What I Learned From A Year Without MakeUp

In a past life, I used to wear a lot of makeup.

Actually, that’s not accurate. I know girls who wear a lot of make-up- girls who practically paint on a new face each day. I was never a girl who wore her appearance as a disguise. My daily routine was along the lines of moisturizer, powder foundation, eyeshadow, curler, mascara and maybe some blush or lip gloss.

Me with make-up... and a lot of hair - A Year Without Makeup
Me with makeup… and a lot of hair

When you consider the thousands of beauty products out there this is not really all that much. Still, after two years of traveling it’s absurd to me that I went through all of that every single morning for years and years. What a lot of time and effort! I could have been sleeping!

When I started living on the road I pretty much quit wearing makeup cold turkey. I never intended to go a year without makeup in the beginning. I had packed the basics (including my eyelash curler-don’t judge!), but I immediately stopped using any of it. At first, I was too jetlagged to bother, then there didn’t seem to be a point. It was just more trouble than it was worth.

In Australia we lived out of a van: the idea of putting on mascara in the rearview mirror was almost comical. In South East Asia it would have immediately melted off anyways. In China, I already looked so radically different from everyone else on campus I just couldn’t see any point in trying to dress things up. All of a sudden 6 months had gone by and I’d worn makeup maybe two or three times. You know, for big nights out.

A Boat Trip - A Year Without Makeup

I sure didn’t miss it. In fact, I abandoned most of my beauty routines from home: my hair was in a constant pony-tail and I’d lost all qualms about wearing the same dress four days in a row. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my appearance, it was that suddenly, for the first time since I hit puberty, my own face just seemed like enough. I didn’t need to add anything to make myself presentable to the world.

Oddly, even during my three months in Argentina, where women at the grocery store are made up to the nines, I just couldn’t be bothered. I wasn’t like those women, I never would be, so what was the point. I was an outsider, exempted from their beauty rules, and it was really freeing.

In my past life, I remember being late to work one day and forgetting to apply any makeup. All day people were asking me if I was sick. This didn’t happen when I traveled. Nobody commented on my bare face and Mike still seemed to think I was pretty hot. In pictures, I may not look like a model, but I don’t look half bad. My beauty secret was written all over my face: I looked so so happy. Smiling eyes totally make up for a lack of eyeliner.

Smiling with a statue at Angkor Wat in Cambodia - A Year without Makeup

You can look at this two ways: either I was so content with my life I didn’t feel like I needed cover-up, OR realizing I didn’t need a half hour of primping each morning to look like a decent human being made me super happy. Either way, it sure does make our cultural beauty mores seem like some major oppressive bullshit.

This realization was compounded by my anthropological observation of the lengths women go all around the world to fit the cultural concept of beauty. The Barbie-like women in Japan, teetering in high heels and fake eyelashes. The skin-bleaching creams for sale at the supermarket in China. The absolutely incredible architectural marvel of fake boobs and butts in Colombia. We’re all suffering for beauty- it just seems sillier when it’s not your own culture pressing in.

 Posing with Locals - A Year Without Makeup

I’d like to say the moral is that makeup is totally useless and I never wear it now. This would be a lie. A kind of judgmental lie. Now that I’m back in the US, certain beauty routines have crept back in. It’s vanity through and through: I can not go out for drinks with my beautiful girlfriends and be the one washed out weirdo- I just can’t, the beauty ideals here are just too strong and I’m not immune to their power.

I definitely don’t wear makeup every day- certainly not around the house or out to the store. I’m still a low maintenance girl, I always have been: I don’t wear heels, I bite my nails, my two hairstyle choices are basically “up” or “down.” But, I just bought a huge load of sparkly make-up from Ulta, and I’m currently obsessing over finding the perfect wedding dress.

It’s complicated of course. What travel has taught me though is that it’s okay to pick and choose what cultural beauty standards I want to participate in. And not to buy into the idea that they are laws or even rules. Because they ARE totally arbitrary- unique to our culture and space and time. It wasn’t until I spent some time opting out that I realized there was something to opt out of. It’s the choice that makes it liberating.  And after all, it wasn’t that hard to go a year without makeup.


