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What Ditching Makeup Taught Me about Myself and Others

I’ll never forget my first day of Junior High. It was exciting for many reasons, but it was also the first day my mom allowed me to wear makeup to school. I went all out – two types of foundation, lash-lengthening mascara, a hint of blush, and TONS of blue eye shadow to match my favorite blue butterfly shirt. My friends taught me how to tone it down a bit after that, and eventually makeup became pretty routine and standard for me, as it is for most girls. However, I couldn’t help but notice that it didn’t do much good for my acne, it was super annoying and time consuming to put on and take off each day, and it became the center of conversation during most sleepovers or even daily lunches. When I met my then-boyfriend, now-husband at the age of 15,he told me he honestly didn’t think I needed makeup, so I decided to put him to the test by ditching my makeup routines. Little did I know, I’d also be testing myself, my friends, my family, and, as the years went on, my corkers, my professors, my numerous acquaintances, and even my employers.

Deciding to ditch makeup was never a clear-cut decision for me. It started with not wearing any type of makeup on most days, but still wearing the occasional mascara and wearing more makeup for formal events. During my first two years of college, I’d wear makeup for presentations, for job interviews, and other events that I felt were important. Then, I began to ask myself why I felt that I needed makeup on those days, on the days that I had to present myself in a formal, professional fashion. Most women never consider why they put makeup on their faces. We are so conditioned to believe that makeup is part of every day necessities for success. So, during the second semester of my sophomore year of college, I conducted a personal experiment – I did not wear makeup, no matter the occasion. Here’s what I learned about myself and about others:

Women are Much More Likely to Make Negative Comments than Men

Now, I don’t want this to spark some sort of debate or to cause you to think I’m making a point about gender. When I chose not to wear makeup for an entire semester, I did not get a single negative comment from a man. Now, I do get lots of comments from men and women about how I look like I’m 13 instead of 22, but men never directly associated this with makeup. The only blatant, negative, and offensive comments I got about my choice to not wear makeup came from women, some of them were friends, peers, and leaders, and others were complete strangers.

My first interesting conversation about makeup took place with a group of fellow students I was assigned to do a presentation with. It was the day of the presentation, and we met an hour before to go over any last-minute changes that needed to be made. One group member would not concentrate on the conversation because she had her compact mirror out and was obsessing over whether or not she should put eye shadow on. I told her she did not need eye shadow for a successful presentation, but she did need to review her slides. It was only then that my team really noticed that I was not wearing any makeup, and they asked me why. I told them that makeup did not make me more professional or qualified to relay the information in the presentation. The eye-shadow-girl responded, “I don’t need to wear makeup, but it makes me feel like a more put-together adult.” I was astounded at this phrase – “a more put-together adult.” It was not the last time a woman said that to me. Even some of my closest friends argued that they were entering a field that required them to wear makeup in order to seem more “put-together.” Whether they ever fully realized the implications of their words (that I was not as ‘put-together’ as they were) or not, they always tried to reassure me afterwards that I did not “need” makeup and that I could “pull-it-off.” This is entirely untrue. I can not “pull-off” the no makeup look in the sense that one could not tell a difference in whether or not I had makeup on my face. In fact, I have the type of skin that most women would feel the need to cover up. I started getting clinical acne at the age of 11, and my face is still very scarred from the outbreaks. I also have “red undertones,” meaning my face looks flushed most of the time. I do not have clear, blemish-less skin. I have skin that is sometimes too dry and sometimes too oily, and always has a huge red zit somewhere. But I do not agree that covering it with makeup makes me more “put-together.” Instead, I feel that I have more time to spend truly putting my life together in the morning. I can now take time to eat breakfast, listen to some uplifting music, and sit to make a to-do list for my day. These are routines that get left out when you spend 10, 15, or 20+ minutes on makeup. I can get more sleep, take a longer shower, and/or eat a non-rushed breakfast before leaving my house each day. It hurts me that women are quicker to judge and harsher to respond to my lifestyle, especially when their comments imply that I am less-capable of doing professional work. Let’s support one another!

I Take Better Care of My Skin when I Don’t Wear Makeup

Because I do not wear makeup regularly, it does not hurt my face the way it does to those who wear a lot of makeup every day. My eyes are not puffy from the chemicals in both the makeup and the remover. I do not look “sick” or “tired” unless I truly am sick or tired. People do not ask me those embarrassing questions that you hear about women receiving when they don’t wear makeup for a day. No one gets to associate my physical or mental well-being with whether or not I “painted my face” that morning. You’ll have to get to know me a little better than that.

