Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

The history of makeup in my life has been rather inconsistent over the past 12 years or so (I’m almost 24, and I feel like I must have been around 12 when I started wearing makeup … but perhaps it was earlier).

I started out like any normal “Clarie’s” girl.  As a pre-teen, I was looking forward to doing all of the things the big girls got to do, like wearing jewelry (my mom wouldn’t let me get my ears pierced until I turned 13), fancy clothes, and makeup.  Whenever I had some pocket money (or whenever I made puppy dog eyes at the mall), I went to Clarie’s and consumed all they had to offer.  I considered it a real treat to walk home with the most stylish new earrings, glitter, and handbags.

However, real makeup was a bit of a different story.  I don’t remember that my mom was opposed to it, but she wasn’t particularly enthusiastic either.  And her version of makeup for me was a lot different than mine.  I do remember going to those booths in the department stores and getting set up with my first proper foundation and blush.  However, all the adults who gussied me up were always so heavy-handed with the materials, and I felt out-of-place.

I was mostly interested in the accessories from the start, and there was a solid 2 years when I wore body glitter on my eyes every day, usually accompanied by some sort of sticker at the corner of one eye.  I was the coolest of the cool with that style, let me tell you.  That was the same period of time that I spent all of first period writing on the back of my left hand with gel-pens the inscription “I love S.O.S.”  For those who missed out on being a teenage girl in the early 2000s, that means “someone special,” because why would you bother writing the name of your actual crush on your hand?  It’s a secret, besides, the anonymity of the message allowed for it to change on a daily basis (which it did, in many cases).

For my fourteenth birthday party, the adults in my life decided to treat me and a few of my friends to professional makeovers (done at my house, not a salon).  They did everything from eyeshadow to poofy hair, and we all looked transformed!  I believe at least one person commented that I looked like I was a 25-year-old.  I can now say, as I am approaching that age, that I look nothing like I did at 14 with makeup.  This is in part because the makeup artists were inspired by the ’80s, but most because I do not wear makeup anymore.

When I was a teenager, makeup was like this great discovery, because it could cover your blemishes, make your eyes sparkle, and make you feel like a very important older person.  However, I never fancied the time it took to put it on … and even less the action of taking it off.  My skin always felt so raw after taking off the day’s foundation and eyeshadow (which was always baby blue until I turned 16).  Many days I didn’t even bother to properly take it off, which was terrible for my skin, I know.

I think the number one reason I don’t wear makeup is because of several innocent comments from friends over the years – about themselves, not about me.  They would say things like, “I know I look terrible today, but it’s only because I’m not wearing makeup” or “I never let anybody see me without my makeup on – I apply it first thing and only take it off when I’m about to go to sleep.”  This implies to me that while makeup makes them feel better about how they look, it’s a crutch without which they feel vulnerable.

In my view, makeup is an illusion.  It’s making your cheeks always look rosy, making your skin always look perfect, making your eyelashes look longer.  But what happens when that illusion is shattered?  There are many ways this could occur.  You can’t keep up the illusion when you’re playing sports, swimming, bathing, or crying.  You shouldn’t have to wear makeup around the house or when you’re sleeping.  So anyone who has ever seen you in these situations or when you happen to not have time to apply it that day has seen the REAL YOU, and then the illusion is shattered.  So why keep up the facade?

You might make the argument … ‘Well, what about wearing fancy clothes?  Isn’t that just an illusion you’re maintaining?  Why should we bother wearing clothes at all, when we’re just covering up our true selves?’  And to that question, I would respond that wearing clothes in most cases is legally required (think “No shirt, no shoes, no service” and “public indecency” charges).  But what about the other extreme?  To me, the next logical step after a lifetime of wearing makeup is cosmetic surgery.  Why not look young and beautiful forever?  Why not stuff your face with botox and dye your hair blonde into your 70s and make everyone think you’re still a young woman?  Why aren’t women proud to be who they are, show off what they really look like, and show pride at attaining a great age and high level of wisdom?

Makeup is a huge double standard.  Men aren’t expected to cover up their blemishes or accent their lips with color.  I know men have their own insecurities like unsightly body hair, balding, and body odor.  But women have those, too.  It’s one thing to apply deodorant; it’s another to completely mask your face with paint and powder.  Men don’t do it, so why should women?

When I put on makeup, I feel like I’m wearing a mask.  I feel like I’m hiding behind something because I should be ashamed of what I really look like.  As a friend of mine pointed out, “I don’t really know why I wear makeup.  I guess it’s so deeply engrained in our culture.”  Well, I don’t know how I missed the cultural meme, but I’m glad I did.  My mom wore makeup almost every day of her life, as did the rest of the women in my family.  But I always pitied them because of all the effort they put into it, when I thought they looked just as good bare-faced.

I don’t wear makeup because I like the extra sleep.  I just can’t be bothered to get up earlier to paint my face.

I hate sitting in front of a mirror and scrutinizing every bump and blemish on my skin. I don’t like the way it feels on my face- like my skin can’t breathe.  I don’t like the way it rubs off on clothes and cell phones.  I don’t like the way it dries out my skin and make it feel raw after removal.

I hate feeling inferior without the mask.  So, I don’t.  It’s that easy.

I don’t wear makeup because I don’t need to wear makeup; nobody does!  If someone dislikes you or judges you just because of the lack of perfection of your face, they’re not worthwhile.  Instead, I think the women of this modern world should focus on smiling more, avoiding sun damage, getting healthy, and enjoying life.  We should all get more sleep, spend less time worrying about our appearance, and more time working on our positive relationships.

Afterall, nobody on their death bed says, “I wish I had spent more time putting on makeup,” or even “I wish I looked more beautiful right now.”  I can say from experience when it all boils down, the most important things in your life are the people you love.

I’ve been gradually wearing less makeup over the past five years.  In the year since I graduated from college, I wore makeup less than once a month.  I’m never going back to the daily struggle of facial perfection and giving in to societal insecurities.  I’m proud of who I am as well as how I look, and I hope you all are, too.

Sidenote: People are often telling me I have a “beautiful complexion” and no matter how much I argue with them, they always insist it’s true.  I think it’s simply because I don’t clog up my skin every day with makeup!  I don’t think my skin is extraordinary, but I do think it’s rare that someone my age has discovered the “secret” that makeup is pointless.  And apparently it has paid off!  Thank goodness for small favors.


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5 responses to “Why I Don’t Wear Makeup”

  1. Caitlin Dronfield says :

    I appreciate this post, geobuddy, and I’ve pretty much come around to your way of thinking myself. Makeup is a hassle, especially when you know you’re just going to sweat it all off in the field 🙂

  2. magnoliahugger says :

    Big Big, I meant to tell you ages ago, but this is an amazing post. I decided a couple days ago to try going a week without makeup, and it’s incredible – I don’t feel inferior, or like anyone’s treating me different, which completely goes against my expectations (yes, I possibly have issues)! Wow!

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