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A Year Without Makeup


88 thoughts on “What I Learned From A Year Without MakeUp”

  1. ahhh make up….torture and delight together 🙂
    Im a bit like you, and can’t wait to be on the road to see my transformation! It’s very freeing im sure, even tough at 35 my face will certainly fall into pieces lol
    Anyway, you look lovely without make up, seriously! I will be without make up during my trip, not sure if i will be brave enough to show close up picture to prove it 🙂 🙂

    1. Make sure you’ll pack a good face cream with UV protection (day and night cream), cleansing milk and cleansing face masks. Keeping your face clean, drinking enough and eating well will give you the most fantastic looks – especially on photos! Also take a colored lip gloss – that can serve as emergency lip care, blusher and eye make-up. The “caked on” look is out :))) and constant make-up use ages the skin tremendously. I’m already 47 and people generally mistake me for 37…here you go 🙂 leave the paint box at home :))

  2. This really hit home for me. I don’t travel the world, yet I wear very very little make up to my office every day. Basically concealer that does a bad job hiding the black circles under my eyes, and on an especially good day, mascara and powder foundation. Occasionally I’ll put on lipstick for a meeting.

    I remember in my younger years that makeup used to be so important to me, but now that I’m older, I’m just more comfortable with myself. I guess I figured my boss hired me for my awesome PR skills, not because I’m well made up and that he won’t really care if my large pores are incredibly obvious.

  3. I think if I made resolutions, doing something like this would be at the top of my list. Unfortunately my skin is AWFUL and I am too insecure to go without it. But maybe I should start trying.

  4. a woman after my own heart!

    i rarely wear make up, ever, but my hair is a nightmare. stupidly a few years ago i cut it short & ever since i haven’t been able to do a thing with it now im trying to grow it so i don’t have to take straightening irons with me everywhere!

  5. I grew up with the idea that makeup should just make you look like a better version of yourself, not a completely different person. To that end, my daily makeup routine has always been pretty simple–I spend more time/money on my skincare so that I don’t have to wear as much makeup! However, I was definitely struck by how little I worried about wearing makeup as soon as I was outside of the USA. Barely bothered with it in SE Asia or South America, and I care so much less even in Europe or Australia–as soon as I realized I wouldn’t be running into anyone I knew! Now that I’m back in NYC, there’s definitely a certain pressure to look good but I still keep my makeup routine to less than 5 minutes in a morning 🙂

  6. This is really really great! I have never worn much makeup, and when traveling it’s even less-I could use the space in my bag for something else. I’m glad I never got in the habit of caking it on, that way it’s not a shock for people when I come to work without it.

  7. I am totally with you there lady. When I’m on the road especially, I don’t know why I bother – granted, when we were in Latin America it would have come melting off ANYWAY.

    I can go all out if I want but mainly I stick to my eyeliner and mascara. Simple, easy, and makes you look way more dressed up than you really are.

  8. Girl, you are beautiful with or without…beauty comes from inside, it radiates from your eyes, your smile, your words and how you treat people…but you’re also what they call “easy on the eyes”.

    It took me over 4+ decades to realize that applying “pretty putty” was a waste of my time and energy. There are far too many other things that are more important. Think about it…if you figure you spend 20 mins every day going through this ritual…times 365 days….for how many years? Then there’s the removal of said putty…I’ll get back to you on the math… For now, keep shining.

  9. I think I gave up on make-up during my last couple years at my old job. I was always running late and every day I cared less and less about the job. And really, who was I trying to impress? So I just stopped. Like you said, if it’s a nice night out or something, I’ll still wear make-up but that’s about it for me. I brought the tiny bit of make-up I own on my RTW last year but only because I had 2 weddings to attend during my 4 weeks back in the US. Those were probably the only 2 days I wore make-up during my 5 months on the road. Same thing in my every day life now, I just can’t be bothered and I’m glad I don’t feel self conscious about it.

  10. I *maybe* wear makeup once or twice a month (also for big nights out). Basically, because I’m lazy. And don’t want to put the time and effort into straightening my hair and painting my face.

    Hey, embrace it while we’re still young and wrinkle-free, right?

  11. I have always worn makeup – foundation, powder, eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara. But it rarely takes me more than 5 minutes to go all of it. I wore makeup throughout my 13 months on the road until I got to Central Asia, where it was so hot everything would’ve just melted and I was spending a lot more time camping and in small villages. Now that I’m home, I am right back into my routine and pretty much don’t leave the house without at least foundation and mascara. My skin naturally is very uneven and blotchy and I have scars from acne when I was younger, so I just feel more put together and confident with a little makeup covering that all up.

