Month Without Makeup: Check-In

I’ve been doing this “no makeup” thing for ten days now. Ten days of awkward selfie photos and being able to rub my eyes without worrying about smudging anything. Already it’s been interesting.

photo (17)


When I posted my blog and my first few pictures, I got a couple of reactions. There was the “Wow, you’re so brave!” from female friends who wear makeup. There was the surprising number of female friends who said, “Nbd, I never wear makeup.” And there was the “You’re beautiful without makeup” crew.

My reaction to all of these is interesting to me. Because how weird is it that we live in a world where it’s considered “brave” for a woman to not use cosmetics to make herself look different than she would normally? However, I have to admit, I felt a bit daunted when I started. I am at once on the same page as these commenters and thinking, “What the hell?”

At the same time, as I say, I’m honestly surprised by the number of my female friends who don’t ever wear makeup, or who reserve it for special occasions. Dang. That really brings out the hypocritical side of me that thinks that women shouldn’t have to wear makeup but that I am, perhaps, as they say, “brave” to not do so for one month. There are kickass ladies I know who NEVER wear makeup. I’m definitely not going to guarantee that I’m not going to wear daily eyeliner/concealer/etc after October 12th. My hat goes off to you ladies.

Most of all, I’m finding an interesting, large degree of ambivalence in my reaction to the “you’re beautiful without it” comments.

I’m finding that my primary reaction is nearer to indignance than anything.

Which isn’t fair and doesn’t really make sense, right? The idea of not wearing makeup as I framed it was more about not needing to do so, not needing to do anything that guys don’t routinely do, than it was (explicitly) about appearance not being important. However, it’s the latter point that I find myself gravitating toward in my reaction.

I’m realizing that, although I’d prefer not to be physically repellent, at least right now I really don’t care about being pretty or beautiful, with or without makeup.

This is a seriously liberating thing.

Growing up, my loving parents were quick to tell me that it was more important to be pretty on the inside than pretty on the outside (“although you’re both, of course”). It was a message I heard from a young age, and while I definitely internalized the greater importance of being a good person, I never stopped wanting to be pretty on the outside too.

Maybe part of that was wanting to be a viable actress, but more of it was wanting to be good enough for a really great boyfriend.

I’ve talked about this in the blog before–I work hard in my adult existence at enjoying everything that is not romance because for so long I was so fixated on that area of my life. Not to say that I’m denying that arena, but I’m really re-prioritizing to focus on my own happiness as an autonomous, creative, motivated person.

The thing is, it’s pretty easy to intellectually comprehend the importance of being happy as I am and a lot harder to internalize it. What’s kind of astonishing about this no-makeup project is that, in this period of my life, I genuinely do not care if anyone finds me attractive. If they do…cool? But it doesn’t have a big effect on my life, which is focused at the moment on production managing “Rocky Horror” and setting up my apartment and finishing Season Three of “Fringe” on Netflix and reading a really diverse set of books.

Sometimes I write stuff in this blog that is a little more idealized than strictly true (because I’m a flawed human being trying to give myself advice and guidance at the same time as I hopefully do so for someone else).  This is not that. This is real.

So. Have I noticed people treating me differently without makeup? No, not unless you count the friends who have commented on my not wearing makeup because I have been pretty vocal about not wearing makeup. It’s funny to me how quickly I embraced saving five minutes a morning and five more before bed, which seems like a negligible amount of time but, I assure you, adds up at least psychically. I’ve definitely realized that without makeup I do not become some zombie troll that people run from in horror. One of my more interesting realizations is that my time-honored maxim, “I have dark circles under my eyes that make me look sick without makeup,” is not strictly true. Some days when I don’t sleep enough, maybe. But if I’m getting my eight hours, I don’t look like a tuberculosis patient.

One other interesting thing separate from the response I’m getting from other people is my own personal concept of self-censorship.

Let’s be real. These pictures I’m posting? As much as I talk about not caring how I look, I’m definitely curating them.

So somehow I can at the same time feel that I really don’t care how I look to people and can look at a picture I’ve taken of myself and say, “No, not good enough, let’s try that again.”

Maybe it’s because a photo is so different than an in-person interaction. In person, if you’re seeing me with no makeup and puffy eyes and a ratty t-shirt, you’re still registering how I’m carrying myself, what I’m saying, how I smile or frown or act toward you in general. In one photo a day, if my eyes look puffy and my hair is a mess, the message that sends is that for 24 hours I was a complete wreck and didn’t even care.

Then it lasts more than 24 hours, of course, because the internet is forever and people 300 years from now aren’t necessarily going to know the context of my one unflattering self-portrait.

I really do feel hypocritical with this, but even so, I’m not going to stop. I know, for example, that while most of the population sees me as they look up at my face from below (reminder, I’m about 6′ tall), photos are more flattering (in general) if taken from above, so I make sure to tilt my chin down and hold the camera above eye-level. I’ve taken a bunch of shots with my phone’s camera “turned around” so I can see the image I’m presenting, but the iPhone’s camera is not as sophisticated in that direction, which is why I actually prefer the weird mirror pics.

I am at once indifferent to how I look and vigilant about how I present the way I look.

Anyway, that’s enough for the one-week update. I’ll surely have more revelations, perhaps coming with more unflattering photos, in the three weeks ahead. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend, no matter how you choose to ornament yourself.


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Filed under Challenge, Musings

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