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.