One of the things I remember most about being a little girl is sneaking into my mom's room and staring at the different colors of eye shadow and blush, dreaming of the day when I could paint my own face. Those days are long gone. I'm in my mid-thirties, have been wearing makeup half my life, and no longer feel excitement, but rather apprehension, upon realizing I need a new tube of $30 mascara (that sh*t is expensive!). Somewhere along the way, makeup started to feel like a chore, much like brushing your teeth or taking the trash out, something I did on auto-pilot, because well, I felt I had to.
A few months ago I made the decision to go an entire month without makeup: no lipliner, no mascara, no foundation, NADA. My decision to go bare-faced wasn't so much related to the money factor (even though it IS crazy-expensive when you have to buy multiple shades of lipstick because nothing complements your skin tone), or because I always get bronzer on my shirt and I'm sick of buying Tide sticks. Rather, the decision was two-fold. One, I wanted to get a few more minutes of sleep each morning. And two, I was genuinely curious how people would react to a woman who suddenly stopped darkening her brows with a glorified crayon and "priming" her lashes with some sort of white substance I'm not entirely convinced makes any difference. Would I feel empowered? Would others still find my bare face, rife with sun spots and fine lines, beautiful? Would people treat the fresh-faced Lisa differently? Would I feel differently about myself? I wanted to find out.
So I did it. I stopped wearing makeup for 30 days. Here's what happened:
Day 1 - 3: So Fresh & So Clean
The first few days going make-up commando were GREAT. My skin felt clean and I didn't have to worry about my foundation dripping off my face in the 90-degree Missouri heat. I was pleasantly surprised that the people I regularly interacted with treated me the same. My barista didn't seem to notice and my neighbors didn't call the cops about a makeup-free stranger entering my home and pruning the hedges. They all treated me like they always did; with a kind hello and a smile. They probably figured I was lazy and skipped my time-consuming eyeliner regime, which consists of 5 minutes of trying to draw a straight line across my lid. I was impressed with how clean my skin felt and assumed the au naturale glow would last the rest of the month. Spoiler alert: It didn't.
Day 8: It's Spreading!
In addition to not wearing makeup, I decided not to straighten my hair anymore, opting for a messy ponytail instead. I got a few questionable glances from my bank teller, and my dry cleaner asked if I was on a "staycation."
Day 15: My Husband Notices
Into the third week of my not-so-scientific experiment, my husband piped up. In order to make this trial as unbiased as possible, I didn't tell him about it, mostly because I wanted to see his reaction. Interestingly, it wasn't what I expected. He asked me if I was trying something new. I told him I wanted to give my face a breather. Much to my surprise, he supported it. He told me he loved my face exactly how it was and I didn't need makeup to spruce things up. I was shocked. It actually got me thinking about my relationship with makeup and its effect on my relationship with my husband. Was wearing makeup hurting my relationship with him? Did he really prefer me without all of those expensive beauty products or was he just saying that to be nice? I began to wonder if never wearing makeup again would actually be good for my marriage. Perhaps my husband truly did like me better without artificial products slathered on my face. If so, I could spend a lot more money relaxing at the spa and a lot less time at Sephora forking over a small fortune for eye shadow. Score!
Day 17: Water Cooler Gossip
I really started to notice a change at work due to my decline in appearance. I felt like people were starting to notice my transformation. No one said anything to me or asked me about it, but I started to get paranoid. Maybe I was just reading too much into it, but people in the office seemed to steer clear of me. and I found myself retreating into my office more and more to avoid conversation. I lost the motivation to interact with any of my co-workers.
Day 20: PJs ALLLLLL Day!
In addition to no makeup and crazy-hair, I transitioned into wearing more comfortable daytime appropriate loungewear whenever I didn't have to dress up. Normally I wear cute sundresses or maxidresses when I didn't have to wear a suit for work, but I traded those badboys in for yoga pants and tank tops, steering away from anything that required me to wear heels. Or wedges. Or anything other than flip-flops. This wasn't a conscious decision, but something I slowly did without realizing it. I figured if people were already looking down on me for going au naturale, I might as well be comfortable.
