Imperfections, meet kindness-my thoughts after going makeup-free for a month

I was sitting in a chair, my back facing a huge mirror in my grandmother’s closet. My aunt, who is really more like a sister since there’s a small age difference between us, asked me if I wanted to put on some makeup. I was just staring at her while she layered her lashes with endless coats of mascara. She sat me down on a chair, curled my lashes, added some mascara and a red lipstick, teased my hair and said “what do you think?” I turned around and looked in the mirror… “eww!” I didn’t like the red lipstick at all and my hair!? My hair was just so… so big. She laughed and told me that when I grow up, I’ll love makeup and will tease my hair every day. I looked at her and said “no way!” I was probably about five or six. That, was my first encounter with makeup.

I mean, most likely. I don’t know, I might have eaten some lipstick or something when I was a toddler?

Fast-forward some years and I’m a tween, already suffering from acne. I was home alone one day and noticed that my mom left her makeup bag out on the kitchen table. I picked up her foundation bottle, poured about 1/3 of what was inside in my hand and smeared it all over my face. I looked in the mirror and was blown away. My acne was completely covered up. Of course, my neck ended  up being 2-3 shades lighter than my face, but the important thing was that my skin was glowing. I’m pretty sure it was at that moment, that I fell in love with makeup. I couldn’t stop staring in the mirror, thinking “so this is what it’s like to have clear skin“.

When I started working at around fifteen, I spent my very first paycheck on a bag-full of makeup. Every other Saturday, my sister and I would go to a local drugstore and spend hours browsing through the makeup isles. We then had to hide the shopping bags in the basement (or drop them off in my room through an open window) before coming in to the house. If my dad saw how much makeup we were buying, he’d probably make us return it all. Well, not probably. He definitely would. I’m pretty sure there’d be quite a lot of yelling involved too. The best part about our little drugstore adventures, was sneaking out to the basement once our parents went to sleep, and going through those shopping bags. We’d sit on the couch, unpack those little sparkly treasures (making sure to get rid of any evidence, of course, like boxed packaging) swatch everything on our hands and plan out the looks we’ll create. It was something we always looked forward to.

I’ve always loved playing with makeup, but it wasn’t until I was in my late teens/early twenties, that I felt like I need to wear it. My acne was at its worse and even though all the bumps were still visible under a layer of foundation and concealer, it made me feel better. Browsing through makeup or skincare isles was no longer fun or exciting. I’d be so nervous that someone will notice that I’m checking out full coverage foundations or that I’m looking at acne creams. I went through this too often- someone would notice what I’m looking at, come up to me and start recommending a product or commenting on my skin, making me feel all kinds of uncomfortable. If it was up to me, I’d just stop leaving the house.

One of my lowest moments was when my husband and I took a little road trip to visit his friends. We stayed over at their apartment and after taking a shower at night, I looked in the mirror and broke down crying. I was breaking out all over the place, my skin was red and blotchy and I felt so self-conscious, that I actually put foundation on, right before going to sleep. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but otherwise, I’d probably never have enough courage to leave that bathroom.

GOING MAKEUP-FREE

So see, I have a long relationship with makeup. If it wasn’t for my love for makeup/beauty, this blog probably wouldn’t exist. Makeup was like a friend, that I could always count on, whenever I needed to feel a little better about my skin. I knew that if after hours of crying and all the “I’m not goings” and “you guys just go without mes“, I did decide to go out for a drink or dinner, I could dig out a few trusty products and still look and feel good. Well… better, at minimum.

Now that my skin is clear, it seemed to me that going makeup free for a month wouldn’t be a big deal. In all honesty, I didn’t really plan on going without makeup for that long it just kind of…. happened. As I was (still am) grieving the loss of my grandmother, makeup was the last thing on my mind. I cried and screamed into a pillow every couple of hours anyway, so what was the point?

After about a week and a half I was in the office, when I looked in the mirror as I was washing my hands and thought: “shit, I forgot to put makeup on this morning.” I then realized that I haven’t worn makeup since before Christmas. It was kind of strange realization to have, but it also made me a little happy inside. The last thing I used to do before leaving the house, was to look in the mirror, making sure that every single spot on my skin is concealed and that my skin doesn’t look oily. I mean, my acne and the fear of someone commenting on my skin was on my mind 24/7. Now, I had more time for morning cuddles with my pup.

