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My husband and I took our honeymoon five months after our wedding. In the months leading up it, I dreamed about the vacation again and again. My mental snapshots looked a bit like this: There in the background were the vibrant colors of Morocco, hues so deep I knew I’d need to see them in person to believe them. On one side of the frame was my husband, the man I love, who manages to look effortlessly handsome no matter what he’s wearing. On the other side of the frame was me—the most glowing, beautiful version of me possible. I kept seeing the wedding-day version of me: flawless makeup, shiny hair, a sunless tan, and a beaming smile.

As the honeymoon grew closer, though, my visualization changed. When I pictured the wedding-day version of me, all I could see were the several hours of prepping and primping each morning I would have to do while my husband patiently waited on the other side of the bathroom door. I began to see all the lost moments: Instead of starting our mornings together with breakfast, I would apply eyeliner while he read and waited. Instead of seamlessly going from a spa day to lunch, he would wait while I touched up my foundation. Again and again, I saw it: me alone in a bathroom, trying to make myself look a certain way, and my husband alone in another room, waiting for me to join him. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t do it.

So it was decided: During the week of my life when I wanted to look the most beautiful, I would skip makeup altogether. Here’s what happened.

01. I had more space in my suitcase.

As a chronic over-packer, I’m always looking for ways to lighten my load. It’s taken me many years to learn that it’s better to take two pairs of jeans than four, and it’s easier to wear a few of the same layers again than pack a new outfit for each day. I’ve become better about packing small flats instead of big boots and taking one swimsuit instead of three, but I still manage to always arrive at my destination with too much stuff. The biggest culprit: beauty products. In years past, it was not unusual for me to pack full-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner alongside a hefty hair dryer and several different sunscreens. I inevitably spent the bulk of my vacations mad at myself for making my bag so heavy, surrounded by stuff I barely even used. This trip was different. I took a small container each of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash, and that’s it. No hair products, no makeup, and no makeup remover. As a result, my bag and my mood were much lighter.

02. I realized I don’t need makeup to feel pretty.

I started taking care of myself and my body during this past year. I transitioned to a clean diet, started a regular exercise routine, cut down on alcohol, upped my water intake, and made a habit of getting plenty of sleep each night. When I did all this, my skin started looking a lot better, and I no longer felt the need to cover myself with products before leaving the house. In the months before my honeymoon, I was only wearing makeup once or twice a week, if that. I just didn’t feel like I needed it anymore. It’s not that I didn’t get a blemish here or there or I didn’t have dark circles under my eyes, but I cared less as I got healthier. I cared more about looking strong and fit and less about looking perfectly made-up.

03. My husband thinks I’m beautiful the way I am.

I don’t think a woman should base her appearance on a man’s preferences. If she feels good, that’s what’s important. That said, it’s validating to know that my husband adores me and finds me attractive when we’re lounging around the house in pajamas on a Saturday afternoon. He finds me attractive when I’m covered in sweat after running a half marathon. He finds me attractive, period. When I told him I wasn’t planning on taking any makeup on the honeymoon, he thought it was a great idea.

04. My husband and I spent our entire honeymoon together.

Don’t get me wrong: There are times in my life when I think it’s worth it to spend a few hours getting into the perfect dress, styling my hair, and fixing my makeup so that I can feel unstoppable during a night out. On my honeymoon, though, I wanted to spend as little time doing those things as possible. Less primping time meant more quality time with my husband. Every hour that I skipped getting ready in the bathroom was an extra hour we got to spend walking the streets of Morocco hand in hand. It was an hour we got to spend talking to each other while eating couscous and drinking mint tea. It was an hour we got to spend loving each other and being together.

05. My skin feels healthier when I leave it natural.

As someone who used to goop on layers of concealer and foundation and blush and eyeliner and eye shadow and mascara and lipstick, I’ve been surprised to discover that I sometimes prefer the way I look when I’m wearing less. Beyond that, my skin looks and feels healthier when I wear less makeup. I have fewer breakouts and less redness when I go for a while without wearing any. After I started eating cleaner foods, I began looking at the household cleaners and beauty products I was using and got frustrated when I saw a bunch of ingredients I didn’t recognize. In large part because I was hoping to become pregnant, I stopped using products that were potentially toxic and started making DIY shampoo, conditioner, and face wash with ingredients such as honey, coconut oil, and castile soap. I’ve dabbled a little with homemade makeup (I recently made a foundation with cornstarch and cocoa powder), but it also seemed easy to skip makeup altogether.

06. Once I was on my honeymoon, I never gave it a second thought.

I didn’t spend any time on my vacation thinking about the fact that I wasn’t wearing makeup. At first I was mildly concerned about how the photos would turn out (Would I look tired and pale with splotches of redness across my cheeks?), but I quickly discovered that a pair of sunglasses and a big smile make everyone look beautiful. Another thing that made me look beautiful: feeling beautiful. I spent my honeymoon confident and happy, and it showed.

07.  Everyone is beautiful.

Have you ever watched an awards show and seen an actress who regularly plays a dowdy role walk the red carpet looking like an absolute bombshell? I have a theory that every single person on this planet can look super-hot with the right clothing, makeup, hair, and lighting. I also have a theory that everyone is beautiful when she is doing something that makes her happy. Sweaty athletes are beautiful. Coffee baristas who create perfect foam art are beautiful. The corporate woman killing it in her office is beautiful. Newlyweds in love are beautiful. Put on a big smile, and I don’t care how much or how little makeup you’re wearing: You’re going to look good, period. When I look at the pictures from my honeymoon, I don’t look flawless. But I look happy. I look loved. And I look like I love being in love. Isn’t that all any newlywed could ask for?

Photo Credit: Julie Cate