The truth behind why Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup

And our top tips on how you can go makeup-free, too

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / November 12 2020

If there’s one trend we hope never goes away, it’s embracing our natural beauty. We adore our makeup as much as the next beauty addict, but there’s a lot to love about going makeup-free regularly (happy skin for starters!) and not covering your features under a mountain of makeup

It’s been a few years now since Alicia Keys parted ways with makeup, and yet she continues to inspire us with her raw, natural beauty on the regular. If you’re sick of the laborious task of applying makeup daily, want to give your skin a much-needed break or are simply feeling inspired to snap your own makeup-free selfie (like Kylie Jenner, Gwen Stefani and Bella Hadid), then read on.

Why did Alicia Keys stop wearing makeup?

It began with a photo shoot in 2016. Usually, getting in front of the camera calls for A LOT of makeup, but when Alicia Keys was shooting for her new album, Here, she opted for a makeup-free look. Rather than regret her decision to show off her true self, ‘flaws’ and all, the opposite happened. She was inspired to go makeup-free indefinitely.

Looking back at this defining moment, Keys revealed  in a recent interview with GLAMOUR UK, that her choice also had a lot to do with her reliance on makeup itself “Makeup was a big thing for me; I had been wearing it since I was, like, 16-ears-old.” 

“And then, as I got into the music world, it was what you did every day to do your television, or to do your shoot. So, I did it because I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I realised I became addicted to it; I didn’t feel comfortable without it.”

In an honest, open Lenny Letter (a feminist forum created by Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner), Keys revealed that on the shoot, it was “the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.” 

In an honest, open Lenny Letter (a feminist forum created by Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner), she revealed that on the shoot, it was “the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.” 

“I'd just come from the gym, had a scarf under my baseball cap, and the beautiful photographer Paola (never met a Paola I didn't like) said, "I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too!" 

'Here' album photography

While this was definitely the turning moment for Alicia, the seed had actually been planted earlier on when she was writing the lyrics for the album.

“In one song I wrote, called "When a Girl Can't Be Herself," it says, In the morning from the minute that I wake up / What if I don't want to put on all that makeup / Who says I must conceal what I'm made of / Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem. No disrespect to Maybelline, the word just worked after the maybe. But the truth is … I was really starting to feel like that — that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see.”

“Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup: What if someone wanted a picture??”
Alicia Keys

Armed with a newfound sense of empowerment, the No Makeup Movement that saw the singer ditch her makeup was born. She's even braved high-profile red carpet appearances like the 2016 BET Awards and MTV Video Music Awards and the 2018 Grammy Awards makeup-free. Did she feel out of place surrounded by her celebrity pals who were dolled up to the nines? Not one bit.

2018 Grammy Awards

2016 MTV Video Music Awards

2016 BET Awards

"I don't want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing."
Alicia Keys

Does Alicia Keys wear makeup ever?

Yes, on occasion, but ever since her stance in 2016, the singer has been loyal to her cause. But she’s not anti-makeup. In fact, she actually likes it. She just chooses not to be pressured into wearing it. 

“It doesn’t have anything to do with makeup or no makeup. It has to do with who are you, what makes you feel good, how do you want to express that and even just asking the questions — What do I feel? How do I feel good? However that is, you should do it,” Alicia said during a 2016 Grammy’s press conference. "I love my lip gloss, I love my blush, I love my eyeliner. It's not about that. At the same time, I don't want to feel beholden — to have to do it," she also shared during a Today show segment in the US.

Alicia Keys without makeup

One of the most refreshing things about all of Alicia Keys’ no makeup looks is how real they are. She doesn’t always have perfectly flawless skin that makes you think, “well if I had skin that good I wouldn’t need makeup either”. She gets congested skin, has pigmentation, suffers from breakouts. But it doesn't stop her from letting her natural skin shine through.

How to go makeup-free

We’ll admit it takes a little courage to go makeup-free some days. Especially to the office or on a date. If the thought terrifies you, but intrigues you at the same time, follow these top tips that Alicia Keys' makeup artist Dotti credits for Alicia's amazing skin.

Side note: We know what you're thinking - What does Alicia Keys need with a makeup artist anymore? Well, Dotti is just as passionate about skin as she is makeup and is still the genius behind Alicia Keys with and without makeup. "I am very, very much behind women stripping back and, embracing their beauty and wearing their skin front and centre," she shared with People.

Tip #1 / Master your skin care routine

Good skin doesn’t need to be covered up by makeup, so the more diligent you are with your skin care routine, the more confidence you’ll have to go bare. In an interview with Elle Brazil, for whom Alicia went makeup-free (except for a smear of blush) on the cover back in 2017, Alicia revealed that she focuses on having good skin, rather than buying good makeup. She also shared with Elle UKIt took me forever to get this skin. I mean, I know how it feels to have a face full of bumps and pimples. I lived through that in the public eye.”

Elle Brazil

Elle Brazil

Tip #2 / Eat healthy 

“One piece to note about [Alicia] is that she is incredibly into acupuncture, exercise, and healthy eating,” shared Dotti in an interview with Into The Gloss. “That is a huge part of the condition of her skin—when you look after yourself on the interior, it automatically shines through on the exterior.” She adds, “Alicia isn’t raw or vegan or anything, but she looks after her diet and eats in a very balanced way, which a lot of people do when you’ve got a lot on your plate to deal with.” 

Tip #3 / Use a jade roller to pep up skin

You’ve got your skin starting to look clear and radiant, but it helps to give it a little wake-up call before you leave the house each morning. Dotti told W magazine this nifty trick: “I stick a jade roller in ice, so it’s basically freezing when I roll it over [Alicia’s] skin. I really, really work into all those areas where I want blood and water and energy brought to the surface. It brings her skin to life, it practically makes her skin say, 'Hi. I love you.'” 

Tip #4 / Refresh your skin with a face mist 

“There’s a beautiful brand called MV Organic Skincare and they make beautiful oils and rosewater. Sometimes I use the Instant Revival with the rose mist as a treatment. That alone makes her look really glowy and beautiful. Because when you strip back all of the makeup, you begin to realize how youthful you actually are,” Dotti told Into The Gloss

If you're serious about getting your skin ready to go makeup-free, you might want to try these skin treatments and start incorporating this vital step into your skin care routine.

Do you ever go makeup-free? What do you think of Alicia Keys' decision to not wear makeup anymore?

Main image credit: @aliciakeys
Inset image: Paola Kudacki; Getty; Elle Brazil

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.