When the average midlife woman goes out without make-up on, it’s known as doing the school run or popping to Sainsbury’s, but when Gwyneth Paltrow does so it’s an international news event.
The 50-year-old queen of clean eating and green beauty — not to mention founder and chif executive of the wellness lifestyle site Goop — was spotted outside a swanky Beverly Hills restaurant on Sunday night wearing not a scrap of slap and with the sort of grown-out roots many of us might recently have returned home from holiday with. It’s a look I became familiar with, to a far less glossy extent, on my lockdown maternity leave and continue to endorse in the playground at the weekend.
Beauty editors have long talked of “no make-up make-up” and going “au naturel” with the help of a host of expensive products designed to make it seem as though you aren’t wearing any at all (but better). Here, Paltrow has gone one further — a bravura no-beauty beauty look that ticks almost every box on the influencer checklist. She’s relatable (looks less polished than usual); aspirational (not as unpolished as you); feminist (shove your reductive beauty standards); but — and this is important — still gorgeous. She has also clearly had a bit of something else done — indistinguishable quite what, ergo most of us probably can’t afford it.
● Goop, burnout and me — by Gwyneth’s former right-hand woman
How is this of any importance whatsoever, you may be wondering? Well, when your face is a large part of your currency, going make-up-free is the ultimate beauty industry power move. Paltrow’s epidermis is the foremost marketing tool for Goop’s extensive range of lotions and potions — a Skin Rescue Kit that comes with her approval is on sale for $326.40 (about £250) — and her give-a-f*** attitude is practically the site’s stock-in-trade. I refer you to the £58 This Smells Like My Vagina candle, which — checks notes — sold out. Twice.
“I don’t want to erase time . . . and I don’t have to be wrinkle-free,” Paltrow told British Vogue last month, while also publicising Goop’s new £153 Youth-Boost Peptide Serum.
Ah, Gwyneth, or GP as she is known among her employees at Goop’s Santa Monica HQ. You give with one hand and take our money with the other. Even so, is she actually doing what her fellow Montecito-dweller Meghan Markle might call “important work”?
I am inclined to say yes. At 38, I am entering the stage where almost every woman I know has had a little something injected here, tweaked there. I haven’t, and I’m not sure I want to. I might not share Paltrow’s more woo-woo instincts, but I have her long blonde hair, her multipierced ears and, increasingly, the same crinkles around my eyes and silvering strands at my temples. Combine my two young children with her being 12 years older than me but with access to A-list procedures, and we are ageing at roughly the same rate. (The genetic lottery bone structure that no money can buy is a real boon too. Hers, not mine: GP recently posted a video with her 80-year-old mother, the actress Blythe Danner, whose skin looks similarly celestial yet unmessed with.
● This tinted body cream blurs uneven-looking skin in an instant
I am an ardent follower of Gwyneth’s on Instagram — I pore over her every picture. Since she posed naked and painted in gold to celebrate her 50th last year, she has posted several bare-faced selfies — not exactly WFH screenface with scraped-back hair, more Montauk tan and beachy waves, but all with wholesome-looking skin. I’m not so naive as to believe she hasn’t also had the sort of help that comes in a reclining chair rather than from a bottle, but by comparison with some of the other more heavily altered features, thickly contoured faces and Photoshopped shoots that crop up on my feed, she is as close as it comes, in celeb land, to looking “real”.
I like it. I think it’s classy, and I don’t think I’m the only one. After a decade of giant brows, contouring and Love Island lips, other women are moving more towards the GP end of the spectrum too. Harley Street practices now advertise filler-dissolving alongside their various plumping treatments.
“[We] have been thinking about aspirational beauty and aspirational realness for some time,” says Abi Buller of the trends consultancy The Future Laboratory. “There’s an idea we don’t need very much on our faces, it’s more about having healthy-looking skin.”
Needless to say there are plenty of brands who cater to this — many of which are sold on Goop — but, as ever, not every make-up-free face is created equal.
“There’s nowhere to hide with far fewer products,” the make-up artist Joe Pickering-Taylor says. “It comes down to how good your skin is and what else you can afford to do.”
At 58, the supermodel, former Sports Illustrated star and now influencer-cum-ageism activist Paulina Porizkova is on the record as never having had Botox. Of facelifts, one of her Instagram captions reads “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. That doesn’t mean all she is doing is slathering on the cold cream and hoping for the best. She posts selfies from the chair of her noninvasive plasma pen sessions, tightening ultrasound therapy and HydraFacials.
Good lighting “plays a very big part in my life now”, she told me in an interview last year.
That much, at least, is free — as is leaving the house without any make-up on. Will you do a Paltrow this weekend? I’ve just tried it at the corner shop — no Beverly Hills restaurant, it’s true — and guess what? Nobody batted an eyelid.