The naked truth about body image

msnbc host Melissa Harris-Perry shows off her make-up face in honor of the "Barefaced and Beautiful" campaign.
msnbc host Melissa Harris-Perry shows off her make-up face in honor of the "Barefaced and Beautiful" campaign.
Lorena Ruiz/msnbc

Here are some heart breaking statistics:

  • 42% of first-third grade girls want to be thinner.
  • 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • In the past decade, hospitalizations for eating disorders increased by 119% for children younger than 12.

These distressing numbers come to us from the National Eating Disorders Association who have set aside this week as National Eating Disorder Awareness week and they point to the ongoing crisis of self-hate and self-abuse that impacts many young women.

The causes of eating disorders are complicated. For example, studies report more than a third of those suffering from bulimia are sexual assault survivors. And anorexia is a condition that often affects multiple generations in a single family. But within all the complex causes, there is a nagging sense of inadequacy. A hard to shake feeling, that I am just not good enough as I am.

One local organization in Philadelphia, the Renfrew Center Foundation, is using this week for the “Barefaced and Beautiful” campaign. They are encouraging women to go without makeup Monday and to post pictures of their scrubbed mugs on social media.

Now, there is no reason to think that wearing makeup is causally linked to eating disorders. Makeup can be a perfectly healthy, fun, playful way to present yourself to the world. Much like big earrings or favorite shoes. A chance to highlight our fierce fabulousness.

But makeup can become a mask that shields our authentic selves, full of perceived imperfections, from a world that judges women harshly and repeatedly on how we look, rather than what we think, how we contribute, or who we are. Renfrew’s research has shown that more than a quarter of girls who wear makeup rarely or never leave the house without it.

So I decided to take off the makeup and share in this effort. Because even baby steps toward self-acceptance matter. And maybe if adult women can show just a little more acceptance of ourselves we can be a model of self-love for daughters. This is my almost-40 face without any makeup…not even lip gloss. It is imperfect, inconsistent and wonderfully mine. So join me! Take it all off and revel in the realness. If you tweet your pic use #BareFacedBeauty.