    1. That proves that Indian movie actresses are naturally beautiful n do not/ cannot use lot of makeup for the hot n humid weather in India 🙂

  12. The older I get the less makeup I wear and I think it’s mostly due to just becoming more comfortable with myself – and I think travel helps accomplish that level of comfort. I also love this line: “Smiling eyes totally make up for a lack of eyeliner.” So true. 🙂

    1. That’s how I feel , I’m going to be 48 and the more makeup I wear the more ridiculous I look. I fee like I’m still trying to look 25 and that’s not happening obviously. A little light foundation, or BB cream, lipgloss /lipstick, mascara and I fill in my brows. That’s it

  13. I don’t wear make-up either while traveling, in some very hot countries I have been too it would have melted anyway after seconds I put it on so it would have defeated the object.
    I met a lot of travelers that do though, I guess it all depends on how you feel and like yourself. 🙂

  14. I always laugh when I go a few days without makeup and then put some on and my husband suddenly compliments how nice I look. To be fair, he compliments me without make-up too, but we definitely live in a society that validates vanity.

    I’m inspired by your courage– maybe I’ll wear less make-up to work tomorrow 😉

  15. I love that line you used about finally feeling like your face, just as it is naturally, was enough. That’s a great feeling to have. I don’t wear make-up when I’m doing a lot of travel non-stop or flying or when it’s ridiculously hot (when, like you say, it would have just melted off anyway!) but as I spend the vast majority of my travel lifestyle doing the expat thing in various countries (and then spending the weekends exploring everything) I don’t feel like my face is enough as it is for me to feel comfortable going to work without any make-up on. I just don’t feel like ‘me’ which I know sounds stupid but it’s totally a confidence thing.

  16. I feel like I too just decided one day that my face was good enough as it is. I’m 24 and have reasonably good and clear skin (which I never would have admitted 4 or 5 years ago), may as well let it go free while I’m young and unwrinkly.

    It took living in Korea surrounded by super tiny Korean girls for me to let it go though. I knew I’d never live up to their standards anyway (being approximately 7 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than a vast majority of Korean ladies), which was actually quite freeing. Instead of having to try so hard to fit in, I embraced standing out.

  17. I loved this blog! I have a feeling if I ever went on an extended trip (the longest I have ever been gone is a summer) I MIGHT get into a routine of bare face. Bravo to you for putting vanity to the side!

    However, I share thoughts with Katie. My skin isn’t even – I have scarring. But that isn’t the real issue. I work in sales, in an industry where (sadly) looks do matter. I can’t tell you the amount of time my boss has told me to “lip up!” aka put on lipstick before a presentation. Our society – the US – does reward those who look like they’ve taken the extra time to pull themselves together, and not just make-up, but clothes, and hair, etc. Maybe more people need to go RTW.

  18. I think I’m the first guy to comment on this post..

    I have personally always found myself more attracted to girls who are more comfortable as they are. Usually the more makeup that is piled on, the more distant I feel from them.

    Feeling that inner happiness in a girl is BY FAR the most attractive feature to me.. everytime.

    1. You know Andrew, what/how do I feel? It’s high time that all women say NO to make-up. We want equality with men, we are wearing pants and shirts like men, cutting our hair short,holding great positions at jobs like men used to do, then why hide our faces behind make up that men don’t do? If men don’t need to look flawless and perfect, why should women?

  19. Great post! I have gone back and forth with my ideas on makeup for a few years and while I don’t think I am “ugly” without makeup, I do like to wear it. One thing that is somewhat unique for me is that I have a port wine stain birthmark on my temple that is a red/pink and I have struggled with people looking at me strangely or asking me if I “got hit in the face” since I was a child. It was a larger issue when I was younger and wore no makeup ever and most times adults aren’t as gawky as children, but if I don’t wear any makeup, I definitely get some looks and sometimes questions. For me, wearing a little bit of concealer and foundation makes me look “normal” and maybe it is wrong that I feel like I should/have to look like everyone else, but it is a comfort to me and I am grateful for products like dermablend that can help me with this.

    1. I totally agree with you! I wear make-up to cover discoloration too! When I was a kid almost constantly people would ask questions or stare. I was even bullied by many classmates. Once I was old enough to wear make-up I felt normal.

  20. Great post Steph! SO True: “my own face just seemed like enough.” I have often said to girlfriends that aren’t having a good [hair, skin, etc] day. We still ultimately look like ourselves. No extra inch of a heel or major makeup will change us all that much!

    I share that same ‘washed out weirdo’ face feeling from having light skin, eye lashes, etc…so, while I don’t wear a lot, I do feel naked without some eye-defining liner and mascara. 🙂
    But it sure is nice to be continuing a much easier routine at home like I had on the road.

