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?

About The Author

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

  1. I wear makeup everyday even when traveling–not a face full but enough to even out my complexion. I can’t very well call myself a fashionista with no make up ;)) I’m glad you are who you are or we clearly would not be friends!

  2. After nearly two years as an expat in the Caribbean, I almost never wear makeup. Maybe for a big night out or something, but it’s so bloody hot here it melts off after a few hours anyway, so I don’t bother much. The attitude here towards women wearing makeup is very different than I was used to in Canada – the islanders refer to it as “paint” and is often the mark of a hooker. They like ‘natural beauty’ and think makeup is a way to trick men into thinking you look a certain way when you actually don’t. It’s not seen in a super positive light. I don’t know about all that, but I certainly like not having the pressure to be made up every day. In Canada if I came to work without make up people would ask if I was sick!!

  3. Ah, Internet trolls strike again. Well, for the record, I never thought about those negative things when I read your initial post – I totally understand where you’re coming from.

    I very rarely wear make-up, even at home. Mostly just because I’m super lazy and can’t be bothered. It certainly helps when I’m packing to travel!

  4. Hi Steph,
    When I started travelling I would wear my usual full face of makeup. When I arrived in sweaty Sri Lanka I realised that my skin couldn’t handle foundation and powder so I started wearing just my eye makeup and lipstick. My skin improved as it started to tan and I liked my more natural look!
    Makeup is important to me because I love looking vintage and retro, an easy way to do this is to wear retro makeup. I still feel confident exploring and wearing no makeup though, I just don’t want anyone to take any photos of me! I want to look my best in my travel photos.

  5. I too mostly gave up makeup after while traveling. It had nothing to do with anyone else it just had to do with laziness and heat and just the general realization that it didn’t make a difference whether I was wearing it or not. Plus it didn’t hurt that I felt the less I tried with my appearance the more guys I seemed to meet…

    I still put on some mascara or lipstick every so often. But for the most part I don’t even think to put it on on a day to day basis. Glad you’re still rocking it! I hope people can realize that it just has to do with you, not with what you think of anyone else!

  6. what a jerk calling you a mean name! I’ve never been big on make up unless i’m going out to a bar/club- i think that stress shows on people’s faces, and while traveling i feel so much more stress free, plus a little tanned, therefore feeling that I don’t need make up at all.

  7. Great post and I’m glad you retouched on the subject which I remember from before.

    I wear makeup most days when I travel, but if my hair was more under control AND I was working out more often I don’t think I would. Honestly, sometimes it’s a compensation for other insecurities. That’s just being honest.

    Other times, when I am feeling completely secure and confident with myself (which happens when I’m getting enough exercise) I’ll wear it just because it’s fun. Nothing worse than going outside in natural lighting and realize you are wearing too much on accident though. Embarrassing!

    It’s all about balance and doing what makes you happy No one should feel pressure to be one way, or the other, like you said!

  8. I can’t believe someone would assume that you think you’re better than someone else just because you’re not wearing makeup! Some people really need to lighten up and not jump to such negative assumptions.

    I agree with a comment fro Colleen above. When I’m travelling I don’t care what I look like. I’m just so happy to be travelling and living such a happy, simple life. Also, when you’re somewhere hot, you usually look better without makeup because it ends up sweating off and looking worse than nothing. But when I’m at home I revert back to my old ways and I’ve always got makeup on.

  9. I rarely realize how in the minority I am because I don’t wear makeup. I don’t like feeling fake, clogging my pores, or breaking out (which all are what makeup do to me). I love feeling natural. Sometimes I wonder do others think less of me or that I’m rebellious because I don’t wear makeup? I don’t even realize others are wearing it unless they touch up in front of me (or it’s over the top obvious of course). Kudos for sharing your thoughts and most of all, for being a woman who puts practical over vain at least sometimes! (I still think it’s sad how much this generates but men do it all the time and never have to think twice!)

  10. I don’t wear a lot of make up in general, so for travel it’s about the same. I’m super pale-bordering-on-pasty with light blond hair, so I like to darken my eyebrows and eyelashes so it looks like I actually have them. But otherwise I don’t care so much. Especially since China, where I broke out all the time because of the pollution. My skin wants to breath fresh air!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top