Now, just because I do not wear harmful makeup regularly does not mean that my face is perfect, as I mentioned before. However, I do feel that my skin is much healthier now than it ever has been because I take the time to notice the condition it is in and find ways to improve it. I can’t erase all of my acne scars, and I can’t always prevent a new blemish from becoming large and red, but there are habits I have adopted to have healthier skin overall. First, I wash my face twice a day. That’s once in the morning and once before bed. When I wore makeup, I (like many of my friends and other girls I know) would often go to bed with it on because taking the time to wash it all off just didn’t seem worth it. Now, it takes very little time to wash my face and keep it healthy. After washing, I ALWAYS use moisturizer. One benefit to foundation was that it prevents the face from getting too much sun and burning, so, now that I don’t wear foundation, I make sure my moisturizer has plenty of SPF. In the summer, I’ll add a dab of sunscreen to my face if I know I’m going to be in the sun all day. And if I ever notice I’m starting to burn, I’ll put some aloe on right away. Since my skin is bare, it’s easy to tell whether or not I’m getting burnt before it’s too late!

I also take time at least once a week to do a facial of some type, which is always my absolute favorite part of the week. I discovered my new favorite facial masks on my trip to South Korea. Nature Republic is a Korean beauty company that works with all-natural products. Their skin masks come in some interesting choices, like bamboo, green tea, avocado, and even tomato! Each mask specifies whether it is for dry or oily skin. Some of the masks, like bamboo, are for a combination, and they re-balance your skin tone.  I was so happy to find that I could order more on Amazon for an even better price, less than $10! Now I can keep my skin healthy and keep a little piece of Korea with me. The variety pack works best for me since my skin needs are always changing throughout the year; plus, they’re great for a girls’ night!

Eventually People Get Used to It

I think the scariest part about deciding to stop wearing makeup was the initial first few days or weeks, maybe a month. It was new, and it was surprising to other people. I definitely got more comments more frequently during that time-frame. My skin was puffy and red and different, and people wanted to know if I was ok. Once people realized I was truly fine, they wanted to know why I made the decision. Again, at first, I did not have a well-defined reason for my decision, but I usually told people that I wasn’t “against makeup,” (which was everyone’s fear, for they didn’t want to feel judged), but that I was exploring how it felt to go without it. I’d say it was to keep my skin healthier, or to build up my confidence. Most people were ok with these answers. Then, I worried that people would continue to ask me more questions about when I was going to start wearing it again. When I stopped wearing makeup for a semester, I was prepared to explain it would only be for a semester, but the more I went without it…the less I felt the need or desire to start up again the following fall. All of this worrying about people and their questions turned out to be rather pointless. My friends, coworkers, bosses, professors, church community, etc. got used to it and stopped noticing. Though I did receive the occasional comment from someone (and still do), they comments became fewer and farther between. People simply get used to seeing you in a new way and stop caring, which is great because makeup should never be at the center of any of our relationships.

I Like Myself More When Makeup Isn’t a Necessity

My journey in ditching makeup has been eventful, and it has left me with a more open mind. I don’t notice other women’s makeup right away when we meet. I intend to see beyond that, as I hope they do for me. In the end, I came up with a more common answer to the question “Why don’t you wear makeup?” I say, “If you don’t truly feel beautiful and confident without makeup, you’ll never truly feel that way about yourself with it.” Think about it, many of us enjoy makeup because it provides confidence, but then we suffer with the after-math. We’re reminded every night when we remove the makeup that our face doesn’t look the way we want it to. I say, get used to seeing yourself naturally and loving the way you look without makeup, and you’ll feel even better about yourself when you put it on. For instance, I LOVE my eyelashes. They’re long, full, and beautiful. I love them without any makeup at all. So, when I put on mascara, I get PUMPED about the way they look! I find it exciting. Now, I’ve never loved the way my face looks naturally, for there’s always a problem needing fixed, but I am comfortable with my natural face and feel confident without covering it up. I can go to work or on a date without foundation and feel perfectly normal. That means that if I do ever put on foundation, I feel good about it, but I do not feel awful when I take it off. I feel normal again, natural and beautiful. To put it simply, wearing makeup does not truly give me more confidence. Going to work without makeup, standing up for a presentation without makeup, meeting a new boss in an interview without makeup…those scenarios make me feel more confident. I’m vulnerable, natural, all me. Take it or leave it. There’s nothing to hide. And I’ve found that I can now enjoy makeup when I feel like it without ever feeling dependent. I’ve learned so much about others and, more importantly, about myself through this journey. I’d encourage every woman to take the plunge and explore yourself without makeup in all aspects of life for a short amount of time. You’ll feel more confident, and probably end up with healthier skin. You’ll come to love yourself in the most valuable way.

