Young Mother Gives Up ‘Beauty’ for One Year

Phoebe Baker-Hyde in a photo taken by her daughter Harriet.Frustrated with low self-esteem and feeling pressure to always look perfect, Phoebe Baker-Hyde gave up 'beauty' for an entire year.

In 2007, shortly after giving birth to her daughter, whenever Baker-Hyde glanced in the mirror she was overwhelmed by how exhausted she looked. Like many women, she was tired of spending enormous amounts of money on makeup and so-called miracle face creams. This time, rather than piling on the beauty products, she went in the complete opposite direction.

After one "mirror meltdown," Baker-Hyde made the decision to stop wearing makeup, swore off special beauty products like moisturizers and conditioners, and chopped 14 inches off of her hair, leaving her with a boyish mop-top for easy maintenance. She stopped shaving and covered up all the mirrors in her home. Baker-Hyde also decided she would stop shopping for clothes and made no attempt to dress with style. The result of her year-long experience is her new book, The Beauty Experiment, out December 25.

During her beauty fast, Baker-Hyde was living in Hong Kong with her husband who had been transferred there on business. "I was working on a historical novel, but I was not in a professional environment. Being the 'wife' with a capital 'W' in a foreign country was a new experience for me. Suddenly I was connected to my husband, I didn't feel like an individual," Baker-Hyde told Yahoo! Shine. "In Hong Kong there's still the Victorian influence—there's high tea, and everyone has live-in nannies. I had no institutional attachment. I felt very insecure."

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The experiment was meant to give Baker-Hyde a renewed sense of self-worth-but the year didn't pass without significant speed bumps along the way. After the first outing with her new look, she decided she couldn't tell her ex-pat girlfriends about the experiment. "Everyone was talking about the opening of a new department store, and I had just sworn off buying new clothes. I just sat there and I realized that if I told them I was going to risk their friendship. "

Baker-Hyde with her daughter in Hong Kong, shortly after she started the experiment.Getting back to grooming basics helped Baker-Hyde to see the issues at the roots of her insecurities. "My daughter was one year old. My husband traveled a lot and I needed more sleep. There were a lot of 'shoulds,' but I didn't need to be making my own baby food! The experiment made me realize what was important to focus on—maintaining my hormonal balance, and getting enough rest."

Making an effort to take better care of herself from the inside out proved beneficial in the beauty arena as well. "If you're drinking two bottles of wine a night because you're stressed out, you're going to need three layers of concealer to cover up that fatigue the next day," Baker-Hyde explains. "Sometimes looking your best isn't about a miracle cream or great makeup. It's about taking care of yourself and making time for yourself."

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Since 2008, Baker-Hyde has resumed normal life and is now living in the States with her husband and two children. The lessons she learned from "The Beauty Experiment" have given her more self-confidence. As for simple steps women can take without having to go cold turkey on beauty, Baker-Hyde insists on getting at eight-hours of sleep a night and suggests going to a social event without wearing any makeup. "Just do it once, and if you feel good, do it again. Doing that allowed me to cut through the voice that says 'I don't feel perfect' and replace it with 'my ordinary face is beautiful.'"

Even if we can learn to take better care of ourselves, will the emphasis on a woman's physical appearance ever change? "I think the baby boomers have paved the way. For instance, my mother is in great shape—not because she wants to look sexy, but because she needs her body to help her do the things she wants to do," says Baker-Hyde. "I was at home visiting her recently. We were at the pool—she had just swum a mile and she gets out of the pool and comes over to me. She was beautiful! And I realized, that's my role model—not someone on Baywatch, but my mother, who looks beautiful and happy."

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