A Year Without Make-Up: One Year Later

Last January I published this post: What I Learned From a Year Without Make-Up. I wasn’t really trying to prove anything, I was just looking at facebook photos one evening when the realization came to me that travel has really changed my attitude towards cosmetics. I hadn’t ever thought about it before but I quickly scrambled to get my thoughts out and up on the blog.

It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but since then the post has attracted a lot of attention. It’s been linked to all over the place- travel blogs, make-up forums and more. I picked it as the title of my ebook. A couple months ago it was reposted on Thought Catalog and generated over a hundred more comments.

The response was interesting. Lots of people agreed with me, other called me shallow, judgmental, even racist (one guy called me a “potato face” but he seemed like a jerk anyways). While I thought I was just writing about my own personal experience with not wearing make-up while I traveled, many extrapolated those views in all sorts of unexpected ways. This made me realize that my post was incomplete.

So now, a year later, here are some of my more detailed thoughts on traveling without make-up:

Standards of Beauty Around the World

Of all the comments, that one probably hurt the most. I mean of course I don’t think I’m better looking than billions of non-white women. If anything travel has taught me that there are incredibly beautiful people all over the world.

One of the best, most important things about world travel is the window it gives you to a variety of different cultural values and practices. Often-time this cross-cultural exposure is the catalyst for examining a lot of your own views.

Across the world from Japan to Colombia to Italy to Australia, I have seen again and again the extreme lengths women push themselves to fit a proscribed societal standard of beauty. From extreme tanning to face whitening creams to nose jobs to fake butts, women are going to extreme measures to fit a mold that is, let’s face it, arbitrary (as an example, here is an article on the “body lines” trend in Korea that I stumbled across this morning). The US is just as bad, if not worse, than most of these places, but it took the chance to observe from afar to truly realize how hard women work for beauty.

Now I’m not saying it’s wrong that we have these beauty expectations necessarily, but man it sure is a lot of work. In a way travel allowed me to step outside of this pressure cooker for a brief moment and to assess what actually makes me feel good and what I’ve simply felt compelled to do for the past 15 years.

Do What Makes You Comfortable

 I was actually surprised by how many people seemed to view my article as a judgmental tirade against people who do wear make-up on a daily basis. Absolutely not my intention. Look random person on the internet: I don’t know you, and I don’t really care what you do with your face. I’m not some sort of no-make-up crusader, I just think women should be able to make that choice without wading through so much cultural bullshit.

These experiences have lead me to realize that make-up is a really powerful thing. For whatever reason, these powders, glosses and creams have come to symbolize a lot for women in our society. It’s not just about looking pretty either, it’s about feeling confident, protected and safe.

I can go on and on about beauty standards but the biggest reasons I stopped wearing make-up were:

  1. I’m lazy
  2. It was hot out
  3. I’m lazy.

And then the world didn’t end, so I decided to keep doing that. I say that, full recognizing that I’m lucky to have pretty decent skin. As the comments revealed, there are many people out there who don’t feel comfortable not wearing make-up due to skin issues or other factors.

Another Year Without Make-Up

I’m still not wearing make-up, or at least not very often. Back in the US I will put some on for a night out, but I happily run my everyday errands, go out to lunch, etc make-up free. Until Christmas I hadn’t opened my makeup case once since we arrived in Mexico. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to wearing make-up every day- I kind of hope not. My skin feels great and my morning routine takes barely anytime at all.

But, I wore a face full of makeup for my wedding pictures, complete with false eyelashes, so I’m not in the position to high horse anyone. I think there is a place for make-up in my life- on special occasions, big nights out, times I want to feel festive or look extra sparkly.

In truth, I do care about my appearance kind of a lot. I go to the gym three times a week (to be healthy sure, but also to look decent in my bikini). I obsess about my hair, I am nuts about sunscreen and I buy waaay too many clothes.

I just happen to love the fact that I can pick and choose what I do and don’t want to care about. And I don’t want to wear a lot of make-up.

Which brings me back to my main point: people should do what’s best for them. That being said, it never hurts to examine WHY we do the things we do and to question if they are still necessary or useful.