  21. I had exactly the same experience! Felt totally GREAT without make up while traveling, and now that I’m recently home, it has started sneaking back in… but still feels like a crazy fancy event to pull out the big guns like liquid eyeliner. (I did it on New Years. Felt like a million bucks.) Its definitely an interesting relationship, this is a great exploration of it! In one of my posts, I felt inspired from my new relationship to makeup to recommended that gals try going make-up free for a few weeks, then notice how done up just a little mascara makes you feel. Its crazy how quickly your perspective can change! (PS – first time commenter, long time reader – thanks for the travel inspiration!)

  22. What an amazing, positive post – I’m so glad you wrote it and even more glad I read it.

    When it came time to figure out what I was taking on my RTW trip, makeup never once was a consideration. Like many other commenters here, I can’t remember the last time I actually put on makeup for anything other than a special occasion. Sure, sometimes I look at photos of myself with it on and think “oh wow, I actually look really pretty there!”, but it’s such a hassle that by now I’m used to just seeing my face for what it is. Like your fiancé, my husband seems to love me whether I’m dress up or down, and he believes I’m never more beautiful than when I’m happy. No amount of concealer or mascara can ever compete with that!

  23. Ahh I’m the same when I’m on holidays, I totally forget about makeup, can’t be bothered wearing it. Although back home I’m back to layering on the foundation (and the occasional fake eyelash ha ha). I find that I feel like the odd one out if I’m the only one going barefaced at home so I don’t think I could stop wearing make up here, but when your traveling no one gives a fuck, and its awesome 🙂

  24. I don’t wear tons of makeup, but I do always bring some makeup with me when I’m traveling… even if I know I’m going to a hot country where I’m just going to melt it off. Especially in Asian countries like Japan and Korea where everyone looks so polished even in 90 degree heat, I always felt kind of lumpish and sweaty and unkempt. So even a little bit of eyeliner and glitter eyeshadow went a long way to stop me from feeling quite so gross.

  25. I am exactly the same when traveling. Most of the time I wear sunglasses as the sun is too strong for me after the laser eye surgery anyway. In 2012 I wore make-up only at the conferences and then maybe 5 more times all year long.

  26. Completely agree on this! Although I never wear make up on a day to day basis. Sleep is more important and my computer at work doesn’t care how I look 😉

  27. Yep, it would just melt right off in Southeast Asia. The past four months I’ve been here are the longest I’ve gone without putting makeup on every day. I agree with you, eventually, your own face starts to feel like enough!

    “my hair was in a constant pony-tail and I’d lost all qualms about wearing the same dress four days in a row”. <– Haha, can totally relate. I don't even want to talk about how many times I've worn this same tank top in a row.

  28. You are so right about a smile being all you need to look good when you’re traveling!

    My daily make-up routine is so minimal to begin with that people probably don’t even notice when I let it slip while traveling. I do more with my hair at home (blow-drying and straightening it most days), but usually let that go when I’m traveling, too. It’s kind of liberating!

  29. i heart this post so much, stephanie! you are obviously a more evolved woman than i because i WILL forego my beauty routine on a trip & then when i look back at the photos, i really regret it. i think oh, if only i’d done my hair that morning or worn my contacts, the photo would have been so much better. and then i cringe at the thought of the poor locals who had to deal with this visiting beast aka moi. what can i say? i guess our cultural mores have really got their claws in me. kudos to you for rising above the nonsense but also conceding that you’re not totally impervious to its powers.

  30. Awh this is beautiful. I’ve never been the sort to wear too much make up either. I’ve always gone bare most days and only really do my eyes when I make myself up. But I definitely do that much less on the road. It really is difficult to make yourself up constantly while traveling. The days I do try, I usually can’t find one thing and give up. But you know, I’ve never felt more beautiful than these past three years on the road, so I guess make up doesn’t really matter. Great post.

  31. makeup is such a waste of time and its such a bother to do this routine each and every day although I admit, I put myself through the torture! We should all just toss our makeup away and live free so we have so much more time and energy to waste on more important things and be who we are and look the way we are meant to look without hiding behind all that artificial paint!

  32. This post makes me SO happy! I’ve been traveling and makeup free for 8 months now and it’s fantastic. I sometimes treat myself to some blush on a night out twice a month and that’s about it. Back in Canada, I worked in television and was in the makeup chair 3 to 4 times a week. We’re talking airbrush, heavy duty stuff. On my passport, I have a face full of makeup and people never recognize me when they compare me then and now. I guess I look naturally happy now and not hiding under what I ‘should’ look like. Thanks for this Steph!!

  33. I prefer the natural look on women rather than the made up!

    It is alright for some special occasions, but everyday? No way!

