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.
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“.
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.