I Went On The 5:2 No-Makeup Diet For A Month

The morning bell sounds through the locker-filled hall as you rush in the door. You drop into your seat just before your teacher begins to turn toward the class. You glance down, and surprise! You’re not wearing any clothes. We've all woken up in a cold sweat because of some version of this stress dream — with the fear of being exposed.

When I was younger (high school, college, even my early-career days), the thought of being caught without makeup conjured up the same anxiety as this common nightmare. Leaving the house without my face on was my equivalent of walking out the door naked. In my mind, having undefined eyes and lackluster skin somehow publicized all my insecurities — whether they were visible or not.

I never caked on the makeup, but a swipe of black eyeliner and blemish- and bag-covering concealer, among a few other key things, were the prerequisites for being seen in public, whether I was going to work or the grocery store. But what if there was a way to go without all this stuff that would not only make me look just as put-together, but make me feel a little more self-confident, too?

This is basically what the 5:2 Skin Diet claims to do. By not wearing makeup for two days a week, you can make your skin look healthier and more glowing. Inspired by the top weight-loss diet of 2014, in which you limit your calorie intake to 500 for two days a week and eat what you want the rest, the 5:2 Skin Diet requires you to go cosmetics-free instead. The trend has been picking up steam in the U.K., touted as a way to promote cell turnover and get better skin in just one month.

I've tried my fair share of fad diets (and by tried, I mean fallen victim to), so why the hell not this one? Sure, I have my issues with makeup dependency, but the idea of going without it doesn’t induce the nightmare-ish reactions it once did. I’ve kicked my eyeliner addiction (I'm more dependent on brow products these days), and I’ve even posted a few sans-makeup selfies on Instagram.

That’s not to say I don’t regularly wear makeup. In fact, I probably wear more makeup than I ever have — especially on my skin. (Sorry raccoon eyes, you were a phase that lasted way too long. Life lessons.) But I was willing to let my foundation- and brow-powder security blanket go for two days a week for the sake of glowing skin — and a story.

Doing My Homework
Before I embarked on my barefaced journey, I reached out to NYC-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, an NYC dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, a firm believer in going makeup-free, to get a grasp on what this "diet" is about. “If you remember why you have to take your makeup off before bed, this whole idea of giving your face two days without makeup is...a broader version of that same concept,” she says. “Your skin is a very sensitive organ, and it needs to know: What’s the weather like? What's the humidity like? Is it dry? And then, that’s how it responds and how it keeps performing at its best. If you’re suffocating that ability [with makeup], your skin is not going to perform as well as it can.”

Cells need time to exfoliate and slough away dead skin, which they do naturally, Dr. Nazarian explains. But if you’re putting stuff on your face all the time, it can interfere with that cycle. Plus, makeup is just not that good for your skin. Of course, some brands are better for it than others, but no makeup is really better. “The mineral type of makeup, like Bare Minerals, is a little less irritating," says Dr. Nazarian. "They’re taking out the parabens, they’re taking out a lot of the fragrances and things that are irritating to the skin. But the bottom line is makeup is not perfect, and is never going to be 100% natural and interact perfectly with your skin. The more time that you can keep your skin fresh and bare, in its natural state, it’s going to respond better and be able to take care of itself better.”

Grinning & Baring It
With that information, I set out on my skin diet, a little nervous but ready to take on the challenge. A lot of people who do the 5:2 go for makeup-free weekends, but I decided to do Sunday and one day during the week. I just couldn’t fathom a Saturday night sans mascara, unless it was spent on my couch. And who wants to do a whole month of that? Sundays were easy. I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who doesn't care whether I wear makeup. (Though he rolls his eyes every time I come home with a fake tan or magically lightened hair.) I felt comfortable traipsing around town with him or friends on a Sunday-funday, no problem.

Going to work without makeup was another story. It felt like I had something to hide — or nothing to hide behind. Why is she barefaced? Everyone must have been wondering. Was I too hungover to put on makeup? Did I have a last-minute "sleepover" the night before? Was I just lazy? It's for a story! I wanted to scream, as I caught a colleague's eye in the bathroom. I walked with my head down in the hall and stared straight ahead at my computer for the first couple hours. I had only been working at Refinery29 for a month or so at the time — were my tired eyes and ink-free lashes sending off the wrong first impression? Probably not any more than my refusal to make eye contact.
Courtesy of Herbal Essences
Eventually, I snapped out of it. Maybe my coworkers just thought I was free-spirited, or maybe (most likely) I realized no one was really judging but me. By week four, I was feeling pretty comfortable with my new lack of a beauty routine. I even got my photo taken barefaced at a work event, where they did our hair and makeup if we wanted (oh, the life of a beauty editor), denying the PR girl when she asked me if I needed a pre-snapshot touch-up. See, there I am in all my naked glory (yes, also with a pineapple in my hair)!

But — like when I scarfed down a bag of Doritos during my last failed attempt at a juice cleanse — I had a slip-up here, too. On one of my makeup-less days, I forgot I had a work event that night, and not just any event — it was Chanel. I was still going to go, without makeup, but just as I was about to leave the office I chickened out (there would be people there). I completely fell off the wagon: foundation, red lipstick, eyeliner. So I ended up not counting that day; instead, I met some friends for dinner that Saturday and went makeup-free. Granted, it was not a big night out trying to attract attention like we used to, but it was still something I didn’t ever think I would do.

I was starting to like my new lifestyle. The mornings I woke up and remembered that I wouldn't have to put on makeup that day were such a treat — like when you get a facial after work and realize you don't have to wash your face before bed. I had time to actually enjoy my coffee, and was even a little more punctual than my usually not-so-punctual self. Applying makeup the other days began to feel like a chore — like putting the laundry away. Wouldn't it be nice not to have to do that? And since I've finished the cleanse, I've missed those free days and have found myself going most of the weekend with minimal makeup if any, and wearing less and less to work.

The Skin I'm In
But enough about my mental state. What about my skin? Honestly, a month later, I could not see a major change. Now, I don't have many noticeable issues in the first place. Dr. Nazarian warned me that not everybody sees a dramatic difference. "Results will be totally varied, depending on how bad the person's own makeup choices are for their skin. Like, if someone has sensitive skin or a little bit tougher skin and their makeup choices are really heavy and oily: Taking that combination into mind, if you feel by the end of the month that your skin looks better, it looks less splotchy, that redness has gone down, you’re breaking out less, that needs to be a huge wakeup call for you that you should either give up that makeup altogether or you should wear it as less often as you can."

Although my face looked clear, I didn't get any comments on how I had a new glow or anything. But it did teach me to simplify my daily makeup routine and gave me a confidence boost. This is actually the result Dr. Nazarian hopes for when people do this diet, rather than some gimmicky look-younger-quick trick.

"I was a little bit skeptical about this at the beginning, because I didn’t know if people were going to take it seriously or do it appropriately, or if they were going to understand what they were really supposed to derive from this diet," she says. "It’s not really about taking those two days off, it’s about reevaluating what you’re putting on your skin so you can be a little bit more aware of it."

I think I’ve learned my lesson with fad diets (weight-loss or skin): There is no quick-fix. But trying out something that creates awareness of what you put in or on your body, helps you make healthier choices, and in turn, feel more confident in your own skin — now, that’s a good dream.
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