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Why ‘undone’ beauty looks great at any age

Bobbi Brown, the queen of natural, undone beauty is styles going strong at 65.

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Bobbi Brown, the queen of natural, undone beauty is styles going strong at 65.

When the beauty industry jumps on a trend that appears anti-effort, one that also attempts to defy our chronic obsession with perfection and youth, it’s worth shouting about.

Hopefully it’s more than a passing fad. I’m calling it The Great Undone.

For inspiration look to my new idol, 65-year-old Bobbi Brown. The American cosmetics queen who launched a new company in 2020, the day her non-compete with Estee Lauder ran out (the huge cosmetics company bought her eponymous brand in 1995 for a rumored US $ 70 million), has recently become a TikTok star.

Brown’s new business, Jones Road Beautysells makeup that’s clean (ie not full of chemical nasties), works on every skin type and color, is simply sensible rather than wildly aspirational and not astronomically priced, making it all the more galling that it’s not yet available in New Zealand.

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But that’s sort of beside the point.

What’s interesting is her ethos. On TikTok, she exudes an everyday practicality: “Your natural face is the most beautiful face … embrace who you are.”

She talks about being comfortable in your skin, giving your skin a glow (ie applying a bit of sheen) and looking moisturized and healthy rather than young.

Making the most of each individual’s natural beauty is her thing. Her models by lei include women of all colors, ages and shapes. Look at Jones Road Beauty’s social media and you’ll find a lot of radiant looking women, plenty of easy fingertip application and refreshingly, a general feeling of kindness. Count me in.

Despite the everywoman appeal, a “no makeup makeup” that allows the natural you to shine through has received a backlash on social media. The ire is focused on the “effortlessly natural” look that requires work in itself.

But effort wise, I think of the “no makeup makeup” as akin to brushing your hair before you go out, rather than plugging in the hair irons. And anything that works towards more inclusion, less illusion works for me.

In comparison, the preceding trend for stage-makeup-style perfection – involving veneers of foundation, stripes of sculpting blusher and daubs of highlighter – looks weirdly retro. Give me light moisturizing tints, burnishing balms and glow-inducing oils over makeup-as-mask any day.

Real skin will show through, so might a bit of darkness under the eyes, and if you’ve got spots there’ll be no obliterating the fact under a crust of concealer. But I’m learning to love it.

It’s the reason I sought out Aleph Beauty, an Auckland-based ethically-produced brand that also focuses on a less-is-more approach. Aleph sells a carefully edited range of some of the best double-duty products around, including a small pot of refillable Concealer / Foundation that you can thin with Serum / Primer to make a coverage that works for you.

They give beauty hacks in the form of helpful tutorials and videos with a similarly inclusive approach that – hurray! – speak to all ages and skin colors.

Age and acceptance seem to be making headway in various spheres of the beauty industry. Kate Moss just launched her di lei new beauty and wellness brand, Cosmoss. One of the launch videos shows a naked rear view of Moss heading off to skinny-dip in a pond.

OK, Moss is a model but she’s still showing her 48-year-old butt and it’s not apparently airbrushed. That’s progress. Talking about her di lei beauty routine for Vogue she plugs her teas, oils and cleansers, but she also endearingly admits that she’s, “Not very high maintenance” and, “My hair’s always a little bit shabby-looking.”

This underscoring of reality is a hallmark of The Great Undone. What Moss calls her “shabby hair” has garnered a following in recent years.

In fashion speak it’s known as French Girl Hair: not perfectly done but a little bit messed-up. A choppy fringe, some layers and you get the idea. It’s hair as though you don’t care.

Put some hairspray on your fingers and comb them through your hair to make it look properly tousled. Maybe use some hair oil or serum to calm dry fly-aways.

Or go the bona fide Gallic route: my French friend swears by raking the residue from her hand cream through her dry ends. Uncomplicated. Undone. Because we all know there’s more to life than a flawless finish.

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