I think there are lots of assumptions about people who wear makeup – that they’re insecure, self-conscious, and vain. But that hasn’t been my experience with makeup. If anything, makeup gives me confidence.
I’ve worn makeup pretty much every day of my life since I was 12 years old. And I come from a household where putting on makeup is just part of the daily routine. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my mom leave the house without hers on.
Which is why I wanted to see what it would be like to go for a week without wearing makeup. After 17 years of wearing makeup every day, I wanted to know if my confidence would endure without it.
What I found was that while I was supremely uncomfortable for the first half of the week, I learned a lot more about myself than I ever expected. Here are the lessons I came out of the week with:
3. Day 1: When I learned how uncomfortable I am with my own bare face.
I can’t tell you how many selfies I took until I landed on THAT one to post to Instagram. And how much I fussed with my hair to try to hide a pimple lurking underneath those bangs. I was filled with relief when people responded and said I looked good without the makeup, but I didn’t actually believe them.
I’m not an insecure person, or at least I’m not when I’m wearing makeup. It was surprising to feel self-conscious all day at work — that’s not a feeling I’m used to. My co-workers told me how great I looked, and that my skin was beautiful. At the time, I was convinced they were lying to make me feel better. I was also convinced that everyone was looking at me, and scrutinizing every inch of my skin.
5. Also, not wearing makeup might have actually made me seem MORE approachable.
I don’t know how else to say this, but I got hit on more when I wasn’t wearing makeup, which was extremely confusing to me. On Day 1, I went to a Dodgers game with BuzzFeed, and was really surprised when random men tried striking up conversations. That doesn’t usually happen to me. Maybe it was that my guard was down, or not wearing makeup made me seem… more approachable? I have no idea, but it didn’t make me feel any more confident either.
6. Day 2: When I realized that not wearing makeup gave me LOADS of time to sleep in.
I had so much free time that I slept in an extra hour. AN HOUR. It doesn’t take me an hour to do my makeup in the morning, but I tend to futz around in the bathroom while doing my makeup. I make coffee, apply some mascara. I eat a muffin, and powder on my blush. Without all that to do, I got to SLEEP. I slept oodles! It was delightful!
8. Day 3: The day I got a pimple, and discovered that going makeup-free takes a lot of courage.
When I get a pimple, I cover that shit up. I layer foundation, then concealer, sometimes a SECOND concealer, and top it off with setting powder so that none of it moves. (Lest the world know of my affliction.)
When you don’t wear makeup, you stare at said pimple, whimper, and then try to hide it with your hair. No one is fooled; there’s a pimple blinking out behind all that hair.
Not having makeup to hide behind is actually pretty scary, and to feel OK about that is really brave. I didn’t feel brave that day, but I think that anyone who chooses to show their bare face to the world, blemishes and all, deserves a damn medal. That is all I have to say.
10. Day 3 is also when someone said the WORST thing in the world to me.
That thing is this: “You look tired.”
Don’t ever say that to someone! It’s very hurtful and not at all a nice thing!
11. Day 4: Not wearing makeup made me care less about my appearance, in general.
The pimple was still there, as you might be able to tell from the above photo. And I decided that to really gauge my comfort, I’d go out into the world and see how strangers reacted to me. Sure, my friends were kind enough to support me, but I wanted to see how others would react.
I went to pick up soup, and made a point of looking everyone in the eye — trying to read their thoughts. I’m not sure what I expected. No one cringed, no one turned away. They just stared back. I will say, though, that people seemed less polite to me while I wandered around. No one held a door open, and when someone bumped into me, they didn’t even say, “Excuse me!” Not totally sure if that was just a coincidence, or a result of not wearing makeup.
13. Day 5: When my boyfriend made me feel pretty, even though no one else could.
I HATE that it took my boyfriend coming home from a work trip to make me feel OK about myself. I hate typing that out. But I told him I wasn’t wearing makeup, and he did a double take. “You look amazing,” he said. “Maybe you should not wear makeup every day.”
It made me feel better than I had that entire week. I think it’s because I always trust his opinion. Like, had my mom been in town and told me the same thing, I would’ve trusted hers as well. Regardless, I really did feel pretty. Just being myself. And I didn’t think about the fact that I was barefaced at all that day. I relaxed and just carried the fuck on.
14. Day 6: This was the first day where I started to appreciate my “flaws.”
I don’t know why I’ve always felt my freckles were a flaw. (Can I blame the media? Let’s go with that!) The media doesn’t always show a lot of love to pale, freckle-faced gingers, and growing up I didn’t have anyone who looked like me on TV. I remember watching The Little Mermaid on a loop as a kid, but even though she had red hair, her skin was FLAWLESS. Not a freckle in sight.
Typically, I’d cover all of my freckles with foundation. But since I wasn’t wearing makeup, I had to look at them every day. To be honest, I had a hard time looking at them initially. They just felt like something I wanted to hide from. On Day 6 though, that changed. I’m not exactly sure why, but I really looked at them for the first time and they made me feel happy. They seemed to just kind of work with my red hair and pale skin. My light eyebrows even made sense when paired with a splash of freckles. It was… a relief. Learning to appreciate them and really seeing them for what felt like the first time has changed me too: I no longer cover my freckles with foundation.
::: cue angels singing :::
16. Day 7: The day I ACTUALLY realize that makeup may, in fact, be completely subjective.
I went to brunch with a friend on my final day without makeup. I was nervous about it, as we went to a place that was in a trendy neighborhood, and I’d likely be seeing a lot of ~pretty people~.
I told my friend that I was still makeup-free, and she said, “But you’re wearing mascara, aren’t you?” I wasn’t, but she thought I was. And that made me wonder if how we look really is just more about how we, personally, feel about ourselves. And my gorgeous co-worker, Leonora Epstein, also pointed out that we might assume the people we see are all wearing makeup, because it’s something that’s almost expected at this point.
Makeup is something that I really do like wearing. It makes me feel powerful, in the same way that a great pair of jeans can give you confidence, or a wonderful hair day. But in the end, it doesn’t actually have much effect on the other people around me, the way I always thought it had. It’s really about how you, as a person, present yourself that will change the way people treat you, and not about what you put on your face.
For me, I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop wearing makeup. That being said, it’s been two weeks since the challenge and I’m wearing significantly less makeup. Since the challenge, I’ve even gone into work a few times totally makeup-free.
19. So taking this challenge actually did help me realize a few things.
1. I don’t NEED to wear makeup every day. Especially if I want to sleep in longer, or just don’t feel like having makeup on all day.
2. I didn’t actually look different without makeup. I mean, maybe a bit different, but most of that was in my head.
3. As long as you’re confident, with or without makeup, people will treat you exactly the same.
4. Not wearing makeup takes a lot of courage, and I’m happy to say that I now feel so much more comfortable not wearing anything on my face. (Other than my real face, of course.)