For most women I've discussed it with, going makeup-free is a complicated issue. Why wouldn't it be? We've been raised to believe covering our "flaws" is not only preferred but a necessity each time we cross the front door. It's been deeply ingrained in our minds and souls that things like blemishes, discoloration, and shine are to be banished from our faces—that showing our natural skin is something to fear.
Pop culture rhetoric describes women who choose to forgo makeup as "brave" and "inspiring"—a label which all too often feels condescending rather than flattering. Is it brave to allow passersby to witness my face, unobscured? Are you inspired by my inability to wake up early enough to apply product before work? It's a ridiculous notion, and yet, women have been taught to feel uncomfortable without everything carefully applied, blended, and dabbed—especially in a romantic context.
To challenge that very concept, I decided to relinquish my tight, patriarchal-generated grip on my go-to sheer-coverage foundation, subtle luminizer, and various other "vital" date-night makeup products for a night. The setting? A blind date. As someone who feels quite comfortable makeup-free at the office or out with friends, a first date—with a stranger no less—is still unchartered territory.
I don't hate my natural face by any means, honestly, quite the opposite. I appreciate the fact that I have bright, unproblematic skin and take my regimen pretty seriously. But the air-brushing effect of Fenty's foundation is not lost on me, and I'll be the first to admit I feel more traditionally attractive when I'm wearing it. Below, find my thoughts, anxieties, and realizations during my blind date spent makeup-free (as well as the heavy-hitting skincare products I used prior).
First things first, the night before the date, I spent 10 blissful minutes with Renée Rouleau's Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($87)—a professional-strength, at-home exfoliant facial peel that gently buffs away dullness. It's the product I always turn to when I want my skin to look especially bright and glowy. It contains a blend of antioxidant-rich berries, fruit AHAs, BHAs, and enzymes to clear out any clogged pores, fade post-breakout marks, lift discoloration, and stimulate cellular renewal. Once it's washed off, I notice a visible difference in my skin almost immediately.
Post-peel, my skin experiences a bit of redness through my cheeks, nose, and chin. I calm it all down with Dr. Barbara Sturm's Calming Serum ($250), a concentrate sent from the gods to rebalance and calm any irritated skin and help reduce redness. It's an active plant-based complex that works to strengthen your skin's natural defenses, minimizing a sensitized reaction (in this case, the mild redness I experience after my peel). Purslane (one of the line's hero ingredients) calms inflammation and protects your skin. After applying my moisturizer and eye cream, I head off to bed with more than one bout of anxiety about the date. It'll be fine, I tell myself, as I drift off to sleep.
My beloved Biologique Recherche P50 1970 Lotion ($65) is genuinely a reason to get up in the morning. The tingly, vinegar-scented formula exfoliates your skin while nourishing it with botanical extracts and vitamins. It smells and looks bizarre, but the dark spot–erasing, pore-shrinking, and complexion-balancing results are undeniable. I haven't gone a single day without using it since it was introduced into my skincare routine six months ago—I absolutely swear by it as my number one good-skin secret. I use it after cleansing and toning but before my serum application for especially lovely-looking skin.
I follow up with a fairly new product in my long list of time-tested favorites: SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier ($98), which has done all the heavy-lifting necessary to earn its spot in my medicine cabinet. The potent blend of pure hyaluronic acid (a naturally occurring molecule with a magical ability to retain moisture), licorice root, and purple rice boosts your skin's hydration levels as well as maintains your skin's elasticity. It's very literally plumps up my skin as I apply it—filling in fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes. I finish it all off with a moisturizer and I'm set for the date.
I left the office after a few refreshing spritzes of Tatcha's Luminous Dewy Skin Mist ($48) to add a boost of soothing hydration to my tired skin. Sitting in front of a computer all day is no joke. I walked over to our agreed-upon date spot and felt nervous—more so, honestly, about meeting a stranger and coming up with conversation than anything else.
When I got there, I walked through the restaurant and my date and I locked eyes before I sat down. I had the most bizarre feeling spring up almost immediately—like I wanted to hide my face. I knew I didn't look bad, after all, I had been feeling good about my skin hours earlier. But, there was a definite, perceptible switch in the way I carried myself. My confidence waned in and out as we struck up a conversation, my eyes darting from his to my hands to elsewhere in the bar. Usually, I feel completely comfortable holding eye contact and feeling self-assured in this type of scenario—I'm outgoing and could talk to a wall if you asked me to. This is interesting, I thought as I sipped my beer.
We ended up having a really fun time, and I relaxed after the first few minutes and felt more myself with each passing second. The interesting thing, though, was even though we got along, my first instinct was to believe he didn't find me attractive. I admittedly felt really ashamed for even allowing those thoughts to pass through my mind, but they did. How can someone who wears makeup so infrequently wind up feeling so naked without it? I felt angry, like I was a statistic some news article would site for why women should wear makeup to be desirable.
After all was said and done, he asked me out again the next morning. And, while it was nice to have that tangible recognition, I couldn't shake the burden my insecurities left in my brain. I sorted through those feelings for a few days and settled on answer. The takeaway? I don't need a man to find me attractive, but I do like when one does. I don't need to wear makeup to recognize my face in the mirror, but I do enjoy the confidence it gives me on a date. To me, makeup is a medium through which I can present myself to the world, on my terms. And I hope it stays that way.