Let's get this out of the way: I am 100 million percent in support of women's natural beauty - and of fighting the patriarchal standards that dictate how we should and shouldn't look. If you don't want to wear makeup, don't wear makeup! That being said, when I was informed that I'd be doing a makeup-free week in the name of journalism, I felt my heart frown.
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You see, I'm an all-the-time makeup sort of girl - no one here at work has seen me without it. They may think they have, but putting on natural-looking face makeup every morning is part of my skill-set. And, wearing vibrant, weirdo colors is one of my favorite things to do. I plan outfits around lipstick and set my alarm based on my eyeliner game. I've pretty much always been like this.
It's not a matter of self-confidence, as I feel fine about my goddess-given face, but let's be honest. I'm a busy girl in a dirty city. I don't get enough sleep. I turn pink when I feel things. Makeup lets me hide all that. Yes, I'd rather have the complexion of a 20-year-old vegan yoga enthusiast who lives in the mountains and doesn't work. But isn't that what a good BB cream is for? Plus, I rely on makeup to make me look not just more alive, but to convey my personality. So much is communicated through makeup choices. My bare face, though, is a blank canvas for other people's projections. I like to have more control than that.
My detox lasted for five days. Totally reasonable, right? The goal was to figure out if not wearing makeup would improve the quality of my skin, which has been in an all-out revolt since September. So, we wanted to see if letting it breathe a little would help. I had hope. The Internet is full of other women's success stories after quitting makeup: improved skin, clear pores, an embracing of their bare faces. Could I be that girl? Could I give up my favorite products and feel not just okay about it, but liberated?
My first problem on day one was figuring out what to wear. I mean, I know exactly what to pair with black lipstick, but what in the world do you wear with no makeup? My bare face in particular makes me look much younger than I am, and not in a "fresh-faced" way, but more like a "shouldn't you be in school?" sort of way. So, my instinct was to dress a little bit more sophisticated than usual to balance it out. Still, I really didn't like the way that I looked - like I was only half-ready for the world. The main problem, though, was that my bare face made me feel naked no matter what I put on.
Once I got to work, it took a couple of hours for my colleagues to notice, during which time it occurred to me that maybe I didn't look very different after all. Of course, once everyone's coffee had kicked in, the comments began. While no one said anything negative, because that would be mean, plenty of observations about my face were offered up, unsolicited. "You're not wearing any makeup right now," was a popular one. My colleagues who love me insisted that I looked great, but please believe me when I tell you that I didn't. Opting out of a shower that morning hadn't helped either. I resigned myself to hiding behind my large glasses (which were also called out several times).
Halfway through the day, I made the mistake of looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, which is lit with the same lights they use in hell. I was not pleased with what I saw. I looked tired, messy, and not at all like how I like to look in a professional setting. I hid from mirrors and reflective surfaces in general after that.
(Please note: You might not be able to see all of the hullabaloo happening on my face because these are professionally-taken photographs in perfect light, and I begged the photo team to make me look as good as possible (because, vanity). Also, I don't think my zits are on-brand.)Refinery29
I slunk home, defeated. Day one of my makeup detox hadn't given me a revelation about my own natural beauty. If anything, it validated my lifelong love affair with foundation. I am as into my skin-care routine as I am my makeup ritual, so it's not a matter of simply neglecting one kind of beauty for the other. I moisturize religiously, wear sunscreen, do all the right face masks, and love my face oils. While my skin-care products do the best they can, they can't fight the elements, and my skin is particularly sensitive to cold weather and wind.
Over the course of the next few days, my skin worsened. I broke out along my jaw and between my eyes, and a dry patch I'd thought I'd taken care of reappeared angrily. It was as though I'd lost a line of defense against the world. Rather than having a shield of protective products, my face was free to absorb all the grossness happening around me. Riding the subway started to feel like doing a facial steam in someone's armpit.
I yearned for my BB, but dutifully faced the world without it - a world that in general was starting to notice me less. Whereas I can tell you at least five lipsticks off the top of my head that women on the street always ask me about, girls with rad beauty looks were looking right through me. Not that I need to be asked about my makeup, but, you know. When you leave the house on a Thursday morning in sparkly burgundy lipstick, gold eyeliner, and a strong brow, you can count on certain reactions from the other people who care about that sort of thing.
On the final day of my makeup cleanse, my skin didn't feel detoxed. I didn't have a renewed sense of confidence. I didn't care less about my appearance. I was thrilled to put my makeup back on, and as I recreated the image of myself I like to project, I felt a sense of relief. I was back.
In the days that followed, though, I found myself using less makeup than I usually would. Rather than create a mask over my face to work with, I started using as little face makeup as possible, concealing only the areas that were bothering me. Call it a lesson learned - or chalk it up to the fact that I realized spending less time on my makeup means I get to sleep more in the morning. As for the bright colors? Those I'm never giving up.