My relationship with makeup isn't a particularly complicated one. I recognize that 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. However, I'm not against wearing it because it shackles me to long-established beauty ideals or enhances features in preparation for the male gaze.
The feminist intention behind such lines of thinking are important to me. But in regard to makeup, I don't feel specifically connected to them—not anymore at least. Makeup is art. It's creative output emblazoned across your face. But it doesn't have to be your identity.
Instead, my rapport with makeup is a love affair of a different kind. One where I admire its shimmery, face-altering magic—but only on special occasions. I opt for a makeup-free me every day during the week and all weekend. That is, save for nights out when I want to feel especially bold, polished, or put-together. That way, my relationship with makeup remains fresh and fun, rather than stale and mandatory. I don't judge anyone who wants to wear makeup each time they leave the house—I used to be one of them—but I've come to a place where I never want to feel like I need it to look like me.
It's important to know my real face and understand each curve and edge without the need to flatten, perfect, and erase to recognize myself.
The reason I got here, I suppose, has a lot to do with my earlier years. I never (ever) felt comfortable with a set of eyes on my face until I was properly made up, tucked, and poised. My reliance on makeup moved from maintaining confidence to warding off self-doubt—an unhealthy relationship I'd already gone to war over with regard to my body. I needed to simplify and streamline the time I spent consumed by my physical form.
"For such a long time, I didn't feel pretty unless I was wearing makeup. Now, my routine on most days is extremely minimal," Victoria, our wellness editor, mused when I asked if she felt similarly. "Once I started wearing it less, I actually began to feel more confident. I feel less obliged to wear [makeup] than ever but also have really come to appreciate the artistry of it—not in a super done-up, airbrushed-looking way, but in the ability to play with color and really have fun. If you think about it, these two extremes actually go hand in hand: They both share this underlying thread of appreciating your own individuality."
I started to take an interest in skincare and really committed to applying creams, lotions, and potions that made me feel good. It became a ritual, a calming 10-minute reprise each morning and night when I had a chance to slow things down. "Habitual behaviors help us to clear our minds," says Vivian Diller, Ph.D. "Like rhythmic breathing during meditation, morning beauty routines induce a feeling of calmness and control." In fact, our brains find logic and perceive higher levels of efficacy in things we do routinely or several times over.
According to the findings, the practices with the most number of steps, repetition of procedures, and a specified time (like a morning skincare routine) have the biggest influence.
I realized through all of it that I'd prefer to spend my limited time in the morning (I press snooze a lot, admittedly) on skincare rather than applying makeup. So I stopped painting my face each morning. I relished the feeling of clean, hydrated skin and a face I could touch without smudging. I didn't have to reapply or touch up. I learned to stop avoiding eye contact when I wasn't wearing concealer over my dark circles or foundation over my discoloration. I even went on a first date sans product.
Pop culture rhetoric describes women who choose to forgo makeup as "brave" and "inspiring"—a label that all too often feels condescending rather than flattering. Is it brave to allow passersby to witness my face unobscured?
In the end, it all comes down to preference and doing whatever makes you feel good. For me, that's allowing makeup to remain a positive confidant rather than something I use to avoid feeling bad. Victoria adds, "I'm wearing a shock of matte orange eye shadow across my lids, and that feels as 'me' as it does when I wake up with nothing on my face every morning." Cheers to that.
When I do wear makeup, these are my favorites
FYI: Peep the time every Byrdie editor shared a no-makeup selfie.