I love wearing makeup; a deep red lip and a bold brow are two of my favorite accessories. I also love not wearing makeup, giving my skin the freedom to breathe, moisten, detox. When it comes to makeup vs. no makeup, I'm firmly on both sides of the issue.
The author in full makeup.
Many of you might argue that makeup isn't an "issue," and I agree. As women, we have more important issues to worry about right now, which is why I'm glad that makeup is part of the conversation. Maybe the more we talk about women not wearing makeup, such as Alicia Keys going barefaced at the VMAs and Hillary Clinton wearing little to no makeup in her first post-election appearance, the less it will be newsworthy when a woman opts out of makeup.
Recent movements such as the Power of Makeup challenge, which encouraged women to share photos with makeup on just one side of their faces, have made me rethink my own relationship with it. The day I arrived at work barefaced for our Power of Makeup photo shoot, I admitted I had become a makeup addict without realizing it.
The author trying the Power of Makeup challenge.
In college and in my early 20s, I often wore little to no makeup, but as I got older, my no-makeup days grew fewer and far between, becoming pretty much nonexistent by the time I reached my 30s. Partly it's because I love makeup. I enjoy the ongoing quest for the perfect foundation, concealer, and mascara. I love trying out new products, like the matte liquid lipstick trend, and experimenting with new techniques, such as strobing. I enjoy the process of putting on makeup every day, for reasons I can't explain or justify.
I had become a makeup addict without realizing it.
But a couple of years ago, I realized I had become so used to the way my face looked with makeup that I no longer liked my face without it. I rarely left the house without at least some makeup, even on weekends. For at least five years, maybe more, the only time I skipped makeup on the weekends was if I didn't leave the house. On vacation, I applied makeup even when I was the only one who cared. I preferred the way I looked with makeup on. None of that bothered me — until one day it did.
I started by mixing up my routine during the week: when I was in the mood, I'd still go all-out with every step of my routine: foundation, eye shadow, highlighter, and a brief flirtation with contouring I have since abandoned. But other days, I opted more for the minimal makeup I'd once reserved for weekends: tinted moisturizer, mascara, and blush. The change took some getting used to, especially when I saw myself in the harsh light of the office bathroom, but eventually it started to feel normal.
After a few weeks of dabbling in the minimal makeup look at work, I opted to skip makeup entirely one weekend. As I got into the car on my way to meet friends, I remember saying to my boyfriend, "I didn't put on any makeup today. I feel like I look terrible." Like any good boyfriend should, he replied, "I think you look pretty." Then he added in all honesty: "I think I like it better." While I appreciated his reassurance, I still preferred how I looked with makeup, and I had no intention of denying myself what I wanted based on his opinion.
The world did not end that day, but I changed — not because of what my boyfriend had said, but because of my experience. I felt grateful that I hadn't wasted my time on makeup that no one cared about but me. I realized I could feel comfortable without it. As I started going makeup-free more often on the weekends, my bare face stopped looking weird to me. In the past, my skin without makeup looked washed-out and uneven to me; I didn't feel like myself when I looked in the mirror. But once I got used to it, my bare face looked normal, even pretty. Going makeup-free on the weekends changed my perception of my face without adornment, and suddenly, makeup didn't seem as essential.
Since then, makeup-free weekends have become my norm and so have makeup-free vacations. I no longer hate the photos of me without makeup on vacation. I stopped feeling like I needed makeup to help me look more polished when I went out to dinner on Saturday nights. If I wanted a little boost, I'd put on some lip color, but that was it.
The author wearing no makeup.
I have yet to go entirely makeup-free at work, because it feels like part of my professional persona. Since I dress casually and make very little effort with my hair, makeup is my way of looking polished in the office. However, I have joined video calls from home without makeup, which I never would have done two years ago. Eventually, maybe I'll even take the no-makeup plunge at work, or not. What matters is that it's my face, and I can do whatever I want with it.