I see that I’m not the only one who didn’t get much sleep last night, eh?” , “are you sure you’re feeling okay, you look so tired today?!” These were the comments I had to put up with for those four -five weeks. And while I do love makeup, I like to keep things to a minimum on daily basis. Just a foundation, mascara, lipstick, maybe some bronzer. Oh and a brow pencil, of course, can’t forget the brows! I mean, you’d think that no one would notice your eyebrows not looking full or even, or that your skin is a bit red. Ohhhh.. “they” notice.

Having dealt with almost two decades of unsolicited skincare advice, I’ve grown thick skin. For as long as I can remember, I had people (read: strangers) come up to me in the most random places (thinking of you, lady standing behind me at the DMV) and offer skincare advice. Yes, there were times when I had to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths in order to stop myself from punching someone in the face. But, when I was young, there were also moments when I had to do everything in my power to stop myself from crying, every single time someone would look at me and say “aww you poor thing!” For a few years there I felt like my skin problems took over my life. People didn’t see me, they only saw my acne. Every time I got together with a bunch of friends, I always knew that sooner or later, the topic of my skin would come up (“soo.. your skin is looking a little  better! Listen, my friend had this interesting treatment done..”) Blah blah blah fucking blah.

So, all those “you look exhausted” and “are you getting sick?” comments I got when I went makeup-free, didn’t bother me. Much. The only time I questioned my lack of concealer was when the nurse at the lab where I was getting some blood work done took one look at me and said “oh, you must be here for a drug test, have a seat“.

MY THOUGHTS…

There were quite a few things that I noticed during those four-five weeks. One: I had a lot more time in the morning. My morning makeup/beauty routine isn’t too complicated and doesn’t take up a lot of time to begin with. Still, it was kind of nice not having to worry about putting any makeup on. Second thing I noticed? I could rub my eyes freely, without having to worry about smudging my mascara. Third? Well.. other people would actually notice that lack of makeup, too. Four… I missed wearing makeup.

Even though I just got rid of probably a third of my makeup collection, I still love it just as much as I did when I took that foundation from my mom’s makeup bag.

I also treated this little experiment as a lesson on kindness. I noticed that after two weeks I started avoiding looking in the mirror when I was out running errands. I remember picking up some groceries when I noticed this gorgeous woman standing in line for some sushi. There were three small kids running around her, yet she had perfectly manicured nails, and even though she wore gym clothes, her makeup looked flawless. I self-consciously brushed my brows with my fingers (some weird habit I’ve developed during those weeks) and thought “God, I bet my skin looks so fucking blotchy right now“.  I then reminded myself of those times when makeup-free grocery store trips were out of the questions for me. Times when I cried before every single important presentation in college, or out of state trip where I’d have to present my research or speak in front of people. Yet now, here I was, standing in line to pick up my favorite brown rice avocado sushi, completely makeup-free. As I walked away, I took one more look at the flawless-looking, undeniably busy mom of three, and thought “good on her!” But also, good on me.

The days when I felt that I “have to” wear makeup, are long gone. I don’t have a problem going makeup-free, but why should I? This little “experiment” made me realize just how fun wearing makeup is. Now that my skin is clear, I think that I actually like makeup even more. I missed reaching out for my favorite lipstick, the one that always earns me a ton of compliments. Or my favorite foundation that feels so light, yet makes my skin look extra pretty.

I don’t wear makeup to cover up. I don’t do it because I’m not confident or because I’m self-conscious. Not anymore, anyway. I don’t have a problem going out without foundation, but at the same time, I don’t know if I’d feel the same way if I was still battling severe acne. Perhaps, I wouldn’t.

Point is, I went makeup-free for a month, and I survived to tell the tale.

  • Janet

    Bravo!!! I think you really put yourself to the test not only for your love of products and your blog, but because you were willing to say, “This is the real me!”.