    My girlfriend looks beautiful naturally and that is how I prefer it :)!

  34. There is so much pressure to be pretty. Luckily, it’s going away a little bit now that I am older. STILL – I cannot go without makeup. Love to play with it.
    Traveling does change a lot. This is really interesting – thank you!

  35. You’re an inspiration. You exude the authentic self-confidence that so many women seek in the wrong places, e.g. deception – which amounts to a form of self-deception. You’ve freed yourself from the obsession with homogeneity that was instilled in us at such a vulnerable age. That takes courage, a strength of character, and smarts. That sort of peace with who you are is what anyone could strive for.
    Peace. x

  36. love this blog !! I have this strange sort of love/ hate thing with makeup, it’s more like a LOVE/ indifference thing with makeup….Okay so in THEORY, I love makeup….I have a whole bunch of nice things from sephora or Ulta categorized in a little makeup box at home, but yet,am totally comfortable every single day leaving the house for my job without wearing one stitch of makeup. Couldn’t care less because I can sleep later and i’m not trying to impress anyone…YET when I want to feel pretty and special for those nights out/ parties/ professional pictures/ client meetings/ a wedding etc…then I do wear some nice makeup….here’s the funny thing…sometimes people will ask me (b/c of my undereye circles) if i’m sick…or if people who usually see me without makeup, suddenly see me with “my face on” they’ll say WOW you look great! your eyes really pop!!! but yet, I’ll still get hit on by guys even with out one bit of makeup on! I think it’s funny!! I love that I can feel free and not worry if I have my makeup on like some people do because that can cause a lot of anxiety…I like my face the way it is!

  37. Actually, I think less makeup or no makeup at all is best as well. I haven’t been wearing mine since late march, and it’s true, you realize how much sleep you’ve been missing. Haha! And the first week I stopped wearing my makeup, a lady at my work did ask me if I were sick. At first, I was a little embarrassed, and really insecure to go out in public without any, but I told myself I’d bite the bullet and deal with it. Its better when people see you for who you actually are. Usually makeup can make anybody seem ten times more exotic and beautiful(in a stereotypical sense) than they really might actually be. But natural beauty is better. And letting others see you in your natural light from the beginning, will leave them with no mind blowing surprises. I mean, imagine a guy dating a girl who always had her face painted, and then one day, she decides to show him herself without any makeup on, it might leave him in shock. ‘Who have I been dating this entire time?’, ‘She looks so different!’ Just be real from the start. And if people can’t accept it, they’re not worth your time.

  38. I can walk out without anything on my face.. If I have enough time to put a little bit of powder, I’d do it. 🙂

  39. There’s too much emphasis on looks in many societies, driving people, both men and women, to make them selves up in a number of ways. We decorate ourselves in peacock feathers to attract mates, whether we already have one or not. Our peacock feathers become our cocoons of comfort to lessen social anxiety and boost confidence. For many, the fake feathers simply become a part of them. I accept this, but I don’t like it.

    If we focused less on how we look by taking more steps to connect with each other with welcome hello’s and genuine eye contact, women would likely feel less of a need to wear make-up or spend that time putting eight bobby pins in their hair to achieve something they may call art but is, in fact, a means of overcoming social anxiety born from a society that has exploited “looking good.” The same goes for the men that feel the need to roll and re-roll their sleeves three times to achieve perfect lines or those who need to put product in their hair.

    My contention is that we should work more to accept the truly natural instead of tricking each other, because that’s exactly what we’re doing. I suppose for many women who don’t feel they are attractive, make-up becomes the great equalizer, amongst other things, allowing them to “compete” with those they view as more attractive. It’s evolution, but evolution also gave us brains, abstract thought, and communication. It gave us hearts and compassion. It gave us so many natural attributes that make us who we are. If we showed our natural attributes a little more up front more often, regardless of how they “look,” empathy, compassion, and, more generally, love and acceptance of ourselves and each other, would emerge more globally. Hell, it may even allow us to overcome some of the patriarchy that exists–maybe not…

    Midgets can’t look like non-midgets. People with cerebral palsy can’t control their muscles. Those with Down’s Syndrome, Hurler’s, Huntington’s, or even some forms of autism can’t overcome their genetic make-up to appear physically “equal” to the made-up models or sound like the well-spoken, rehearsed lines we see in movies, yet their abilities to love, express compassion and acceptance, and not define people by their make-up, hair product, or well-tailored suits, often times exceed the surface-deep practices we’ve endowed as the required status quo in our society.