Rachel

Author: Rachel

Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Gena Hassan
    August 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    I stopped wearing makeup and nail polish years ago. Too many ingredients on the list, and too much trouble! Special occasions only for me.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 11, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    I stopped wearing makeup when I was pregnant with my first child. At first, like you, it was difficult. I felt so exposed. I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and not even recognize my face. I also felt like I needed to explain myself. Eventually, I got so used to being bare faced I don’t think twice about it. Just recently I started playing around with eye makeup and I find it very fun, but I don’t have the same compulsion to wear it. It’s a choice I can make and about which I feel good. Your thoughts here are very insightful and I enjoyed reading them. 🙂

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      August 12, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      YES, I love how you said you find eye makeup fun, but you don’t feel the “compulsion” to wear it now, what a strong word! We do grow up feeling very pressured and even compelled to wear makeup to be beautiful and successful, but that’s just not necessary!

  • Reply
    Cathy Murphey
    August 12, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Rachel, I like how you show all sides of the issue, not just one perspective. My favorite line I think was “If you don’t truly feel beautiful and confident without makeup, you’ll never truly feel that way about yourself with it.” That is so true. My husband tells me all the time that I don’t need makeup. Of course, I feel like I do even though I do wear less and less of it these days. Now, if I could decide to let the gray hair go natural and not feel the need to color my hair. I’m planning on doing a post of the pros and cons of hair color. I’d love any input that you might have on that.

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      August 12, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Cathy, I love the way you’re really taking the time to evaluate the decisions you make regarding makeup and hair color. Never put on makeup or change your hair color simply because you feel you “should.” Why do you feel that way? I think it would be really interesting for you to do a one month or maybe even 3 month experiment without hair color. My makeup-less experiment lasted about three months, which allowed me to experience several life occasions without makeup. Try letting your hair go natural and evaluate how it makes you feel at home, in public, at work, and at special occasions. I think it will be scary at first, but I’m willing to bet you’d have similar results – the longer you go without it, the more natural it will feel to you and to those around you, and eventually it won’t be a big deal! You’ll feel more confident about yourself for at least trying it out!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    August 12, 2017 at 1:57 am

    This is an amazing experiment. I have never worn make-up much at all and as I am aging I’m feeling like I need to more, but I still don’t really want to. I also think it is true that you tend to take better care of your skin if you don’t wear a lot of make-up. Interesting observations in this article!

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      August 12, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      I don’t think you need more makeup with age! Feel good in the skin you’re in! When you feel the need to put some on, really ask yourself why you feel that way. If you want to put some on, that’s one thing, but you never “need” to put it on, that’s just not healthy! Take care!

  • Reply
    Aileen
    August 12, 2017 at 2:34 am

    Although I’ve understood for a long time the issues with cosmetics in general, it was not until I had really gotten in touch with who I was that I no longer felt like wearing makeup. The truer I feel to myself, the less I feel like wearing a “mask”. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

  • Reply
    Tara
    August 12, 2017 at 3:01 am

    When I turned 30 (am 31 now), I realized quickly that the wrinkles are coming on! So, I stopped wearing so much makeup. My husband has always told me that I looked beautiful without it, so I gave it a shot. The best part-so much damn time is saved! lol

  • Reply
    Lauren
    August 12, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Good for you girl! Also, I LOOOOOVE the face masks from Nature Republic, some of my favs.

  • Reply
    Dominique
    August 12, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Wow. This was really interesting. I’m not big on make up. I don’t wear it everyday but I guess I do where it on days when I want to be a little girly. This really makes me ask myself why I wear make up in the first place. Very thought proving. You go!!! I really appreciate this.

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      August 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Yes, I highly encourage you to take some time to reflect on why you truly feel the need to wear it on some days/with some outfits/at some places when you don’t feel the need to wear it everyday. It’s good to know why we do what we do!

  • Reply
    Deanna
    August 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Rachel,

    I found your blog on the Facebook group and read your post about your (beautiful) cost-effective wedding. I had to come back and see your other posts. This speaks to me so much!!!! I, too, have ditched makeup…. I had my maternity photo shoot recently and only wore mascara. This past weekend I went to a wedding and didn’t wear a stitch of makeup and it was amazing!!!! I didn’t have to worry about mascara running during the tear-inducing toasts. I just had a blast with my family!!!!! Thanks for inspiring ladies to go makeup free!!!!

    Deanna

    P.S. I just started a blog! More posts to come…??

    • Reply
      Deanna
      August 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      ***toasts*** not roasts ?

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      August 13, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Deanna,

      Thanks so much for sharing! I’d love to check out your blog! What’s the link?

      Also, I fixed your hilarious typo for you! 😉 lolol

      Rachel

      • Reply
        Deanna
        August 16, 2017 at 2:24 pm

        Rachel,

        Thank you for replying to (and fixing) my comment!! I’d be honored if you took a second to check out my page! Here’s the link:

        http://www.mamamadethis.com

        Thanks again! Happy first week of school!! Cheers!!!! ?

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