Do You Wear Make-up When you Travel?

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45 thoughts on “A Year Without Make-Up: One Year Later”

  1. I was so excited to find this article. I am going for a year without makeup for a year as well I agree wholeheartedly how you said you feel about makeup- it’s not that I’m against it, but I’m more doing it as an experiment too. Thanks for writing this!

  2. Hello Steph,

    I read on a former post https://whywaittoseetheworld.mystagingwebsite.com/2014/01/year-without-make-one-year-later/ about your making preparations to get married. Honestly, if you weren’t doing that, I probably would have married you on the spot!

    I read your posts about going a year without makeup, and the sequel; and was quite impressed with the deductions you came up with. Most individuals start wearing makeup, and gradually, it becomes a ritual; and they never even give a thought to why they started it in the first place!

    I recently observed my very little niece (who’s 15 years by the way, but still naïve to 98% of life’s intricacies) suddenly begin carrying out the same activity; and when I asked her the motive behind the “gesture”; she was unable to come up with any comprehensive reason.
    I have sent her links to read up on your posts; it might just enable her make an informed judgment. Thank you for the time taken to express yourself so airily.

    I totally agree with you that one should evaluate the reason for carrying out this activity (as well as everything else). I personally believe (and I’m a male) that the woman’s beauty lies within, and as such, a lot of attention should be given to that. While not discarding the use of makeup, I think it would be wise to figure out what works well for each individual. That being said, want to wish you (albeit jealously) a splendid marital union.


    An “open” admirer

  3. Great stuff. I have also started wearing make-up less and less, especially while traveling (but lipstick doesn’t count as make up right?!) and my reasons are the same, I’m lazy and it’s hot.

    The response to both posts is fascinating! Certainly a topic fueled (worldwide) by much much more than a little eye shadow….

  4. I’m the same exact way- makeup on nights out and special occasions. I personally don’t understand the appeal of covering your natural beauty or waking up an extra 20 minutes early to put it on. And definitely not interested in worrying about it rubbing off in the heat, accidentally getting some in my eye, or whatever when I’m traveling.

  5. I call it “basic” and “minimal” but I do wear make-up: sunscreen, some powder, lipgloss. Mascara and eyeliner on nights out to feel extra sparkly, as you call it. However, I realized, after reading this post, that I wear even MORE make-up when I travel for some reason. I will have to think about the whys on this and probably write in a post as a response.

    That said, I absolutely love this post.

    The unsavory reactions to your movement, if you would call it, are a tad too hilarious and somewhat sad showing narrow-mindedness. You’d think with traveling, cable TV, and the Internet, people would have some decent form of respect to anybody’s practice.

  6. I rarely wear make-up, and when do, it always feels like a big chore. I skip it whenever I can, which is most of the time. I almost never wear make-up when traveling, since I like to travel light, and like you, get hot and lazy. As others have noted, I may put on a little sparkle for a special occasion. I don’t know if age is a factor here, but I am 40-something and still don’t feel like I have anything to prove or anyone to impress with make-up. The opinions of those who think make-up matters are of no interest to me.

    The other factor for me has been health. The commercial make-up marketed to women today contains so many ingredients I don’t want on my face (or any other part of my body). My first step toward whittling down make-up was to only buy/use brands with ingredients I feel comfortable with. I don’t even own lipstick, since I can’t find one I like. And I know it’s not exactly make-up, but I’ve even cut out commercial shampoo/conditioner and make my own deodorant (don’t judge; I don’t stink).

    Each person needs to decide what’s right for them, and where their priorities are. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  7. Ignore the brutal comments. This is a really interesting article, I too stopped wearing make-up when I began travelling, and it came as such a relief! And, maybe you consider this going too far, but I’ve also become rather lax when it comes to shaving and feel much happier and freer for that too.

  8. This is great! Yes! I go days without make-up. However I’m not calling it quits. I wear very little, like mascara, bronzer, maybe a tiny splash of eyeshadow if I’m feeling fancy. That’s about it. I guess it’s quite easy to go without when you live in Thailand and everything sweats off anyway. hehe

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