Every morning I’d look in the mirror at my face, and immediately notice every imperfection I needed to cover. All I could see were dark circles under my eyes and uneven red splotches on my cheeks. Within minutes I was applying concealer before I’d even brushed my teeth.
I’d never been more aware of this habit until a particular morning when my 15-month-old daughter reached her chubby little hand into my makeup bag, pulled out a plush powder brush, and started dabbing it along her perfect baby cheek. She had seen me do this every morning since she was born. It was then that I realized the responsibility I have to her and to myself, to accept, love, and appreciate my natural beauty, rather than painting over it every morning.
For me, makeup began as a novelty. Wearing a little lip gloss to the school dance, or sneaking eyeliner in my purse and applying it in the bathroom before class felt cool and rebellious. Somewhere along the way, whether out of peer pressure or to cover embarrassing breakouts (like the cystic acne I suffered from), makeup went from fun and adventurous, to painstakingly necessary. A dab of cover-up on an unwelcomed zit graduated to a full face of foundation, setting spray, bronzer, blush and a lined eye with a thick coating of mascara. I personally never enjoyed the process of applying it. However, a full face of makeup had become the foundation (pun intended) of my self-esteem. I felt that if I didn’t cover my imperfections, I would become defined by them.
In an effort to treat the cystic acne (turned infection) that caused me to wear so much makeup, I received a chemical peel. Not wanting to interfere with my skin’s healing process, I went foundationless to work, and my coworkers noticed. They saw my natural look as sickly. I couldn’t leave my desk or attend a meeting that day without someone asking if I was feeling well. Clearly, it was difficult to embrace going natural after that, though I should have. I was working towards treating and loving my skin, but I still couldn’t break my dependence on makeup.
The turning point came the day of my grandmother’s funeral. I woke up, brushed my teeth, put on a dress and didn’t bother with my face knowing I would just cry off anything I applied. It was the shortest amount of time I’d ever taken to get ready. And yes, I had zits. Even during that sad occasion, where my vanity took a back seat to grieving, I felt liberated because I wasn’t thinking of how I looked. On a day like that or any day for that matter, no one is thinking about my face. Why should I?
After coming to this realization, I gained the motivation I needed to begin the makeup-free challenge, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I could never go cold turkey. If you’re anything like me, taking on the no-makeup challenge means you’ll start by eliminating the least necessary step of makeup application in your routine. For example, I stopped using heavy liquid eyeliner, which eased me into a new appearance. Slowly the eyeshadows, contouring, highlighter, and bronzer followed suit, gradually making my way to a more natural me. This strategy eased me into the process without hurting my confidence. Nowadays, I still cling to my under-eye concealer after a sleepless night and pressed powder to control my shiny t-zone, but it’s a far cry from the 40-minute makeup routine that used to eat up my mornings. I can go food shopping with only a layer of moisturizer on my skin, and still hold my head up high when I greet someone—even if there’s a zit on my face. That’s a big deal.
Who I see in the mirror now is more recognizable than the made-up version. The real, freckled, fresh-faced, imperfect me is more easy-going but just as beautiful, and it feels amazing to have so much more time and flexibility as a result. The no-makeup challenge has been about embracing the freedom of not relying on makeup to feel good about myself. Does this mean I don’t enjoy a beautiful lip color? No, of course not! But I don’t rely on it, and that makes all the difference. Makeup has gone back to being a fun and adventurous addition to a face I already love. And that’s an example I’m proud to set for my daughter every morning.
Photo Credit: Gorbelabda/Shutterstock