You see, I'm an all-the-time makeup sort of girl — no one here at work has seen me without it. They may think they have, but putting on natural-looking face makeup every morning is part of my skill-set. And, wearing vibrant, weirdo colors is one of my favorite things to do. I plan outfits around lipstick and set my alarm based on my eyeliner game. I’ve pretty much always been like this.
It’s not a matter of self-confidence, as I feel fine about my goddess-given face, but let’s be honest. I’m a busy girl in a dirty city. I don’t get enough sleep. I turn pink when I feel things. Makeup lets me hide all that. Yes, I’d rather have the complexion of a 20-year-old vegan yoga enthusiast who lives in the mountains and doesn’t work. But isn’t that what a good BB cream is for? Plus, I rely on makeup to make me look not just more alive, but to convey my personality. So much is communicated through makeup choices. My bare face, though, is a blank canvas for other people’s projections. I like to have more control than that.
My detox lasted for five days. Totally reasonable, right? The goal was to figure out if not wearing makeup would improve the quality of my skin, which has been in an all-out revolt since September. So, we wanted to see if letting it breathe a little would help. I had hope. The Internet is full of other women's success stories after quitting makeup: improved skin, clear pores, an embracing of their bare faces. Could I be that girl? Could I give up my favorite products and feel not just okay about it, but liberated?
Once I got to work, it took a couple of hours for my colleagues to notice, during which time it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t look very different after all. Of course, once everyone’s coffee had kicked in, the comments began. While no one said anything negative, because that would be mean, plenty of observations about my face were offered up, unsolicited. “You’re not wearing any makeup right now,” was a popular one. My colleagues who love me insisted that I looked great, but please believe me when I tell you that I didn’t. Opting out of a shower that morning hadn’t helped either. I resigned myself to hiding behind my large glasses (which were also called out several times).
Halfway through the day, I made the mistake of looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, which is lit with the same lights they use in hell. I was not pleased with what I saw. I looked tired, messy, and not at all like how I like to look in a professional setting. I hid from mirrors and reflective surfaces in general after that.
(Please note: You might not be able to see all of the hullabaloo happening on my face because these are professionally-taken photographs in perfect light, and I begged the photo team to make me look as good as possible (because, vanity). Also, I don’t think my zits are on-brand.)
I slunk home, defeated. Day one of my makeup detox hadn’t given me a revelation about my own natural beauty. If anything, it validated my lifelong love affair with foundation (as well as made me desperately miss my favorite products, pictured above).
Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Multi-Use Powder Foundation in Neutral Ivory, $36, available at Sephora; Tarte BB Tinted Treatment in Fair, $34, available at Tarte; Chanel Le Volume De Chanel in 40 Khaki Bronze, $40, available at Chanel; NARS Tinted Brow Gel in Athens, $22, available at NARS; MAC Lip Pencil in Brick, $15, available at MAC; Japonesque Color Velvet Touch Blush in Shade 1, $22, available at Ulta; Bite Cashmere Lip Cream in Port, $28, available at Sephora; Kevyn Aucoin Beauty The Essential Matte Eye Shadow Singles in Midnight, $28, available at Kevyn Aucoin; Chantecaille The Wild Horses Palette, $83, available at Chantecaille; Butter London Cheeky Cream Blush in Naughty Biscuit, $20, available at Butter London; Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Coverage Concealer in 330 Golden Beige, $29, available at Sephora.
Over the course of the next few days, my skin worsened. I broke out along my jaw and between my eyes, and a dry patch I’d thought I’d taken care of reappeared angrily. It was as though I’d lost a line of defense against the world. Rather than having a shield of protective products, my face was free to absorb all the grossness happening around me. Riding the subway started to feel like doing a facial steam in someone’s armpit.
I yearned for my BB, but dutifully faced the world without it — a world that in general was starting to notice me less. Whereas I can tell you at least five lipsticks off the top of my head that women on the street always ask me about, girls with rad beauty looks were looking right through me. Not that I need to be asked about my makeup, but, you know. When you leave the house on a Thursday morning in sparkly burgundy lipstick, gold eyeliner, and a strong brow, you can count on certain reactions from the other people who care about that sort of thing.
In the days that followed, though, I found myself using less makeup than I usually would. Rather than create a mask over my face to work with, I started using as little face makeup as possible, concealing only the areas that were bothering me. Call it a lesson learned — or chalk it up to the fact that I realized spending less time on my makeup means I get to sleep more in the morning. As for the bright colors? Those I’m never giving up.
Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser, $32, available at Beautylish; Clarins Extra-Firming Eye Lift Perfecting Serum, $60, available at Clarins; Dermalogica Blackhead Clearing Pore Control Scrub, $19, available at Dermalogica; Odacité Private Collection An Autumn On The World, $149, available at Odacité; Éminence Calm Skin Arnica Booster-Serum, $56, available at Dermstore; Kiehl's Super Multi-Corrective Cream, $62, available at Kiehl's.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan