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    Here's What I Learned On A Minimal Makeup Challenge

    I wear makeup every day, but I didn't want to go without it completely. So I put myself on a minimal makeup challenge, and learned to love being nearly bare.

    Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

    I will never forget the day I consciously went without makeup. This was several years ago now, when I was working my very first job, as an assistant at a high-profile women's magazine. I never, ever went makeup-less to work. But on this day, I decided to give myself a break.

    I was pretty sure I looked like shit, but figured this was the type of thing that was mainly in my head β€” like, seriously, how different did I look with vs. without makeup? I got my answer shortly after arriving to the office when one of the magazine's higher level editors (my boss's boss, and also kind of mine), caught my gaze as he was passing my desk, and stopped dead in his tracks.

    "Leo..." he began cautiously, studying my face in clear shock, "You look so...different."

    The subtext was clear (or at least I thought it was). He was saying I looked awful. The silence only broke when my direct boss leaned into the conversation and rescued me, which was something she was good at.

    "She's going to the dermatologist later, so she couldn't put on makeup," she offered. I think I nodded in false agreement.

    "Oh, maybe that's it," he said as he awkwardly peeled away.

    Me, on a normal makeup day β€” lots of color and foundation.

    Leonora Epstein/BuzzFeed

    That was probably the worst I'd ever felt about my physical appearance. I'm still confused about whether it was unprofessional to show up looking a bit rough, or whether I had been shamed for revealing my acne in the workplace. In retrospect, it's also a possibility that this guy could have just been concerned about me, and didn't really know how to approach the situation.

    Either way, I've rarely left the house without makeup since that incident. Over the years, though, I have come to love cosmetics. I adore Sephora. I love my little boudoir stand covered in pretty products. Makeup is often about fun, but I do also use it as a comfort blanket to cover insecurities.

    My normal routine involves about 10 products.

    Leonora Epstein/BuzzFeed

    Moisturizer, two layers of foundation, mineral powder, concealer, liquid eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow definer, blush, and lipstick.

    I'd really like to be someone who doesn't feel the need to wear makeup. But I don't think that's ever going to be the case. And I'm not really willing to try that out just to see how it feels, either. But, I would like to be OK wearing a lot less makeup, which is why I decided to try out a minimal makeup challenge.

    For the challenge, my routine would look like this:

    1. I can use three products max per day, for a full week. (And I'd be trying out a bunch of new ones.)

    2. SPF is a must, so it won't count towards my three if one of the products doesn't come with SPF coverage.

    3. No heavy foundation, concealer, or overly pigmented products (no eyeshadows, mascara, eyeliners, etc.) The idea here is to get more comfortable with my bare face.

    Day 1: I felt surprisingly OK, but probably because I didn't push limits.

    Day 1 products:

    Day 2: I felt naked, unattractive, and self-conscious. But no one looked at me differently.

    Day 2 products:

    Day 3: I became more comfortable with my nearly bare face, and appreciated the ease of minimal makeup.

    Leonora Epstein/BuzzFeed

    I had a couple comments from co-workers that were all positive. Personally, I see a huge difference in my appearance with minimal makeup. But I'm not sure everyone else does. I also began to notice how much time I ordinarily spend taking off my makeup β€” first with facial wipes, then with eye makeup remover, then washing my face at least twice. It's a real pain and something I now realize I dread every evening. This day made me appreciate not having to deal with removing eyeliner or mascara β€” I'm sometimes still wiping off residue with Q-tips days after. It was the first time during the challenge that I thought about making a permanent adjustment of only wearing mascara/liner a few times a week. We'll see.

    Day 3 products:

    Leonora Epstein / BuzzFeed

    The Sunday Riley tinted primer would basically be perfect if it had sun protection β€” it looks like a creamy foundation when you dispense it, but the coverage is actually super-sheer. Since I was missing mascara yesterday, I used a clear brow gel on my lashes, which didn't make a huge difference. And then a dab of tinted Vaseline on my cheeks and lips.

    Sunday Riley Effortless Tinted Primer, available at Birchbox, $48

    Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel, available at Birchbox, $22

    Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips, available at Walgreen's, $1.79

    Day 4: I finally felt really good about myself in minimal makeup, and decided the amount of makeup on my face might not impact anyone around me.

    Day 4 products:

    Day 5: When I started to look at other women around me and think about my normal routine.

    Leonora Epstein / BuzzFeed

    Friday morning. Weirdly enough, it hasn't been taking me less time to get ready in the mornings. I guess all the time I normally spend on my makeup, I've now been spending on re-doing my hair and waffling on what to wear. Which is frustrating because most days this week I've felt my hair and outfits haven't been anything special, so WHY AM I SPENDING SO MUCH TIME DOING THIS.

    Before work, I decided to treat myself to a croissant and latte. While I was waiting for my coffee, I noticed the two female baristas were wearing loads of makeup β€” dark, heavy foundation, smokey eyes, bronze contouring, the works. They were wearing more than I'd probably even wear on a Saturday night out. It made me wonder for the first time, if I actually don't wear as much makeup as I think I do?

    Day 5 products:

    Day 6: I went for a more made-up look (with only three products!), and really liked it.

    Day 6 products:

    Leonora Epstein / BuzzFeed

    The only new product you're seeing here is the mascara β€”Β it's great!

    They're Real! Lengthening Mascara, available at Benefit, $24

    See day 3 for Sunday Riley info and day 2 for Dior info

    Day 7: On my final day of the challenge, I decided to stop looking at myself for a bit.

    Day 7 products:

    Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Primer, available at Birchbox, $15

    Tropical Punch Lip Smacker, available in Party Pack of 8 at Rite Aid, $9.69

    See day 1 for W3ll People brightener stick info

    Some final thoughts...

    Emotionally, the challenge was a good exercise in putting vanity in perspective. Maybe I'm lucky to work with people and have friends who literally don't give a fuck what I look like. Or maybe they just don't see me any differently from when I look dolled up to when I look natural. Either way, it's good to know that what I put on my face won't drastically change the world around me. It might change what I feel within, and it's good to know now that I'm in control of that.

    Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

    Thanks to Birchbox for providing samples by Smashbox, Sunday Riley, Benefit (Porefessional primer), Ilia, and W3ll People. Urban Decay provided a sample of its Illuminating Beauty Balm. Rest of products used were author's own.

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