What I Learned from a Week with No Makeup

Freeing myself from my routine changed the way I look at myself.
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Freeing myself from my routine changed the way I look at myself.

I know what you’re thinking: “A week without makeup? That’s insane!” I can’t blame you. There have been times when I couldn’t even fathom leaving the house without makeup, let alone going an entire week without “putting my face on.” Most of us start our relationship with makeup in either middle school or high school, and from then on it’s part of our routine day in and day out. When I was in high school, my ordinarily supportive mother told me: “You’re too pale to go without makeup!” Unfortunately, a part of me believed her. And that was that. I viewed makeup as a necessary part of who I was in public.

But flash-forward several years to today, and I found myself questioning why I turn to these powders and liners and colorful hues in order to feel more confident. Some of the most beautiful women I know go without makeup entirely, but it’s easy to fall into the mode of thought that it’s just for those few lucky girls who are ridiculously gorgeous, bare skin and all.

My decision to go without makeup for a week was more on a whim than anything else. One morning as I was combing my hair, I looked in the mirror and thought: “I’m not putting makeup on today or for the rest of the week.” That was surprise enough, but what I learned from the experience was far more surprising still.

No One Actually Noticed

On the first day, no one paid attention to the fact that I was eyeliner- and mascara-free and sporting a not-quite-healed zit just beneath the inside of my left eyebrow. I went to class, talked to a few of my friends, and even went to the library and ran into a cute guy (who I was sure would give me some look of distaste, but he didn’t, of course). Not even my two roommates noticed. These are girls who share the same bathroom with me. If anyone would notice, I would’ve thought it would be them.

We’ve all had that experience when we’ve chosen to go one solitary day without makeup, and someone looked at us and said those dreaded words: “You look tired.” Talk about a punch right to the gut. However, embarking on this week of no makeup, only one person said that to me. It was on the fifth day, and I actually was tired.

I don’t think we give those around us enough credit. We have it in our minds that everyone’s looking at us and judging us, like the sight of us au naturel will send them running for the hills. But for the most part, I found people to be unfazed by my appearance. If they did notice a slight difference, they didn’t say so, and it certainly didn’t impact my interaction with them.

My Skin Became Healthier

For the first couple days, I had a few zits. I even considered waiting until they went away before completing the challenge. But I decided that if I didn’t do it when it was difficult, it wouldn’t have the same effect. After a day or so of no makeup, my skin cleared up entirely to reveal some lovely, even-toned, silvery-pink-blue radiance that I didn't even recognize as my face.

Covering blemishes often has the unfortunate side effect of causing even more blemishes. However, if you take good care of your skin and allow those spots to heal as they were meant to, your body can have some nice surprises in store for you. Would you rather wear makeup to cover up ten zits or have one or two zits with no makeup?

I know that every woman has different skin, and I do think makeup is a miracle product for some who face insecurities from troubled skin. I just happen to be one of the lucky ones and have low-maintenance skin. However, with all the options for caring for your skin and health (water, exercise, cleanser, etc.), avoiding clogging our pores with chemicals if you don’t need to is never a bad thing.

My Mornings Were Better

I wouldn’t have thought that an extra ten minutes every morning would make a difference in my life, but it definitely did. Having that added bit of time meant that I actually enjoyed my morning Earl Grey rather than gulping it down. I also felt far more relaxed and prepared to face the day by the time I left the house. One of my professors even remarked that I was extra “bright-eyed” that week.

I Thought of Myself Less

Humility is certainly a virtue that I hope to attain, as it is something that is infinitely attractive and makes life a lot more joyful. Many of us have heard that adage: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Spending less time staring at myself in the mirror every morning made thinking about myself less much easier. Not worrying about whether that one little zit is covered well or whether my eyeliner is even on both eyes freed me up to focus on the day ahead rather than my own vanity.

Also, as the days passed, and still no one seemed to notice my bare appearance, I realized that people really aren’t just focused on looks. They’re more interested in what I’m saying or doing. It was refreshing to realize that I don’t have to conform to beauty ideals; sometimes going natural, even if that’s a little less refined, is more beautiful than a put-on look.

I Started to View Myself More Positively

The most important thing I noticed was that, by the end of the week, my view of myself and my appearance was much better than it had been before attempting this. I felt less pressure to fix all the little problems I imagine myself having and focused more on aspects of myself other than my appearance.

Why do we start every morning looking in the mirror trying to cover up our faces to achieve some idea of perfection? Who cares that you don’t have the perfectly shaped brow, that one hair is out of place, or that your eyes or lips are too small? There are plenty of great things about me that I wouldn’t have noticed if I kept covering it up. For instance, my eyes are really blue, and I like my fair skin and freckles. Throughout the course of the week as I stopped picking out my imperfections and attempting to correct them, I actually began to appreciate that I was more beautiful than I had originally thought. I also started noticing others’ natural beauty, as I was more aware of my own.

I am not suggesting that women should go entirely makeup-free all the time—I enjoy wearing makeup and the extra polish it can lend. What I am suggesting is that we not view makeup as a requirement to our everyday attire. After a week without makeup, I realized that I didn’t need it to look nice like I thought I did. Makeup became something that was just an accessory, exactly what it is supposed to be—something to enhance what I like about my appearance rather than cover up what I don’t. It changed my perception that to be liked by others is dependent upon my appearance to being dependent on my ability to love and think of them before thinking of myself.

Since doing this challenge, I have the freedom every morning to decide whether or not I feel like putting on any makeup, and I feel just as beautiful either way.

Photo Credit: Andrea Rose Photography