The INSIDER Summary:
- I didn’t wear any makeup for two weeks.
- Not wearing makeup was challenging at first, but it eventually improved my skin and my self-confidence.
- I’m no longer relying on makeup to hide what I thought were “problem” areas.
- Now, I’m using less product, and having fun with makeup instead.
I write about beauty for a living. I rarely walk out of Sephora empty-handed. And I almost always leave the house wearing makeup.
I kept a diary to document the experience, and learned a lot about my relationship to makeup and what makes me feel beautiful along the way.
Going makeup-free was a huge challenge, but it’s one of the best things I have done.
It took me a while to come to that realization, however.
The first few days were tough. On the first day, I had plans to go to a cherry blossom festival. I’d been looking forward to it, but on the day I felt nervous — more so than I expected — about not wearing makeup in public. It felt really weird to just wash and moisturize my face, and leave without putting anything else on. I felt as though I had forgotten something essential, like my keys or my phone.
When we got to the festival, people everywhere were taking picture-perfect Instagrams in pretty spring dresses and makeup in front of the blossoms. The prospect of not wearing makeup in such a photo horrified me, but I knew I wouldn’t pass up the Instagram opportunity if I were wearing makeup, so I had a photo taken — and I was surprised to find that I actually liked it.
Once I’d crossed that hurdle, I felt more relaxed. I let myself have fun, and eventually forgot I wasn’t wearing makeup. I felt pretty and even confident without it, and wound up thinking I was silly for being nervous in the first place.
This wasn’t a feeling I carried with me at work, though. While I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup to the office — a little concealer under my eyes, some blush, mascara, and maybe lipstick — I like to look presentable, and makeup makes me feel more put-together.
Luckily, my colleagues are lovely and claimed they didn’t even notice I wasn’t wearing makeup when I told them — but I secretly wondered if they thought I looked like a ghost.
Going without it, I realized that makeup makes me feel better about myself even in my work — and I kind of resented that. Being around a supportive group of women helped, though, and I didn’t feel self-conscious for long.
Social situations were similarly tough. An office happy hour had me wondering how Alicia Keys does it at big celeb events, while a friend’s surprise visit from the UK first made me think about how to face her without makeup after a long time apart.
When she got here, of course, I was so glad to hang out with her that I was completely unfettered by not wearing makeup. The only time I resented it was when we went out to a nice dinner, but on the whole, I didn’t let it spoil our fun.
There were some perks that came with not wearing makeup.
I liked the extra 10 minutes that I saved each morning. I could sleep in, or have breakfast at home and read the news. But by far, the best thing about not wearing makeup is not having to take it off. It was a huge relief not to have to worry about removing my makeup.
I also learned to take better care of my skin. I got more into face masks, and took more time applying my cleanser, toner, under-eye cream, and moisturizer. It felt good to let my skin breathe, and though there were a couple of frustrating pimples I was dying to hide with concealer, they seemed to go away quicker without using products.
After two weeks of deliberately not using makeup, I’ve learned to be comfortable with my face.
This sounds absurd, but it’s true. I’m no longer nervous about being in public with a bare face. It’s literally just my face, and it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s not so beautiful, and that’s OK.
When I told people about my makeup-free challenge, some would say they could never do it and that I’m “brave.” Others told me that I still look pretty without makeup, and that I don’t “need” it. (Of course, nobody needs makeup, or should be praised on the basis that they’re considered attractive enough to “get away with” not wearing it.)
These may sound like nice compliments, and admittedly they’ve helped me feel more confident about not wearing makeup, but it occurs to me that I shouldn’t need to hear them — wearing makeup shouldn’t be the only way for me to feel good about myself.
Once I could shake feeling self-conscious, I had just as good a time without makeup than I would with it on. I could still have a laugh with friends I hadn’t seen in months, and enjoy a gorgeous spring day with my husband looking at some cherry blossoms.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t gone back to wearing makeup. I have — but I don’t think of it as something I need anymore.
I thought I had a relatively healthy relationship with makeup before, but this experience has shown me otherwise. I was using makeup as a corrective, to hide what I believed were “problems” with my face.
Before this experiment, I’d gotten really into using a color corrector and concealer to disguise the circles under my eyes. I got complimented on my makeup the first time I’d done it, that I started wearing it every day, and I began to feel insecure without it. Going without my beloved color corrector, I got used to my under-eye bags and realized they’re not so bad. No one’s going to keel over from the sight of the circles under my eyes.
I’m back to wearing makeup, but I’m using less product (today, I didn’t bother with foundation), and treating my face a bit differently. I’m not hiding as much of it, and I’m having fun with makeup instead.
Some days, it felt great not wearing makeup. Today, it felt really good to put lipstick on again.
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