Why do you wear makeup? We all have our personal reasons but for me, they were no longer as clear as they once were. Rather than a source of empowerment, I started to fear that my dependence on it was actually doing my confidence more harm than good in the long-run.
Let me explain myself, I love makeup. I write about it for a living after all. However in between all the eyeshadows and blushers, launches and liners, it had become something that I felt I needed, rather than wanted to wear - a crutch for my dwindling levels of confidence and the ultimate leveller of the playing field whether that be for work, for friends or for guys. Without even noticing it, the once fun morning ritual that gave me the opportunity to experiment with lipstick, highlighter, bronzer or whatever I fancied, now had an edge to it. It dictated the kind of face I felt I had to put out to the world and without that ‘face,’ I felt vulnerable. I’d also gotten so used to seeing myself with makeup on that it felt strange to see myself without it. And when I did, I didn’t like what I saw. It didn’t feel like me, despite it being me in my rawest, arguably most original form.
So why did I feel going makeup free for a month could help? Ultimately, I thought it might force me out of my comfort zone and edge me one step closer to becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Over the years, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem for a whole myriad of reasons, so this to me posed the ultimate test and would give me the time and space I needed to revaluate why I wore makeup in the first place.
Ms Keys and I
It was scarier than I anticipated at the beginning - while my will was strong, my immune system was less so and day one of my journey began just after I’d been off sick for two days. I really didn’t look my best. I needed some inspiration to help keep the temptation of reaching for my eyeliner at bay and it thankfully arrived in the form of Ms Alicia Keys. One of the key players in the ‘no makeup revolution’ both on and off the red carpet, her makeup free motivation has garnered particular attention as of late. When talking about a poignant lyric of hers in an essay she wrote for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter - What if I don't want to put on all that makeup / Who says I must conceal what I'm made of / Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem - she commented: “I was really starting to feel like that - that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see.” Bingo. The money shot and the quote that summed up my fear perfectly – would I also ultimately not feel good enough for the world to see if I didn’t wear makeup? I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to pan out, but I drew comfort from Ms Keys’ conclusions. “I don't want to cover up anymore,” she said. “Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.” Maybe this month would have even deeper implications than those I originally imagined.
makeup had given me a false sense of confidence rather than the real thing
Going makeup-free meant there was nothing to hide behind. However as the month progressed, this unexpectedly served as a wake-up-call when it came to both my skin and health. If I’d had a bad night’s sleep, I’d have bags akin to a pair of gap year students’ backpacks under my eyes; if I’d had a couple of days of bad eating, I’d break out. So with the option to cover up any blemishes or dark circles taken out of my hands, I therefore sought to treat the causes behind them by taking a page out of Alicia Keys’ beauty brand and health handbook ( as revealed by her makeup artist Dotti ). The products that took pride of place in my no makeup artillery? MV Organic Pure Jojoba Oil , £29, and Rose Hydrating Mist , Lanolips 101 Ointment , £10.99, (each having worked wonders for boosting my skin’s hydration levels) and an iced jade facial roller, a technique favoured by Dotti for increasing circulation and all-round glow. I chose this little green number from Yu Ling , £28, and it quickly made its way into my night time skin regime. I also sought to improve my sleep patterns and general stress levels and, unbeknownst to me at the time, prioritising my health actually proved pivotal in improving my confidence levels. It was a daily reminder to myself that I was worth taking the time to look after.
Speaking of night time routines, going out and going ‘out out’ were the challenges I was least looking forward to facing without makeup this month. My friends are a seriously beautiful bunch of people and daring to bare next to them in pictures was a situation which caused me some serious pre-party butterflies. However, I was curious, so with trepidation, I entered the restaurant for my friend’s 31st on one Saturday night to see what would happen. To my surprise, most didn’t notice however, I did catch one friend scanning my face as if thinking something was different. I braced myself for the “Are you feeling okay?” or “Are you tired,” comments that I’ve found other less tactful acquaintances to have said previously when I hadn’t had time to do my makeup. However, she actually told me how fresh I looked and later on, some bar-side banter resulted in two new faces guessing my age at 24 and 27 - six and three years younger respectively. I suppose makeup doesn’t always hold back the years after all.
In terms of how quickly I got used to going makeup-free, it was actually pretty surprising how fast it happened. That being said though, the first week was very uncomfortable and I felt extremely exposed. So in order to give myself a dose of added confidence, I got my hair coloured with the amazing Carmel at John Frieda (showcasing my greys too would have been a step too far out of my comfort zone at this point in time - one day maybe) and I booked in with Zara at Blink to give me the best of brow boosts for framing my eyes. These definitely helped however, after that initial acclimatisation period, the extra time I had in the mornings to squeeze in some much-needed shut eye really did help soften the blow. What can I say, I love my bed - perhaps more than I love beauty products. It really highlighted the sheer volume of slap I was piling on. On any given day, I could be using up to 13 pieces of makeup after my skincare. I didn’t need it all but because the routine had become so habitual, I hadn’t thought anything of it and it all became completely normalised as a result. Furthermore, forgoing the faff of makeup removal in the evenings became something I truly ended up loving - no raccoon eyes, no makeup stains, no finding flakes of mascara down my face in the morning...it had simplified my days in a really noticeable way.
A better sense of self?
Having put going makeup-free to the test, did I find there was any truth to my belief that I wouldn’t be good enough to be seen by the world? Looking back at my experiences, it seems I didn’t give myself or other people enough credit. The month came and went and work and life carried on with no steps back, just ones forward, making me much more comfortable in my own skin as a result. I’d realised that previously, makeup had given me a false sense of confidence rather than the real thing and I needed to be more confident without it, in order to use it in a way that best benefitted me in the long-run.
Would I go as far to say I’d go makeup-free for life? No - I love playing with the stuff far too much (plus, I’d make a pretty rubbish beauty writer if I were unable to review any of it too). Experimenting with different looks and products is one of my day’s little pleasures. However, the reasons why I would wear it going forward have dramatically changed. The goal of this experiment was to see if I could feel good about myself with and without makeup and while initially I didn’t, my perceptions changed as the month went on. It made me realise how much of my self-worth I’d wrapped up in both how I looked and what people thought of the way I looked. Without even noticing it, makeup had become a mask and my concept of what ‘normal’ looked like in the real world had become hugely skewed. Now, if I wear it, it’s not because I need to, but it’s because I want to and if I choose to go makeup-free again, I won’t feel any lesser for it. And I can’t tell you how empowering and freeing it is for me to say that.