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#BarefacedBeauty campaign

As seen in The Tab

February 18, 2016

Barefaced and Beautiful — what a concept. On Monday, in conjunction with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness), the Renfrew Center Foundation is asking women to go "make-up free" for a day — something that might seem like no big deal. But there's a small catch. The Renfrew Center, which is based in Philadelphia and has treated more than 65,000 women with eating disorders in its 30-year history, is asking women to take one more step: to post a make-up free, "untouched" selfie, and to share it with the world, using the the hashtag #barefacedbeauty.

According to this campaign, girls who decide to go with this "no-makeup look" are making a big statement. But is this a radical idea, really? And is this a new thing?

If this barefaced and beautiful idea sounds familiar, it's because — well, it kind of is. This is the fifth year of Renfrew's annual Barefaced and Beautiful campaign. Even former Princeton Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry posted her own selfie sans make-up on MSNBC, in a piece titled "The Naked Truth About Body Image."

And for the past five years (since Lady Gaga's 2011 Harper's Bazaar cover, said Callie Beusman on Jezebel), the fashion industry has reckoned with the so-called "natural look" trend — which, Beusman notes, sometimes results with nearly as much make up as "usual", at least by Hollywood standards. Renfrew's campaign encourages girls and women to ditch the "natural look" altogether and actually "be" natural: that is, to be without make-up.

What's relatively new is the selfie "activism" — a concept that might raise eyebrows, yet in this case, might actually do some good — according to 2014 Harris Poll data.

Last year, the Renfrew Center Foundation conducted an online survey of 1,710 adults with the help of a survey with the help of Harris Interactive (Harris Poll). This "Afraid to Be Your Selfie" survey found the following:

• 50 percent of participating adults admitted to editing photos of themselves before posting them online. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of women in the 18-34 age group reported doing so, and more than half of men in the same age group did, too.

• Of that group, 48 percent enhanced their looks by removing blemishes, and 15 percent added color to make themselves look less pale.

• Approximately one in eight (12 percent) admitted to editing because they aren't happy with how they look in general.

• Six percent said they edited in order to make themselves look thinner.

"This behavior may often heighten anxiety and set the stage for the development of eating disorders or addictions," said Adrienne Ressler, a Renfrew Center Foundation spokeswoman. The goal of the "Barefaced and Beautiful: Reflections on Being Real" campaign is for young woman to internalize and believe the "the message that revealing your natural self can be a liberating and self-affirming experience," said Ressler.

In November, the Renfrew Center Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary conference with a keynote address by Gloria Steinem, a veteran feminist activist, writer, and organizer. From the podium in Philadelphia, Steinem spoke about the role of feminism in the treatment of eating disorders; in particular, she warned about the dangers of young women who strive to appear "perfect."

"Every time a woman passes a mirror and criticizes herself, a girl is watching," she said.

This obsession to achieve perfection, warned Steinem, often leads to competition, lower self esteem, and even eating disorders.

Ressler said the Renfrew Center Foundation's Barefaced and Beautiful campaign focuses on how social media can make this behavior worse. Ressler said the abundance of seemingly unblemished, re-touched images on site such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook, often reinforces the pressure to look even thinner and "more desirable" — all in a quest to present a "perfect" face to the world, yet in a way that seems effortless.

What's worrisome, said Ressler, is that these messages about body image can turn social media into a difficult place for everyone, not only just young women and girls.

With the Barefaced and Beautiful campaign, the Foundation hopes to spark social media conversations on beauty in a healthy way, with an attitude of self-acceptance.

The idea behind Barefaced and Beautiful is to encourage girls to feel empowered to go out without make-up — or at least, well, to stay in and share selfies online without make-up.
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