    I’m a man and I don’t wear make-up. Partially because that was not prescribed to my gender as a convention. Sometimes I don’t shave. Sometimes I do (above and below the waistline). Whatever. I hold my beloved to the same standards and I say, if I don’t wear make-up, there’s no reason she should. Let us be ourselves and see beyond our skin. As humans, we have abilities that exceed what our eyes see.

    1. I’m with you although not sure I entirely believe that make-up is a means of trickery. Women are in a tough spot- society wants us to look beautiful, but they want us to do it “naturally.” Yes women should feel comfortable in their own skin, but I think that the key to that lies in changing expectations (that both genders have) about how women should look flawless at all times.

    2. Wow! I love your reply, Chris. Vanity is oppressive and you are empowering women with your stance. You have made my day! 🙂

  40. I loved this post….except I can’t help but wonder…..did you suddenly start to feel like your “face was enough” because you compared yourself to foreigners whom you consider beneath you, or less attractive to you? Just wondering.

    1. @Me, that’s exactly what I’m thinking.

      She didn’t need to “compete” with POC women because she’s White, and White is the definition of the beauty standard. This article really isn’t inspiring to people who aren’t White women.

      1. I’m not a white woman and I found this article very useful and uplifting. I can’t wear make-up anymore due to a skin disease I have and as a result my self-esteem dropped too. I had to redefine my sense of self and beauty. So it was nice for me to read about someone who had similar experiences.

  41. I loved you’re post! I do actually wear makeup everyday. I do feel more confident in it but that’s not why I wear it. I actually like putting it on. I think my morning routine is fun and its my own little zen time. 🙂

  42. Great post- I’m going travelling around SE Asia in less than a month and while I’ll be taking make up with me, I’d really like to get to the stage you’re at where I just don’t want / feel the need to wear it anymore! You’re right- it’s such a waste of time in the morning plus I imagine it will just slide off I’m the SE Asian sun!

  43. Aw, you look gorgeous without makeup! Loved reading this article, as for me I’m probably the total opposite… I got into makeup as a young teen because I had terrible skin, now I just genuinely ENJOY the process! I love trying new products, transforming my face with different looks, it’s like an art to me. Yes, I can still go without perfectly fine, but I’d rather not 🙂 You could say it’s a passion… I think that’s why this is so intriguing to me! Great post, x

  44. Thank you for posting this. I used to wear my make-up and contacts a lot. It brought me sense of confidence and made me feel beautiful. However when I recently developed an eye and skin disease I could not wear my contacts anymore and I couldn’t wear my make-up. I went through a long bout of depression. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt ugly. And my husband was far from understanding. I could only wear my contacts for a few hours so if we had a big night out with friends I would wear them. He would get frustrated with me because he thought I was trying to be pretty for other people. It wasn’t until I redefined my sense of beauty and confidence and accepted these diseases that I had, that I was finally okay with no make-up and glasses. Anyway, I really appreciate this article. Thank you.

  45. i loved this im going to be honest i wasnt searching for this on google but it looked interesting and it really was insipiring, i’ve finally can admit that i do have a obsession on makeup nd i do have a problem tht i thought i could go on with and love it because i love makeup but honestly now at this stage of my life im just so fed up of it my skin is horrible i want to go natural but i cnt because of this ego i guess tht i keep saying to my self or thinking of it paranoia has really hit me hard i cnt go out the door without make i feel worth less and im ashamed of it plz so im searching for help i really dnt wnt to have wear mke up every day especially wen my skin just going all off on me wen i do arggh i dont knoe wht to do and this makes me feel so depressed

    1. Hi Naima,

      I had to give up make-up for skin problems too. My suggestion would be to slowly start cutting back on make-up. Take one thing off every week. One week you can remove blush from your routine, the next week you can move mascara, and so on and so on. Hope this helps and you feel better 🙂

  46. I love your post. I want to drastically cut back but after years of putting on makeup it wreaks havoc even if it’s marketed to be healthier for you skin. I’m actually trying to find a cream to help even my skin redness and texture out to help get back to that natural glow it was pre-makeup. Anyone know of any?

  47. This entire thing is problematic.

    The Whiteness at play and her comments on beauty standards are just so bad. She went from “competing” with other White women by wearing makeup in the U.S. and then not wearing makeup in POC dominated countries, and then right back to wearing makeup in the U.S.

    “We’re all suffering for beauty- it just seems sillier when it’s not your own culture pressing in.”

