around makeup. For someone like Alicia Keys, however, I can see where the courage comes in. She isn’t brave for walking around with her actual face on.

She’s brave because her decision to stop wearing make up is a political act of defiance against a society and an industry well known for telling women from childhood that they are not good enough as they are. That’s fucking brave.

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  • I adore Alicia Keys. Everything you’ve said is spot on. I rarely wear make up either. Am I brave? Nope. Am I too busy doing other things that I find more fulfilling? You betcha. Do I think I need to paint my face for society to deem me acceptable to be seen in public? Hell no, my face is just fine the way it is 🙂 I also think a bout the message my daughter gets from watching me put on make up/not put on make up/talk about myself/my husband comment on how I look. It’s not just about me and how I feel about myself, it’s about how I want my daughter to feel about herself and how she is supposed to look.

  • I rarely wear make up, but I love when I do. AND only because it’s entirely optional for me. If I felt like I had to I imagine I’d hate it. I think given her industry she is being quite brave, it’s a bizarre expectation that the women who are perceived as being the most beautiful (by our cultures beauty standards) are the ones who are also expected to wear the most make up. Makes no sense.

  • I am rubbish at makeup, but as my skin gets older, I’m not so brave about going makeup free. Truthfully, it does make me feel a little more confident in my skin.

  • LydiaCLee

    I don’t wear much make up – only for special occasions, mainly because I’m lazy. I did decide I was at an age where I needed to start wearing foundation all the time but that didn’t really take off. So I still don’t. However, I don’t really like this use of brave. Not wearing make up isn’t really bravery. It’s not wearing make up. It’s not caring or being confident or loving yourself as you are. Brave is sticking your neck out for what is right. Falcone was brave. Whistleblowers are usually brave. Standing up for something right which makes you a target is brave. (As someone who hardly ever wears make up – not even lipstick, I still would never buy the make up free doll. How weird is that? I don’t even understand my thinking on that.)

  • Super post Amy!
    I wear makeup Monday to Friday and on special occasions. I love makeup. I also couldn’t care less if I am not wearing it. I wear it because I am so pale and colourless. People tend to ask me if I am feeling ok!
    Great to hear celebs are normalising choices such as this. Screw social expectations.

  • This is great to read about, and I agree for her it is brave! I’m like you and rarely wear makeup. Sleep wins out every time! So for me it’s not brave, just a bit lazy. lol!

  • This always pisses me off because I don’t wear make-up. My face (and head) sweats a lot and the moment I put anything on it (unless I’m lying under a fan and not moving – ie. moisturiser when I go to bed) I start to perspire. So makeup is not an option and I haven’t worn any in almost two decades. I do put some lipstick on for work or when going out… cos they’re safe from the sweating!

    Not wearing makeup or being photographed without it is not brave. Being ourselves is brave.

  • Lauren Elise Threadgate

    I love this. I don’t wear makeup unless it’s a special occasion, but I don’t have fifty thousand cameras on my face, a host of magazines scrutinising me for imperfections or a red carpet to walk (my hall runner is blue). She is a brave mama and I applaud her decision

  • Dianne Childs

    I’m a beauty blogger so I have a lot to do with makeup and really enjoy wearing it and playing with it. However, I love what Alicia is doing with her Time To Uncover approach and why she’s doing it. This is true beauty, from the inside out. #LovinLife

    Di from Max The Unicorn

  • I thought she looked amazing and a breath of fresh air on that stage! You sum it all up with that last paragraph perfectly.

  • If I had eyebrows I would go makeup free more often. Plus there’s the patchy redness on my face that comes from ageing which I’m not overly fond of. But I do go makeup free. On weekends. On holidays. At the beach. Sometimes.

  • I often go makeup free because when getting ready for work with a toddler aint nobody got time for that, but when i have time i love making myself up.
    Make up free is not brave, make up free is absolutely a choice to present yourself in whatever way you feel at the time 🙌🏻

  • I wear make-up to work and if I go out and about. If I’m chilling at home or just heading out for the groceries, I don’t bother. I like mucking around with it and learning new ways to wear things – blogging about beauty has expanded my interest and collection but I put no expectations on anyone else to do the same. I spend about 8 minutes doing it for a work day, such is my need for sleep and other priorities! Event makeup takes a bit longer. I agree with Alicia’s twitter caption wholeheartedly. “Do you!”

  • I had terrible skin as a teenager/in my early 20s due to undiagnosed polycystic ovarian syndrome. Now that my skin is WAY better – I often choose to go makeup free {because I, like you, prioritise sleep}.

    • Thanks for linking up…The Ultimate Rabbit Hole Guest Host – Shari from GoodFoodWeek xox

  • I totally agree with you on this. I only wear “proper make-up”, as in a full-face (foundation, eyeshadow/liner, etc) when I have a wedding or some other equally big thing to go to (girls night out) because it’s fun to experiment with something different, and I love to play around with different colours on my eyes. But the rest of the time I’m make-up free because I’m just too lazy to be bothered. I used to wear make-up for dancing concerts as a kid and it was always something really fun and special, I never considered it to be something that would be part of every day life, and I guess that’s carried through to being an adult. I might sometimes pop on a bit of mascara and blush if I’ve had a late night and want to look a little more awake, but most of the time, nada. And I’m not brave. But Alicia Keys? Yes, I think she is. Celebrities wear so much all the time that a lot of them are unrecognisable when they don’t have make-up on, so making the choice not to conform when you’re so much in the public eye is a big one, and not one that I reckon too many other ladies in Hollywood would be brave enough to take.

  • “If I have to choose between a little extra sleep and putting makeup on, sleep wins. Every. Single. Time. I actually really like makeup. Experimenting with different products can be fun. But it’s a nice freedom, knowing I’m not obliged to wear it every day.” This is me. I like it… I love playing with it. And I feel really proud when I can follow a YouTube tutorial properly and look mighty fine on a special occasion. But it’s a not a priority or a necessity for me… and I like the freedom of not having to wear it.
    Meanwhile, you’ve totally captured why Alicia Keys is brave in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I knew she wasn’t being brave just for wearing her face… don’t we all do that every day? But yes… it’s the fact she’s in an industry that expects her to be made up… her brand is her commodity I guess. Yet she’s taking on the Hollywood stereotype and showing that not everyone HAS to conform to expectations when they’re always in the public eye. I hope that message gets through to people – it’s definitely made me rethink why and when I wear what I wear… and I think that’s a good thing.