No makeup selfies? Psych ward made me wear lipstick to prove I was sane.

lipstick sanity

No Makeup Selfie campaigns didn’t feel hugely empowering to this psych ward patient… after all, she had to wear lipstick just to prove she was sane.

Women taking their makeup off and putting it on the internet is, apparently, a big event. Camo Confessions by Dermablend are now a thing. Screw it. I have a confession. One that I am afraid to make. One that society will judge me for. One that may change the way many of you, who know me, think of me.

No, it has nothing to do with this picture of me with no makeup on.

Emmi with no makeup

At the end of last year, I spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital.

Yeah, a bit different to having no war paint on.

And because of this, I am beyond done with women being ‘brave’ by taking their makeup off, whatever the cause.

I’m going to subject you to a list of why I’m totally not into no makeup selfie campaigns, because that is what my life was reduced to.

5 Visible Flaws to the Dermablend Camo Confessions Campaign

1) Dermablend Camo Confessions are free advertising for the cosmetics company. You are not putting yourself out there and being brave by posting a video. You are telling all your friends to buy concealer.

2) The girls in the Camo Confessions I have seen do not take ALL their makeup off. Just their foundation. They are unwilling to remove everything they put on, but that ruins the message. They are not really saying ‘I am beautiful despite my skin condition’. They are saying ‘I am a beautiful girl with a skin condition’.

3) Girls who are not conventionally pretty, or who don’t wear makeup, need not apply. Both girls are pretty, though they have the flaws they describe. One is a model. This is not the triumph over adversity that it might want to be. This is the same old story: if you are mostly pretty and your makeup can fix the rest, you can have what you want. Otherwise, the door is there.

4) Doing it for charity creates a safe space for girls to show their bare faces. You can’t call someone ugly if they’re doing it for charity! You can’t say they’re shallow, or not brave. It’s for charity, for Pete’s sake! But the pictures that end up online are, more often than not, not really fresh faces. There’s a bit of mascara on. A touch of concealer. The photo is taken at the most flattering angle, the hair is artfully styled and a great deal of effort is put into making sure that it looks like there was no effort at all. Even in this safe space, people are afraid that others might think (even if they cannot say) that they are not perfect.

5) #NoMakeUpSelfie, whilst it did a good job in the end when people started donating (and to the right charity) just removes the awareness from actual cancer sufferers to girls who are ‘brave’ for showing their faces. It’s another fun and cute way to ‘help’ whilst alienating genuine sufferers and gl

ossing over the realities of potentially terminal illnesses. Having said that, acknowledgment and respect must go to the efforts of teenager Fiona Cunningham who first set up the unofficial #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign, having lost family members to the disease.

In short, if I see another woman called ‘brave’ JUST BECAUSE she put a picture of herself online without the requisite makeup I will scream. It damages everyone, because it just enforces the idea of makeup as a default setting. Women and girls learn that they should wear makeup unless they have an excuse like a charity venture. Men and boys learn that women should be wearing makeup unless they have an excuse or there is something wrong with them. This should not be the case. Yes, women should be able to cover up flaws and imperfections that affect their self-esteem. Yes, women should be able to use makeup as just like their hair and clothes to express their personalities. If I didn’t agree with those statements, I wouldn’t look like this on a regular basis.

Emmi with no makeup

“I’m a princess!”

What does my mental health have to do with makeup? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s one of the dirty secrets of the medical profession, and it makes me sick.

When I was on that psychiatric ward, every Monday was Ward Round. The doctors would come and see every patient in turn, talking about the weeks’ progress, any changes that needed to be made and plans to go home on leave or permanently. I learned pretty quickly that Monday was also the day everyone put on a full face of makeup and styled their hair.

“I don’t want [the doctor] to think I don’t care about myself!” I can still hear one patient saying almost hysterically when she realised she was out of mascara and wasn’t allowed to go out to buy more.

I, too, bought into this idea that the only way to prove I was well enough to leave the hospital was to wear my makeup like a good little girl. Thank god I did, really, because otherwise I might have been there a bit longer. Monday morning I was up and out of bed, reaching for my hairbrush and my eyeliner when I really wanted five more minutes of sleep. Monday afternoon I’d put down my book, however interesting, and nip to the loo to check my lip gloss hadn’t smudged and my hair was still straight.

When a patient is admitted to the ward, the staff (understandably) take any sharp objects from them. I dutifully handed over my nail scissors.

“And your razor…”

“I don’t have one.”

“Well, when you get one, hand it in.”

When, a couple of days later, I had yet to acquire and hand in a razor, a note appeared on my care plan that I needed to pay more attention to my personal hygiene.

Now, I can assure you, on an average day in that hospital I was showered, dressed and had brushed hair by breakfast. I didn’t smell and I wasn’t dirty. And since I was constantly wearing long-sleeved tops and jeans (like most patients), none of the staff could actually see if any of us had shaved. But, of course, they had the notes of when each patient took their razor and handed it back in. Those who didn’t had clearly given up on life.

Shaving and putting makeup on are seen as the norm, but they’re actions that can be taken. Not doing them leaves the body in a ‘normal’ state. Yet somehow we’ve got it confused and not doing something to our bodies is seen as doing something brave if it’s done for charity, and something stupid if we don’t have the luxury of the excuse.

So, when I now see No Shave November and No Makeup Selfie pop up all over Facebook, I can’t help but think back to the struggles of the women in that psychiatric ward, me included, to match up to an idea of what is not just mentally healthy but what is socially accepted as beautiful. So, whilst you might not currently be carted off to a mental hospital for not conforming, you may find it’s a bit hard to get out of one without your lipstick.


write for Mookychick