    That’s how POC’s feel all the time in trying to live up to White beauty standards. lol it’s so funny that you even said this about your own experience. White privileges and beauty standards really follow her all over the world. 🙁 it’s sad that she can’t see that at all. I don’t like this article.

    all I got from this was like “Oh, I went over seas as a White woman person and suddenly felt pretty! I came back to the U.S. and my ego boost was high enough to still feel pretty even though I was suddenly /normal/.” this is not inspiring for anyone but White women.


    1. Hi Wat, I see what you’re saying, and I am definitely a person who understands the concept and problems of white privilege so I don’t take this comment lightly. I’m sorry that my post didn’t sit well with you.I’ve been thinking about your comment and here is where I disagree with your criticism:
      – It makes the assumption that the only women I felt I was “competing” with in the United States were white, which isn’t true. I have many beautiful friends of different races.
      – It assumes the only people I was comparing myself to abroad were people of color. I don’t wear make up when I travel anywhere in the world, which up to this point has included many parts of Asia, South America and Europe. If your argument were correct than I would be totally dolled up when I travel around Europe, but I honestly can’t be bothered to wear make-up in 95% of situations these days.
      – Personally, I feel my “ego-boost” was a result of realizing the unreasonableness of a lot of the beauty standards across cultures, which in turn made me re-examine my own cultural mores.

      That said, I think your point about white beauty standards in the United States being imposed on people of color is very valid, and not an aspect that I considered or explored in this (looking back, somewhat anemic) essay.

    2. I see what you’re saying, Wat. At first it seemed like you were attacking her but as a woman of color (albeit a very light-skinned one), I see that you make some valid points.

      Steph is beautiful with or without makeup. And it is wonderful that she accepts herself whether she wears makeup or not…makeup isn’t “evil” (contrary to what many feminists believe), but she does send a positive message in this post about how women should be allowed to like their natural features and wear makeup if they want to, instead of feeling pressured to do so.

      I am a woman of color who wears makeup most of the time (except when I’m at home, or exercising). I’ve always enjoyed playing with makeup although my family disapproved of it. But I tend to wear only mascara, concealer, and gloss/lipstick…I feel prettier sometimes when my eyes and lips are more defined. Some people might view that as anti-feminist, but I don’t care. I don’t feel hideous without makeup but I like it because I’m a “girly girl” and I like to be beautiful to myself as well as to my husband. I only started being interested in makeup again after a period of not wearing it at all for about 3 years. Actually, I didn’t even wear jewelry for a while either until I discovered hypo-allergenic earrings (I have very sensitive skin).

      I don’t think Steph meant any harm, but it is good that you pointed out how her words could be intended that way. Many WOC (even the most beautiful) often battle this notion of white women being “superior”…I think it hurts Asian and Black women the most, to be honest. I am of mixed race and even I sometimes feel that as light as my skin is, I can’t live up to the impossible beauty standards of whiteness. I started relaxing my hair at the age of 11 because I wanted to be seen as pretty, like all of the white and/or Hispanic girls with straight hair. And it didn’t help that I was constantly told that my more “ethnic” features (like my thick curly hair and my body type) were ugly and shameful. So yes, you are right…many of us internalize these racist messages and it is very damaging to self-esteem, especially for WOC who want to accept their own natural beauty but are made to feel like they aren’t beautiful.

      And personally, I have encountered other women who tried to put me down because of my race, as if they are better or more beautiful than me because my features are different from theirs…that is so ugly and hurtful, not to mention racist. I don’t think Steph was trying to feel superior to anyone, it’s just that she probably could have worded it differently. I didn’t sense a mean-spirited vibe from her post at all.

      1. Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful comment. When I wrote this I didn’t really think about how complicated the make-up issue can be for some, I (as you mentioned) just wanted to share my own experiences. I think there is a lot to be said on the subject and probably more than I am qualified to write about or could fit into a 1000 word blog post!

    1. Come on, that isn’t fair. It wasn’t her intention to disrespect anyone…she was just saying that she used to be somewhat dependent on makeup until she started traveling and having new experiences and then she learned to be more comfortable in her own skin without it. I love makeup but I can also see why some women feel good about accepting themselves without it…it can be difficult to appreciate one’s natural beauty when society often dictates otherwise. If she feels better with a bare face and her hair in a ponytail, it’s all good. I am not a “white girl” myself (but I’m sometimes assumed to be one) and although I can definitely see where you’re coming from, it seems like some folks are being too rough on her. I don’t get the impression that she is racist or that she feels superior to women of color…trust me, I’ve been around white females who actually ARE racist and who definitely believe that they are prettier because they are white. She doesn’t seem like that kind of person at all.