    I have always admired seeing a stranger who has taken the time to do their nails or hair. It means they love themselves and take time for themselves. When my kids were young I did that. I was determined not to let my fun and ‘pretty’ side disappear. I’m a little more lax these days…I don’t beat myself up if my nails look a little worse for the wear or my lipstick has faded away. And I avoid mirrors. I remember a quote by Cher. She said once she has finished her makeup she never looks in a mirror. Sometimes it can bring us down…we look so fresh and beautiful when we leave the house but then our tiredness and fading makeup takes it’s toll!! Then…well it’s the same as when you stopped wearing makeup for a month…you have to be you, just you.

    Thanks for an excellent post, Paula!

    Jane x

    • Thank you so much Jane! That is so true- makeup always looks best right after applying it. I think that one of the things I didn’t like and noticed myself doing was that once I stopped wearing makeup, I also didn’t pay as much attention to things like styling my hair, etc.

      I’m definitely planning on having more makeup-free days in the future and love that it just isn’t such a big deal to me anymore. It’s a pretty great feeling :)

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, as always Jane! x

  • Reading that post put a big big smile on my face. It is such a wonderful story of success and learning, and changing, and growing, and everything. It’s one of these rare moment of little heroism to oneself, where so much can be improved and big battles can be fought, and the world barely notices although it is completely different for one person from now on. I really hope it continuous this way for you <3

    • Aww thanks Aleks! It seems a little silly to stress out about things like going makeup-free, but it used to be such a big deal to me. There’s definitely a nice sense of freedom and maybe even accomplishment that comes with knowing I can handle doing something that used to terrify the crap out of me haha ;)

  • Amazing! I feel like I rely on make up so much. Although I’m happy to leave the house when I’m spot free, when I do have a breakout it’s a completely different story. I hope one day I’m brave enough as you to not give a damn!xx

    Lucy x | lucy-cole.co.uk

  • Such a beautiful post Paula! I was quite lucky growing up to not have to deal with acne, but have been getting it more and more since turning 20. I’ve finally found a skincare routine that seems to be working so I’m trying to work up the confidence to go totally makeup free!! I’m at the Concealer and Brow-gel only point right now, so feeling pretty good about it!

    Totally agree that sometimes I miss doing full on makeup, even though I feel more like myself in much lighter products. Love getting to hear about your life, and sending my love to you!

    Amelia
    x

    http://www.ameliasaysthis.com

    • Thank you so much Beauty! Definitely consider yourself lucky that you didn’t have to grow up dealing with acne- it was a bitch lol Concealer and brow-gel is almost no makeup at all, so you’re pretty much there. Happy you were able to find a skincare routine that works well for you!

  • This was a fantastic read! I’m so glad you’re actually feeling comfortable in your own skin now. This is the best continuation of your post about dealing with your acne. With the things some people had said to you, I understand completely that makeup would have felt like the biggest essential. I’m so happy for you to have the freedom to go without makeup now – and a whole month, at that!

    Jenn │ Beauty by Jellybean

    • Thank you so much Jenn! In all honesty I’m loving my skin. It’s such an amazing thing for someone who struggled with skin issues for as long as I have, to wake up and smile while looking in the mirror. It feels pretty awesome, but I still love me some makeup though haha :D

  • I never really suffered from acne, but I always used to wear makeup in high school. I remember once, I was just back from a vacation on the Red Sea and my skin was tanned and I felt confident in going at school makeup-free. That day my religion professor asked me, repeatedly “Are you feeling well? You look really sick…Do you want me calling an ambulance?” No kidding. As you can imagine, I’ve always wore makeup after that day :P Therefore, I really admire you for this passed month!

    • Omg that must have been a horrible experience haha. I wish people would stop saying things like that. It’s nice to hear someone asking if you’re feeling well, but not when they point out your appearance lol

  • Melina Pena

    This was so wonderfully told! You are such a great storyteller, I loved hearing about your experience without makeup! I love makeup, and I’ve never had bad skin, so for that I was fortunate, but whenever I didn’t wear makeup, I got a lot of the comments about being tired. Most of the time, I don’t feel forced to wear it. Sometimes when I go out to a club/bar, I think about the fact that I can’t go out without makeup. I would just feel so terrible about myself! So I guess to some extent I feel forced? I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore, but just know that I loved this post xxx

    Melina | http://www.ivefoundwaldo.com

    • Thank you Melina, so happy you enjoyed reading this post! I never felt forced to wear makeup, but it was almost as if I wore it so that other people don’t point out my skin. Just hated the fact that everyone would come up to me and comment on my skin.

