I flip through a new catalog sent to me in the mail. I like the clothes immediately. They’re simple and functional, casual yet classy. But as I thumb through the pages, I realize I’m paying more attention to the model than the clothes. I notice her eyes and clear complexion, and my first thought is, I would look prettier if I put some makeup on. Maybe I should start wearing more. And then I notice her hair. It’s a short bob, loose and wavy, and I think, maybe I should cut my hair. But my hair’s not wavy and probably wouldn’t look like that.
Before I know it, I’ve spent five minutes of my evening examining the appearance of a model and evaluating my own in comparison. And I don’t add up to her polished yet carefree aesthetic. I close the magazine feeling a little less confident, preoccupied with how I can improve my look.
I realize that I do this with every magazine mailer I get. I observe the women and think less about buying the items and more about making myself look like the models. What exactly is being sold here? Surely I’m not the only woman/person doing this.
My neighbor and friend is the kind of person who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is—at least that’s my perception. Her eyes are a piercing blend of sea green and blue, and rarely do I notice a blemish on her skin. A few years back I remember saying to her, “you look good without makeup.” She replied, “thanks, well, I think that you’re just used to seeing me without it.” These words have stuck with me ever since.
I started wearing makeup around my sophomore year of high school. Mostly eye makeup, with all the cool colors of eye liner like lime green, blue, purple, and glittery silver. One of my friends had colored mascara—blue and purple—which I wanted so badly. By my senior year I was wearing more “grown-up” colors. I remember putting on blush for the first time and thinking wow, what a difference.
Sometimes I like to imagine what life would be like if no one wore makeup, if every woman owned her God-created face in all of its plain, imperfect, and unique glory. Maybe we would no longer look at the women in magazines or on TV or at the office and compare our own beauty to theirs. Maybe we would be less concerned about our appearance meeting unrealistic standards and more interested in cultivating inner beauty. And maybe what makes us feminine wouldn’t be something sold in a bottle at Sephora or the corner drugstore. Yeah, yeah…this all sounds like some hippie, feminist utopia, but just allow yourself to imagine that kind of freedom.
Over the past year two of my friends decided to stop wearing makeup entirely, and for somewhat different reasons. And when I say stop, I mean they threw away all of their makeup. At first I was intrigued, then inspired, and then challenged: could I do that? Not wear makeup? Yeah, it’s one thing not to wear it hanging out at home one day, or on a grocery run, but what about to church or social functions? Could my face go stark naked?
I consulted Google: why do some women choose not to wear makeup? The main ones seemed to be a matter of saving time—there are other things they’d rather be doing than applying mascara or taking it off at night. Or because it is expensive and messy. For some it is keeping an all-natural beauty regimen or their skin fares better without it. And others want to be confident in their bare face. In fact, many seemed to find more confidence apart from makeup, which astounded me. How was that possible?
So I stopped wearing makeup sometime in December. I’ve never worn a lot of makeup or spent much time on it (usually about a three-minute routine), but enough to even out my complexion and brighten my eyes—a little powder, blush/bronzer, and always mascara. I had stopped wearing eye makeup almost a year ago (most of the time), for practical reasons, so it was really just the powder and blush I cut out in December.
So how’s it been? Well, in no particular order, (1) I love the simplicity, that I no longer have to take time applying or removing makeup. (2) I’ve battled breakouts ever since high school, and for the first time my skin has been consistently clear. (3) I spend less time thinking about the way I look or zoning in on blemishes, less preoccupied with my physical appearance, which is quite liberating. (4) Spashing cool water on my face midday is so refreshing—something I could never do if I had makeup on.
Am I more confident? Yes and no. Seeing my reflection under fluorescent lights is killer, but I guess that goes with anything. I sometimes feel very plain or washed out; I wish my eyebrows and eyelashes were naturally darker to provide some contrast. And sometimes I wonder if people look at me and think, she should wear some makeup! Or if my husband wishes I would get a little dolled up.
But I have reached a point where most days I feel comfortable without makeup. And like my friend says, it’s simply because I’ve grown accustomed to seeing myself without it. Also, I love that I now compare myself less to other women—the ones in magazines and in real life. It’s produced an unexpected form of humility and modesty.
As a side note, I think living in the South makes no makeup more challenging than it would be back in Colorado, or out West, where you see a lot more women going without it. But like they say, everything in Texas is bigger—the hair and the makeup for sure. A bare face is counter cultural in general, but even more so here.
Overall, I’m glad I’m doing this, trying to find beauty and confidence apart from mascara and blush, to look at myself in the mirror and think, you look good without makeup. Unlike my friends, I have not tossed out my beauty supplies, and I haven’t committed to a life without makeup. I’m not really sure how long this wil last.
And one more side note: sometimes, when I see a woman not wearing makeup, I want to run up to her and say, “Hey girl, I love that you’re not wearing makeup, you look great.” Solidarity!
The next two posts on La Delta will feature interviews with my two friends that no longer wear makeup, exploring their reasons, what’s been hard, how it’s affected them. The point of this series is not to convince you that makeup is evil and you need to stop wearing it right now, but simply to explore the topic, to see another’s perspective on beauty and self-image. Maybe it will cause you to think about makeup in a different way, to reflect on your own reasons for wearing it/not wearing it, to take an honest and critical look at how makeup affects your perception of your own beauty and self-image. And maybe…just maybe you will jump on board the hippie, feminist utopia train and go face-streaking around town…and I will join you in solidarity!