Young Asian woman with no makeup

Beauty queens, to a certain extent, reflect today’s standard of beauty. When 20-year-old Melissa Raouf became the first Miss England contestant to make it to the finals sans makeup, the world spun upside down. Sort of. What was so stupendous about joining a pageant makeup-free? Take a closer look at what most people see as a patriarchal tradition and judge for yourself.

A History of Conformity and Quiet Dissent

Competitions that rank women according to beauty have been around since the medieval ages. However, modern beauty pageants didn’t exist until 1921. It all started with Miss America and went global with the 1951 Miss World, which was then categorized as a Festival Bikini Contest. The first Miss Universe pageant came a year later, where so-called “bathing beauties” wore simple, identical swimsuits supposedly to level the playing field.

A lot has changed since then. While the pageants continue, beauty queens have challenged their norms and traditions by simply being themselves. In 2014, Miss Kansas Theresa Vail showed off her tattoo during the swimsuit competition, breaking the pageant girl good-girl stereotype.

In 2016, Halima Aden became the first woman to wear a hijab to the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant. In 2017, Miss Universe Great Britain Muna Jama wore a full-length kaftan instead of a bathing suit. And in 2019, Miss Lancashire Aysha Khan wore a wet suit, which she called a “burkini.” 

In 2019, the Miss England competition added a makeup-free round thanks to the popularity of barefaced selfies and to promote body positivity. Raouf then became the first contestant to make it all the way through to the finals without a trace of makeup. She went viral and her decision once again prompted the discussion: Why do pageants still exist?

A Reflection of Modern Beauty Standards?

Ironically, you can thank the pageant scene for giving women a platform to take a stand against normalized yet that exist to this day. While the contests themselves continue to do the bare minimum when pushing for inclusivity and empowerment, they also make female voices heard across the world.

Is Raouf’s power move a reflection of modern beauty standards? Definitely. The 20-year-old represented Gen Z traits, such as seeking individualism, disrupting norms, and taking a more progressive stand on key issues. Going makeup-free in a pageant that judges women by their looks is a bold step, but it’s also quite possibly innate to her generation.

After all, it is the generation that prioritizes content over aesthetics and bolstered TikTok to mainstream fame. They broke Instagram norms by ditching filtered , trading them for “dumps” and hyper-zoomed-in images. For them, these are expressions of authenticity and, intentional or not, rebellion.

More than beauty standards, going barefaced speaks of shifting ideals. It demonstrates a collective openness to change – perhaps not total change, but substantive increments. That she was allowed to do so is equally encouraging and commendable. A pageant that lets you be yourself at the expense of undermining the core of their business? How progressive and generous. It also has an immense viral appeal. It works out for both sides either way.

What Does a Makeup-Free Beauty Queen Really Mean?

In the Philippines, pageants have evolved from showcasing mestizas to including more beauty queens in the finals and making contestants appear tanner. Meanwhile, makeup has taken a more creative route. 

At the Binibining Pilipinas 2022 Coronation Night, contestants, former beauty queens, guests, and hosts pushed the boundaries of “pageant looks.” Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray wore frosted blue eyeshadow and wet-look curls, while candidates wore TikTok trends like graphic eyeliners, rhinestones, and siren eyes. The recent event showed that Filipinos still and fans loved it. In a groundbreaking turn of events, Miss Universe also recently announced that mothers, divorcees, and married women will now be allowed to compete.

The is changing, but not all of them will follow in the footsteps of Miss England. Some people even claim the move is not as empowering as it appears to be. The argument? Raouf is young, white, and a beauty queen. She is merely not concealing her youthful visage, , and high collagen reserves. That’s not the same as bearing wrinkles, sagging skin, and eye bags. One comment said, “What, no acne? I’m disappointed.”

While it takes a lot of guts to go against a tradition and an institution, what does going makeup-free mean when your bare face is the ? The everyday woman? She cannot relate. She has blackheads, milia, dark under-eyes, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Her jawline and cheekbones are not as defined. She is brown, black, pale, curvy, and chubby. Moreover, she does not have the luxury of going barefaced, let alone get praise for doing so.

The sentiment is good, but it barely shattered any standards. If anything, it reinforces what many knew all along – that the concept of beauty is still skewed to a particular look, and it’s so ingrained in people that you can’t see it even when it’s staring at you in the face.

Barefaced Beauty Tip

Makeup is fun and not the enemy, but if going barefaced empowers you, go for it! It is also the best time to ramp up your beauty routine so you can feel confident even without makeup.

Cleanse your skin with Dove Facial Cleansing Mousse Moisture Care, which has 40% Active-Boost serum and to give you radiant skin. Don’t forget to apply POND'S Bright Sunscreen SPF 50 PA+++ to protect it from UV rays, delay wrinkles, and prevent pigmentation.

further with healthy hair and a brilliant smile. Use Cream Silk Ultimate Reborn Damage Control Conditioner to restore brittle hair and revive limp strands. Finally, brush your teeth with closeup Red Hot Toothpaste for healthy teeth and fresh breath.

A pageant contestant going makeup-free may be empowering to other beauty queens, celebrities, influencers, and public figures. But for the everyday woman, it’s simply a nice story, an interesting factoid, a feel-good move she would most likely support. Then, she’d forget about it, put on some lipstick, and go about her day. Until someone she can actually relate to wins the crown, beauty queens and their grand gestures remain of a different universe.