And that's when my boss noticed. He said he wanted to talk to me about something and I immediately suspected the worst. Did I screw something up? Lose a client? Was I getting fired? I approached his office slowly and slumped into a chair, ready to take my lashing while keeping my fingers crossed I wasn't getting the boot.
My boss and I are close and we have the same dry sense of humor, which is probably why I like him so much (although I prefer he not know that). When I sat down in his office he gave me a grin and asked if I was trying a new outfit. I could tell he didn’t care so much about my clothing choice as he just wanted to give me grief about my appearance. After all, he’d seen me at my worst when I worked 15 hour days and used the reception couch for my “rest time.”
“No, it’s not a new outfit. I’m just getting more comfortable at work. I don’t want those suits digging into my stomach while I return emails,” I responded with a smile. He knew I was joking and I knew he wasn’t really concerned about my appearance, although bringing it up certainly meant he noticed. That couldn’t be good. I figured I probably had a few more weeks until I would be getting scolded for real for my new Nike footwear policy I implemented for myself.
It did make me wonder if the office's perception of me was changing. If my boss noticed, then others probably did, too. Maybe they didn't feel comfortable enough to say something, but since my boss and I get along so well, he knew he could bring it up without issue. I couldnt help but wonder, though, if it really was an issue and he was just trying to bring it up in a nice way.
Day 24: Sad Face
I didn't want to leave the house or see my friends because I just didn't feel like putting forth the effort, and I was sick of judgmental stares when I went out. It wasn't so much that I was embarrassed of being in sweats sans makeup. It was all that it represented. I was basically looked like I was ready for a slumber party 24/7, which blurred the line between life and lounging at home. Sure, I was comfortable in my favorite T-shirt, but I didn't feel like myself. Not because I looked horrible without makeup (although that may be true), but I think it was more about the fact that I gave off the impression that I didn't care about my appearance, which suggested I didn't care about anything else.
My assertive friend Olive called me on a Saturday to go to lunch. It's a weekly thing so she was surprised when I responded that I didn't feek like it. She retorted quickly with "What's going on with you? Are you depressed or something? Why are you slumming in your pajamas without wearing makeup? And did you lose your hairbrush? I don't understand this whole thing you've got going on." (What did I tell you? She's assertive.)
I didn't know how to respond. I didn't want to break the experiment, but I also wasn't interested in turning down lunch plans with my bestie. That wasn't the point at all. Ultimately, I told her I hadn't been feeling well, which she knew was a lie, but didn't press further. "Well, if you need anything, let me know," she responded haphazardly. I suspected I pissed her off a little, but figured I'd fill her in once this whole shindig was over.
Day 30: The End Of The Road
The experiment is finally OVER, and honestly, I'm so glad. My life (and self-worth) changed drastically over the past month. When I was at work, I didn't feel nearly as motivated. I was slower to respond to emails, which resulted in them piling up throughout the day, making more work for me come 5 o'clock, and making me more irritable. I'm normally someone who does several things at once, but I found myself slowing to a snail's pace. It was a clear shift in my work habits; a shift that neither I - or my boss - was happy about. I was comfortable, sure, but I think I was TOO comfortable. When you look lazy, you feel lazy, too. I also felt more cynical of the world; worried that everyone was judging me because I looked...sloppy. Deep down, I think I was judging me too.
The truth? I feel better when I wear makeup, but not because I like the way I look in it or because I feel like society wants me to wear it. I feel better because painting my face and doing my hair are things I do to take care of myself. Wearing makeup is how I show myself that I take pride in my appearance. I'm more apt to go out to an impromptu lunch with friends and more prone to meet friends after work (and not just because there's vodka).
Going forward, I don't want to go without makeup. I thought taking a break would be a way to get a few more hours of sleep, but I never thought I would be the one treating myself differently. Now I know that how I feel on the inside is directly affected by how I look on the outside. And that's ok. I like to feel pretty. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Starting today, the makeup is back in my life (you're welcome, coworkers, friends and Sephora employees). And yes, I'm also going to begrudingly go out and buy a replacement for that empty $30 tube of mascara. Because I'm worth it.