At least in one observer's opinion. "Put simply: women increasingly dare to bare."

What, you ask, is the evidence backing up Bethan Cole's assertion? While the fact that Hillary Clinton boarded a plane sans lipstick or various First Ladies have been "caught" au naturel may not compel you, she does make a case for bare-faced as a trend of sorts.

Meanwhile, among fashion insiders, going without make-up has become almost a cult thing. Anna Dello Russo, editor at large at Vogue Nippon, often appears make-up-free; the same is true of super-stylists Melanie Ward and Anna Cockburn, and editors Katie Grand (of Love) and Penny Martin (of The Gentlewoman). Phoebe Philo, Céline designer and queen of minimalism, only wears a light foundation. Recent beauty trends, too, have underlined the move towards a scrubbed face, with bleached brows and mascara-free lashes last season, and naked eyelids for spring.

But in the office, it would appear, it's a double-edged sword (as it so often is for women in the workplace!)

There is a bravery and efficiency associated with not wearing cosmetics that plays well in the workplace – or so it seems. In reality, though, things may not be so simple. "I go into the office quite regularly without make-up," says Caitlin Flack, a director in risk management at Nomura bank. "It's partly because I cycle to work. But I do also think it's possible that you get taken more seriously without make-up." In Flack's workplace, she says it is only those women who are lower down the ranks who are overtly made-up. "There are a lot of good-looking, well-groomed people in banking but not many higher up seem to wear much make-up," she says. Ouma Sananikone, a former chief executive of wealth management companies and now a board director, says: "Anything that is a distraction – be it overly heavy make-up, strident suit colours in men, over-preening – would be perceived as lack of judgement in a finance environment. Apart from the occasional lipstick, I have never worn make-up to work. My skin has always been reasonably clear and blemish-free, and I do not wear foundation." But, she points out, if you are going to go make-up free in an office, especially one in the City, "It's about grooming: if you are badly groomed and wore no make-up, it would hold you back."

In other words, "vanity" is associated with a lack of judgment, but lack of grooming is laziness: you have to groom, but quietly; you have to look attractive, but not "distracting." In fairness, it's not as though male executives can march around in vests covered in golf clubs or floating in clouds of Aqua di Giorgio, either — at least, not if they want to be taken seriously. But no one can deny that women have it harder: and often "grooming" and "professionalism" seems to be synonymous with "no overt femininity." More worryingly, the idea of "distraction" always seems to place the onus directly on said woman.


Oh, but in case you're thinking of chucking your Sephora, be sure you're not working for Vogue UK, whose beauty director declares that a lack of makeup, to her, just spells "laziness" and "lack of skill." Don't worry, you still can't win with everyone.

Bare-Faced Chic [FT]