      I don’t think I’d ever go makeup-free to a bar or a club, but that’s more because when you go out you definitely want to feel comfortable and pretty and confident- especially when the thought of going out itself wears you out-like it does in my case haha :) Thank you so much for stopping by Melina!

  • Great story! Even though I’ve never had really bad skin, it’s always become second nature to wear makeup, but when I randomly don’t wear it, it’s kinda nice to have a naked face for a day ;)

  • Such a lovely post and story :) I can particularly relate to the ‘sushi experience’: every time I’m facing a perfect makeup face whilst I’m makeup free, my first reaction is to tell myself that I should have taken some time to put a little bit of makeup on in the morning, but then I always think that I used to feel incredibly uncomfortable without makeup and now I’m happy to leave the house without it! And then I also hope that the perfect makeup face sometimes leaves the house without makeup as well!

    http://fannyanddailybeauty.com

    • It’s so funny how we tend to compare ourselves to others even in those small day-to-day situations, isn’t it? I love that sense of freedom that came with going makeup-free- especially the fact that after a week or two, I stopped stressing out about it so much!

  • I find now that going without makeup is really refreshing and I actually now look forward to my makeup free day (Sunday). Plus you cant argue with more time in the mornings, aka more time in bed!

    Annabel ♥

    Mascara & Maltesers

  • Such a great post, is definitely a inspiration! I wish I could leave the house without makeup but I get too self conscious. Maybe one day!

    Carla | carlamirabelli.blogspot.com.au

  • Hi Paula! Love this post so much, thank you for sharing your journey with makeup. It takes a lot of courage going makeup free for a month and I really admire you for that! I could go a few days without makeup but a month would definitely be a challenge. Thanks for being an inspiration to all women out there!

    • Regina, thank you so much! So happy you enjoyed this post! Few days is great too- a couple of years ago I wouldn’t even go a day without makeup (unless I didn’t have to leave the house haha!) so that’s great!

  • Bernadette

    As i didn’t get into makeup till i went to university i never found i relied on it heavily or was nervous to go makeup free. If I feel like wearing makeup I wear it (Whether i am not actually leaving to go out anywhere or i am leaving the house). If i don’t feel like wearing it i don’t even if i am going out – most of the time when I am out with my boyfriend i don’t even wear makeup. I am lucky that I didn’t deal with acne – i know it’s much harder for those who struggle with acne.

    http://www.themakeupaficionado.com

    • You’re definitely very lucky that you never had to deal with skin problems. It can take a toll on you. I’m happy you didn’t have to go through that! :)

  • This is a beautiful post. Sometimes we don’t know the strength we have until we decide to face our fears. It is so liberating. Lovely.

    http://www.yourbeautypantry.com

  • I loved reading this Paula. I know it must have been an awful experience throughout your teenage years to hear “advice” on skincare from all these random people on the street. I also notice that sometimes when I don’t wear make-up for one, two weeks I start missing it and honestly it is more about “me time” rather than “oh I have to look perfect so no one judges me”. People will judge no matter what, so it is always important to stick to what’s right for you and not someone else. Here in Dubai we are almost pressured to wear makeup, everyone wears night-time/glam makeup even in the morning and if you don’t wear any – sometimes you are treated differently; as if you are a big mess and don’t take care about your looks. I love being able to wear say a trendy black lipstick to the mall and not being labeled as goth or emo per say (no offense to them btw), but at the same time I hate that you can’t just go for groceries make-up free, without people giving you odd looks.

    Naya // http://www.partyparrotblog.com

    • Unsolicited skincare advice is the worst lol I think that it’s so awesome that you don’t have to worry about being judged when rocking a bold look! I know I’d get some crazy looks if I wore heavy makeup when going shopping. I grew up in a similar culture in Poland- people would dress up to take their garbage out. When I moved to the US I couldn’t believe that some women would wear PJs and hair rollers to go grocery shopping. I’m used to it now and it doesn’t surprise me when I see it. I even rocked my PJs to a supermarket once. But only once! It was at 2 am though lol I still consider that to be one of the wildest things I ever did haha! :)

