The Makeup Debate: Journey from a Painted Face

makeup (from wikipedia)

I was not allowed to wear makeup at all until I turned 14.  Even then, it was supposed to be kept for more speical occasions and situations.  In high school, the rules relaxed a little bit.  Junior and senior year of high school, and freshman year of college, I wore makeup every single day.  I literally felt “naked” without it on my face.  Not that I ever wore a ton, but some foundation, eyeshadow, and mascara was a necessary component of my wardrobe. 

all dressed up, with makeup, for a formal dance during college 2007

I let go of the need to wear makeup during college.  My spiritual director at the time had challenged me not to wear makeup, since she knew, and I knew, too, that it was part of the mask that I was putting up, trying to hide my real self behind.  The first day I went without makeup, I was so tense about it!  I felt like everyone noticed every imperfection about my skin, my face, and, by extension, me.  It was downright scary.  That may sound ridiculous, but that is truly how I felt.

a few weeks after the above photo, no makeup

As I spent more time without makeup on, I relaxed about it.  Once I had reached that point, I knew that it would feel ok to wear makeup again; that I wouldn’t feel like it was something I needed to do, but something I wanted to do. 

But by that point, I had realized all sorts of positive things about not wearing makeup!  It is one less thing I have to do to get ready in the morning, which translates into a few more minutes that I can be sleeping!  I don’t have to worry about messing it up when I touch my face, or pull on a sweatshirt (not that I do that often in FL, but you know what I mean).   And I do live the hot and humid South, and makeup would literally melt off of me in the summer (so, 6 months out of the year).  Also, no matter how “light” or “sheer” the foundation is, I now feel like it is something ON my face, and I think it is much better to just let my face be.  Plus, makeup is expensive!   

putting makeup on the day of my wedding (2008)

The REAL reason that I esentially stopped wearing makeup at all, though, was because of all the cosmetic research I did for my term paper in college.  Most of the estrogen mimicking compounds that really disrupt and endanger our health can be found in makeup.  If you are at all interested in this, I highly recommend the book Not Just a Pretty Face, or simply browsing the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database website

Well, I really convinced myself through my paper!  The last time I wore makeup, it was at my dad’s retirement ceremony in September.  I borrowed my sister’s powder foundation and some eye shadow.

The time before that, I wore it at Steve’s winging ceremony (graduation from flight school).  That was January of this year.

The time before that was May of 2009, at Steve’s dad’s retirement ceremony.  I frankly don’t recall the time before that.

So all told, I’ve worn make up 3 times in the past 18 months.  No lipstick (ick, I always hated that stuff), no mascara, no eyeshadow, no foundation, at any other time.  Nada.  Not at weddings I’ve attended; not for holidays or parties; not for job interviews. 

In a way, it is a freeing thing, to feel safe and complete with just myself and some clothes.  Sometimes, though, I do feel underdressed without makeup on.  All the other women at the party or function will have some on, and here I am, hanging out with just the skin on my face. 

I don’t know.  Maybe it is just a cultural expectation thing, that women wear makeup; that you are not dressed completely without some on.   Part of my reluctance to not wear makeup again is sort of a “stick it to the man” way of thinking.  I do the other normal American female cosmetic routines.  I shower.  I shave.  I wash my hair.  I use my hair blow dryer (rarely).  I use a hair straightener (ok, even more rarely).  I do not highlight, color, or bleach my hair.  Nor have I ever worn perfume, and I don’t paint my nails.  But I do most everything else. 

Sometimes it is tiring to be so very different from mainstream America in what feels like almost every aspect of my life, but the no-makeup stance is a pretty easy way to be countercultural.  It’s easier than wearing makeup, really!  Not to mention cheaper and healthier, too.

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2 Responses to The Makeup Debate: Journey from a Painted Face

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m not sure if I have worn make up since I had kids and it was not everyday before that. Someday, I’d like to be brave enough to not shave my legs! I don’t think many of the women I hang out with wear make up, but I don’t really notice that kind of thing.

  2. Caitlin Copeland says:

    Emily, I couldn’t agree more with this post! I know exactly what you mean about feeling ‘underdressed’ when all of the women around us are seemingly so ‘put-together’…. 🙂
    When I added up how much it would cost to continue dying/highlighting my hair for just one year, I was blown away by the number! So instead of spending our money on my hair dye, I enjoy other things like going to get a massage. 🙂

    Thanks for posting this!

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