For the past month, I have done something that I haven’t done since the seventh grade: I went without makeup. Granted, I’ve never been a makeup junkie, looked up contouring tutorials or stepped inside a Sephora. But I have stuck to the basic foundation-blush-mascara-gloss combo daily.
What prompted me to stop wearing makeup was my reliance on it as part of my daily routine. As I said, I have never really caked it on, and the makeup I usually do wear takes me at most 20 minutes to apply. But one night, after scrubbing my face clean of lipstick, eyeliner and concealer, I looked at my dripping face in the bathroom mirror and realized I hadn’t actually seen my face in a long time. My skin was blotchy, my face round, my pores huge, the skin under my eyes purple, my eyebrows angry, my eyelashes delicate and tired and my lips not as pouty as I remembered them. My face didn’t look like the face I put on every morning. And this uncomfortable feeling of anonymity in my own skin prompted me to stop wearing what I thought had made my skin look so great.
I liked makeup. I didn’t like me.
So I closed my makeup drawer and tried to find a way to be confident without concealer. The first week au natural was awful. I truly thought I looked like a hag. I wasn’t used to how small my eyes looked or how pale my cheeks were. My rationale used to get me out the door was this: if French women, decidedly the most beautiful and confident women in the world, wear minimal makeup, then I can, for one day, go without. The day passed, and though a few people told me to take a nap or that I looked sick, I tried to just tone it out and hummed Édith Piaf.
In the next couple weeks, something very odd happened: I started to look different. Maybe I was just used to seeing my face without makeup, but in those weeks, I swear I began to look naturally better. When I wore makeup, I always thought my face looked so uneven underneath, and now my tone has evened out. And when I wore makeup, I ironically was more concerned about the way my skin looked now that I don’t wear any. I almost don’t care. Finally, the places in my skin that I used to pick at, over some mild bump or dryness, I just let happen. Now that I no longer fuss over makeup, I no longer fuss over my face.
I don’t mean to say that wearing makeup isn’t awesome. It’s an art, a form of expression, beauty, but it isn’t me. I forgot when wearing makeup that there was a face underneath that needed just as much love as I had for my eye shadow. The problem was not with makeup, but the way I hid myself behind it. I couldn’t separate my own self-esteem from how much makeup I had on. And worse, the culture surrounding me is very makeup-centric. I am in no way bashing makeup wearers, but I am questioning why I felt I had to make my features look so exaggerated. Female beauty has morphed into what a female is willing to do to obtain that beauty. I didn’t need to turn myself from frog to princess with the wave of a magic mascara wand, and I realized that I wasn’t even a frog in the first place.