‘Skip Class Not Concealer’, Said No Woman in STEM, Ever.

Benefit Cosmetics is a huge global brand. With their cutesy packaging and high-street presence their target audience covers young girls (and boys) just starting out with makeup, right the way up to mature women (and men) who have used their products for years.

I bought my first Benefit product at age 14, a particularly gloopy lip gloss in a pink/purple shade that I’m sure made me look like I was mere hours from death. I remember rushing home from school to get changed and apply that lipgloss before my Dad dropped my best friend and I off at a concert at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. Since then, I’ve used Benefit products relatively regularly – though the gloopy gloss didn’t last long.

Last week Samantha Yammine drew my attention to Benefit’s latest ad campaign. This ‘skip class NOT concealer’ ad is part of Benefit’s campaign launching their boi-ing concealer range. For someone who has dark circles around my eyes even when I’ve had a solid 12 hours of sleep, I’m the perfect target for this product. I won’t be buying it though.

It’s difficult to find a starting point for how wrong this ad campaign is, but I’ll give it a shot:

  • Why can’t we go to class without concealer, is that really so bad?
  • Are girls really that precious that we have to choose between going to class and applying makeup? A revolutionary thought, but perhaps we could do both.

Honestly I was so frustrated when I saw this campaign. It’s giving completely the wrong idea to young people; there’s no need to choose between wearing makeup and maintaining your education. I’m 25 years old and have been in education consistently since the age of 5. From about age 14 I’ve worn makeup, I’ve been through the horrendous Maybelline dream matte mousse phase that every girl of my generation went through, seen the rise of the liquid liner flick, and made some horrendous choices with regards to my blusher. None of that meant that I missed classes. I can confidently say that I have never skipped a class because I didn’t have time to apply concealer.

I wear makeup to work every day. My colleagues have never seen me without perfectly preened brows and a subtle contour that ensures my non-existent cheek bones look chiselled but natural. As a makeup wearer, I know for a fact that I have been judged by academics. I once had an argument with a post-doc in a lab that I was interning in – I made a mistake with a calculation, and he said ‘I should have spent more time working than applying mascara’. I was raging, and rightly so.

I continued to wear makeup after that; I also went on to graduate with a first class degree and the prize for the best thesis in my graduating cohort. I’m currently going into the final year of my PhD – and I’m on track to gain the ‘Dr’ title just after I turn 26. Not bad for someone who is proud of the extensive collection of MAC lipsticks I’ve spent my money on over the years.

I’ve decided I’m no longer buying Benefit products. The message they are sending out is damaging, degrading and intimidating. It suggests that our pretty-little-makeup-wearing heads can’t cope with learning, and I’m over it.

I’m going on holiday next week and instead of skipping to Benefit and treating myself to a new bronzer (I’m pasty and blonde, and my tan is best faked!), I placed an order with Charlotte Tilbury. There’s £106 spent elsewhere because of a badly thought-through PR campaign.

I’m hoping that Benefit will at least issue an apology, and hopefully do something to remedy the damage they’ve done with this archaic message. Maybe they could focus their next campaign on empowering young girls to aim higher, build lasting careers, and push themselves?

2 thoughts on “‘Skip Class Not Concealer’, Said No Woman in STEM, Ever.

  1. Rebecca McGuckin

    I haven’t used Benefit in years mostly due to their unclear Animal Testing policy but this completely cements my decision. Surely they’re aware that learning and makeup are not mutually exclusive. This whole ad campaign goes against Benefit’s previous ones such as ‘Laughter is the best cosmetic.’ There’s nothing funny about encouraging young people to skip class.


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