Natural Rituals

photography: Celia Tang

2020 has seen many shifts in our lives, and beauty is no different. As we move away from the consumerism of the traditional beauty industry, Lichen focuses on representing a more ethical view of beauty and makeup, with photography by CELIA TANG, Lichen explores how facial art references the historical origins of body paint as part of ritual and nature.

Text Mirabella Shahidullah

How is beauty connected to the natural world? Anthropologically, the human body has been studied as the site for the inscription of ancient cultural traditions and celebrations. If we look at the skin as a living landscape for implementing cultural rituals, it is possible to see why as humans we fixate so much of our time and energy on the appearance of our faces.  After all, makeup has existed for at least 7,000 years and has been historically present in almost every society. In fact, body art and makeup is often regarded by anthropologists as one of the first forms of human expression. Historically, face painting represented a moment of ritual and cultural celebration, throughout societies, face painting was always concocted with natural pigments and colouring, effectively connecting humans together with the Earth around them.

French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once wrote about ‘masked cultures,’ emphasising that whether through tattoos, piercings, painting or masks, the face has historically been predestined to be decorated, since it is only by means of decoration that the face receives a mystical significance. Although Strauss was speaking about the Swaihwe mask (the traditional masks of some tribes located in modern day British Columbia) masking the face has now become a significant part of how we ‘decorate our faces’ today.

Strauss probably could have never predicted just how much of a literal outcome masking the face would become, and this change in how we present ourselves reveals  something else about how we take care of our faces through personal care and beauty.  The constant consumerism pushed by the beauty industry pre-pandemic has taken a hit; as more people stay at home, there seems to be less people who want to sport a full face of makeup every day, this paradigm shift in how we present our faces begs the question; how are our beauty definitions changing and how will they change in the future?

Ethical beauty and natural ingredients could be the answer. As we slowly shed pre-pandemic beauty standards, it seems as if we are moving towards a more ethical and naturalistic notion of what beauty means to us. In 2019 the Global Web Index (GWI) conducted a survey that found that more consumers desire sustainable and local beauty products and in a decades time, Mintel has predicted that beauty and personal care will develop into a combination of nature and science, moulding an identity of tribe or community through our makeup and skincare routines.

As people start to define beauty for themselves, whether that is through exploring a more natural appreciation of  beauty or simply making more cruelty-free and sustainable beauty choices it would seem that we are moving towards a future where the beauty choices we make have a greater foundation in our ethical beliefs. With consumer’s interests and ethics starting to reflect a changing society, perhaps we can look forward to a more ethical age of beauty in 2021.

Photography CELIA TANG 
Model MIA 

All makeup and paint used in the shoot was 100% cruelty-free.

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