      This is a very thoughtful, well-written piece, IMO…but yes, there is some problematic wording in a few places. I think that maybe she could try to see how certain beauty standards (Eurocentric beauty standards) are harmful to others. It might be somewhat revolutionary if a white woman dares to not wear makeup or if she decides to gain weight, but for many WOC, the burden to conform is even greater…there is often the hair issue for biracial and Black women, the desire for lighter skin in Asian/Indian cultures, and eyelid surgery for some Asian women. I think that’s what another commenter was trying to say as well. Because whiteness is viewed as the beauty standard by a lot of people (due to colonization and brainwashing in many instances), that is what some WOC aspire to…they want to be seen as beautiful too. They want to have their beauty appreciated and I’m not just talking about stars like Beyonce, Halle, etc. I’m talking about WOC who are not famous. They (and I’m including myself in this) want to be viewed as beautiful, just as white women are often viewed as beautiful.

      But I would say that the choice to wear/not to wear makeup, while it is definitely important in discussions about beauty and body image, is very different from what other women deal with…particularly those of us who aren’t white. There are women struggling with low self-esteem because somebody called their dark skin ugly or told them their hair was too “nappy”. There are women who feel as if they have no choice but to relax their hair if they want to have a relationship or get a good job. So in that sense, I agree with you. I just don’t see the need to be rude to Steph…it’s better to politely disagree than to make personal attacks. Just saying.

  48. I admire women who have the courage not to wear makeup.
    You are enough as you are.
    If you are open, caring, smiling and interested in the world the world will be interested in you.
    I hope you start a trend.

  49. If you spend 20 minutes on makeup 350/365 days of the year and you wear makeup from the age 18 to the age 60 you will have spent almost 300,000 hours on makeup! Don’t waste your life with petty things life’s to short. Get out there and live! Make an impact on the world. You really are beautiful no matter what they say.
    Lots of love to all you gorgeous ladies,

  50. As a Dad I am constantly fighting with my daughters to get rid of the makeup, nail polish, etc. My 13 year old is using so much of this stuff. I don’t consider it healthy from a physical or emotional standpoint. She is never allowed to purchase this stuff, yet it keeps accumulating.

    Just tonight my 3 year old daughter got up late in the night, walked into the bathroom and dumped half a bottle of nail polish remover on herself, the floor, the wood floor, etc. because she wanted the “paint” off her fingernails that her older sister put on. All over the floor, all over the laundry. The house reeked to high heaven and people are getting headaches. This stuff must be terrible for small children. I work in a manufacturing plant that mixes chemicals and small spill of crap like this require mandatory spill reporting, cleanup, etc. Yet somehow it is “Just nail polish remover” at home. This crap is just a smaller amount of the same industrial chemical in my opinion.

    I am constantly throwing the stuff in the trash. Children and teenagers should not be layering on paint to look more attractive to boys, etc.

    As a male I have always thought women who layer on gobs of goo on their face are insecure with themselves. Some of the most attractive women, at least to me, are those that don’t paint themselves up. Natural beauty is MUCH more attractive than fake beauty. I think it is shameful that society sends the message that a person is less valuable unless they are beautiful. I used to ask my wife who she is trying to impress with all the paint. I told her I don’t like it and aren’t I the only person she wants to attract? She no longer wears makeup and I am just fine with that.

    How many males, outside of those batting for the other team, do you see putting on makeup or otherwise buying beauty products? Very few.


  51. If you wear. Make up for yourself, that’s fine. If you do it because of others, rethink it. Simple as that. See what what society has done and is doing? Watch 10-13 y/o’s on YouTube telling women and girls how to put on make – up and what to buy. There is a big problem, No matter what color you are…

  52. I love this post! I recently decided that going makeup-free more was going to start being a goal for me. And like you, it’s not that I hate makeup (I love all things pretty, sparkly, and dramatic!)… I just began to get really bummed about how much time it took me to get ready in the morning when I could have been sleeping or studying or doing something else ‘more productive.’ This especially applied to the days when I was bound to see almost no one I knew! Makeup can be used to ’emphasize’ your features and make you look more like the ‘beautiful’ girls in magazines, but that doesn’t mean that your features aren’t ALREADY amazing and that you have to conform! Work it without makeup, work it with makeup… it’s all about accepting and loving yourself no matter what kind of look you decide on. In my ‘journey,’ I already feel more self-confidence out of knowing that makeup can’t hold me back from believing in myself. And it makes my times of makeup application feel even more special… like a treat. 🙂

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