College senior Brinton Parker has always enjoyed discussing all things beauty, and that's part of why she became a blogger for the women's website Bustle. But when she overheard friends critiquing other women's Facebook pictures and judging them based on the amount of makeup they had on, she began rethinking her approach to discussing beauty. As a self-identified member of the "selfie generation," Parker noticed how many of her conversations involved commenting on other people's physical appearances, whether good or bad.
Parker, who attends University of California, Davis, began an experiment. She went to a three-day-a-week class at her college, each day wearing a different amount of makeup: no makeup on Monday, a moderate amount on Wednesday, and heavy makeup on Friday. She then took notes on the way other people reacted to her, jotting down specific comments on her appearance and whether they came from men or women.
On her no-makeup day, one guy remarked on her "looking tired," while a female classmate said, "I wish I was confident enough to go without makeup at school. Props." On her usual-level-of-makeup day, several classmates complimented her look and asked for recommendations about products she liked to use. But on the heavy-makeup day, one man said she looked "ready to party," and another asked, "Are you performing in 'Spring Awakening'?"
When Parker looked back at her notes, she noticed that more of the comments on her looks came from men. "A lot of guys don’t understand that women’s natural faces don’t look like the ones they put forth every day," she tells Yahoo Shine. "Guys don’t realize that Kim Kardashian spends an hour contouring her face before she goes to the grocery store. The reason that I started the social experiment is because I heard disparaging remarks between too much makeup and not enough makeup."
Parker then wrote a piece on the experience, accompanied by photos of all three looks. "While this experiment probably won’t change my normal beauty routine," she writes, "it did inspire me to feel confident regardless of which face I have on."
She's not the first blogger to go without makeup and report back on how people treated her. Popular blogger-turned-author Leandra Medine, aka The Man Repeller, wrote a post about her decision not to wear makeup after she accidentally saw an email in which a colleague's assistant called her "ugly as f---." Writer Phoebe Baker Hyde decided to spend a year living without makeup, jewelry, new clothes, or haircuts and documented her experience on a blog called The Beauty Experiment, which was later published as a book with the same name.
However, Parker's experiment was differed from Medine's and Baker Hyde's in one major way: In addition to going without makeup, she also went to the other extreme by wearing a lot. Doing so helped her to recognize and point out the hypocrisy of many people who say that they want women to care less about the way they look. Women may get flak for wearing too much makeup, but they also get flak for not wearing enough.
Parker, who will graduate with an English degree later this month, points out that social media helps people to put out an idealized version of themselves – even some women who post natural selfies take several different shots and choose the one that's most flattering. "We live in this time where we can change our appearance to other people, and a lot of our interactions are done via social media, and because of that we can control how we look to others. It creates unrealistic expectations in terms of what women look like. It’s easy to edit yourself."
"I came to the conclusion that people are going to comment on you regardless," Parker says about the feedback she's gotten on her looks. "I just learned not to take any of the comments personally. I am going to get dressed for me and do my makeup for me. It’s my perception of myself that’s important."
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