  • This really touched my heart. Since the 7th grade when my mom bought me my first BareMinerals set, I’ve worn makeup every time i had to leave the house. Thanks to mom’s genetics, though I do love her, my skin is very acne prone, so the makeup wasn’t doing me any favors. I finally realized this and stopped wearing foundation when I switched my skincare routine, and my skin is definitely clearer. Now I’m able to just do whatever eye makeup I come up with that day, put a bit of primer on, and look in the mirror and be happy with myself. I’m glad you’ve found contemptment with being makeup free! Xx
    Stellar Dolly

    • No one in our family had skin problems, but me and my sister really struggled with acne since we were very young. My little brother that lucky bastard doesn’t have to deal with it haha ;) I love playing with makeup but it does feel nice to feel comfortable going out without it. So happy that you were able to find a good skincare routine that works for you!

  • This was such a great read! I’ve often considered going makeup free for a while, and you’ve inspired me to do it!
    { Katie Actually }

  • I love this post! It’s crazy how much acne effects your self esteem! I totally relate to you though, I wouldn’t even dream of going out without makeup a couple of years ago, and now I will only wear it for work (most of the time) or if I’m doing something “special” lol.
    thanks for sharing!
    XX -KK
    http://www.KayleeKarcher.com
    #ObsessedWithEverything

    • Thank you so much Kaylee! So happy that I’m not the only who had to deal with that (well.. not really happy that you had to deal with that, but happy you can relate). I think that only someone who struggled with bad skin can understand how badly it can affect you. x

  • CutieandherBeauty

    I relate sooo much to this.Some days are better than others.But when your acne has a mind of its own it’s just hard to remember that it’s not the end of the world.Nothing feels worse than taking something you love like makeup and using it to cover up something your not proud of.It feels like sucking the love out of everything you’re doing.It is quite a struggle.I loved this post though,and good on you for sure(:

    http://www.cutieandherbeauty.com

    • It’s hard to remember that it’s not the end of the world, but it sure does feel like it at times. Thank you so much for stopping by lovely!

  • This was a super interesting post to read, so thanks first of all for sharing! I think it’s awesome how, by letting go of makeup, you realized truly why you wore it. I just want to point any of those STUPID people who say you only wear makeup for others’ approval and point them to this!

    • Thank you! Oh yes there are so many people who think that others wear makeup to impress others. Or those stupid memes all over the web about guys taking girls to a pool or a sauna on the first date. So ridiculous!

  • This was such a beautiful post, love!! I know when I’m having a bad skin day I feel so reliant on makeup because I don’t want anyone to comment on the way my skin looks. I always get the “are you tired/okay?” questions when I don’t wear makeup and it’s so irritating. But not wearing makeup does feel nice, and it gives you so much extra time in the morning to snuggle with your fur babies. It’s the best :)

    I’m so glad you don’t feel like you have to wear makeup anymore. It’s so freeing when you’re finally comfortable enough in your own skin to go without it. But, like you, makeup is fun for me so I do miss it when I don’t wear it for a while!

    xx
    Nida | Caked To The Nines

    • Aww thank you so much Nida! It’s so nice to have a few trusty products you can reach for when your skin is acting up. Going makeup-free definitely feels better when your skin looks great haha:)

      I think that now that I don’t feel like I have to wear makeup, I’m going to have a lot more fun playing with it. It’s just so nice to put your favorite foundation on and see your skin look nice and smooth instead of it looking red and bumpy. :)

  • Elizabeth Hisle

    Ok, I know I am late to the party, but I fucking LOVE this post. I mean, it may be my favorite of all time here at Thirteen Thoughts. As much as I do love makeup, I think it’s a sign of empowerment when a woman can go without and not give a damn. It’s not easy to get to that point, for all the reasons you listed and more…. I just can’t believe all the comments and unsolicited advice people will dish out. Anyway, to get to a moment in life where you can say “this is what you get, world. this is me.”… Man, life can’t get any better than that.

    P.S. I snuck makeup too, hehe. I was not allowed to wear anything but foundation and neutral blush for the longest time.

    waltzandwillow.com

    • Thank you so much Elizabeth, I am so, so happy you liked this post! Getting to this point definitely wasn’t easy and it took a few years haha. But it does feel amazing!!

      Haha I knew I wasn’t the only one who did that haha! :)