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 wear make-up when I travel, but only the basics I also wear to go to work when I’m at home: some powder, eye pencil and mascara. Done.
    I don’t wear it all the time thought and I only bring these basics.
    Sometimes that bummes me, like if I’m going out and I’d like to get fancy a bit more, but I just as often don’t put any on at all, like when I plan to go to a beach.

  2. I have but once in my life wear make up. At prom. Never after, never before. And I am 34. If I am honest I dont even know how to do it right. So why bother.
    For me this is a waste of time and you can be professional without tons of colors on your face.

  3. I rarely wear make up, yet I used to shocked by those that did not. While travelling I took a Mineral powder foundation only because I have a very rosy complexion – in Fiji no make up and good skin due to sun and diet, in UK rubbish skin due to no sun and not so good diet:) Conclusion move to Fiji.

  4. I love this topic – A year without makeup! And I’m not surprised you’ve gotten such a varied response. Isn’t it amazing the emotion we tie to wearing or not wearing makeup. I go back and forth on makeup. Lots of days I love putting it on and other days I’m content to go barefaced. I lived in Tokyo for a while and I found myself spending much more time on hair and makeup than I had before because the Japanese women put so much effort into their appearances. Putting more effort into my appearances made me feel more like I belonged. Thanks for sharing your non-makeup experiences!

  5. I don’t wear make up at all; to the office, when I travel, to parties even.. but I’d consider yes, on special occasions like weddings.. uhm, maybe if I’m one of the bridesmaids.
    One time in the lavatory though, while my colleagues were fixing their faces for the Christmas party, putting make ups and all.. one of them asked me, “hey, put on some make up.. make yourself pretty”.. I was rather amused by how she said it, yeah, cause I know she’s mocking me then I gave her a smirk and told her “nah, I don’t need it.. just go on make yourselves pretty.” That may have irritated her, but I don’t care, we don’t like each other anyway.. and she deserved it.
    I’m not trying to make a statement that I am pretty even if I don’t wear make up like how others wear it, but I do love fixing my hair and yes dressing up nicely.. but I leave my face as it is, lip gloss is enough and I love my eye bags. And I’m confident about myself. Maybe that’s what irritated her; my colleague and your readers because they cannot accept that there are those who are more blessed. I don’t mock those who wear make up on a daily basis, I do think they’re all pretty, but let’s not get insecure or irritated to those who don’t. Let’s be happy about ourselves, with what we have, and go on with our lives.

  6. “These experiences have lead me to realize that make-up is a really powerful thing.” It certainly is! I definitely wear makeup when I travel but it’s not full on. I just feel more confident and it’s become a routine thing that I actually enjoy. I look at it as self pampering.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I remember reading that article last year, and I don’t recall anything that could offend someone, but to be fair I really don’t care about makeup or beauty standards (although like you I’ll wear from time to time, like for special occasions). Wearing makeup is certainly a personal choice, and your article certainly shows that.

  8. My make-up case (if you can call it that) consists of a foundation, blush, and face powder and a couple of brushes and I ALWAYS leave it at home when I travel. The only time I brought it was my most recent trip to Ottawa and that’s only because we had to attend a New Years Eve Banquet, so I wanted to look more sparkly. Otherwise, no make-up for me.

    I do understand the other side of the coin though. I grew up in Indonesia where girls are highly-pressured (by our peers AND our parents, especially moms) to look like magazine models. So, I’m not surprised that many of them go to great lengths to obtain a certain “look”. Maybe it’s also the case here in North America, but I personally haven’t encountered anything like it.

  9. On a daily basis I wear lipstick but nothing else. But for my wedding day my friends absolutely caked me in makeup and while I was a bit shocked at the final product, the photos are stunning – they know their stuff.

  10. I loved this article and find it amazing how some people can interpret things so differently. I also go sans make-up when I travel (most of the time) for similar reasons to yours. In the heat of SE Asia putting anything on my face sounds terrible, it takes time and it’s just one more thing to pack. I do feel a bit like a ghost without mascara so taking that 2 seconds usually works if i’m going ‘out’ for the night.

    I also find it interesting though, living in Korea, the reactions i’ll get when I DON’T wear make-up. ‘You look tired’ ‘What’s wrong with your face’ etc. etc. It can be frustrating living in such an image based society (not only Korea but all over the world you get this) but I think traveling allowed me to give up some of that and just be me – weather that’s with or without makeup.

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