I Went On A Date Without Any Makeup — & I'll Never Do It Again

At the end of a long, particularly stressful workday, I walked into the office bathroom to wash off my makeup. I splashed on the last bout of water, towel-dried, and looked up at the mirror. The deep, blue shadows underneath my eyes were staring back at me; the concave scar on my forehead (a result of one gnarly case of chicken pox as a child) was on full display. And here I was, about to go on my first date in three months — with nothing on my face but moisturizer. Fuck.

Let me back up. Last month, I pitched the idea of going makeup-free on every date for 30 days. At first, I thought it'd be fun to see how men and women reacted to my minimal effort — especially if they saw me wearing a full face of it before, either in my Bumble pictures or IRL. I’ve had no problem ditching the stuff whilst in relationships, so how different could it be? But as the weeks flew by, I still hadn't gone on a single date. In fact, I was straight-up avoiding them, canceling any plans I did make at the last minute. Finally, with a few days left in the month, I knew I had to just throw up my hands and do it already.

So, I fired up the apps, scrolled through my matches, and landed on one particular dude with a decent amount of facial scruff and a DGAF vibe. "Drinks tonight?" I asked, then immediately hoped he was busy. "Name the place," he wrote back. And then came the dread.

We met at a bar in Tribeca after work. It was dimly lit and dive-y, but I felt like I was walking down a red carpet with all eyes on me — only, in the bad way. I spotted him and slinked into my chair. He didn’t seem to notice a difference in how I looked in comparison to my pictures (it was dark in there), and the two hours that followed were nothing out of the ordinary: We drank, we ate, we talked. Well, he talked. About work, his travels, why he wants to move to Canada now that Trump got elected — the usual. It was exhausting and I couldn't get a word in, but never once did he bring up my looks. And for some reason, that surprised me, because no amount of alcohol could mask how exposed and naked I felt.

My lack of interest in him then directed all my attention to my insecurities. In-between generous gulps of wine, I kept wondering if the overhead lighting accentuated my acne. Stop staring at my chin, bro. My thoughts enraged me; I didn't even like this guy, yet I wished desperately in that moment a fairy godmother would appear with a magic (mascara and concealer) wand. I felt both shallow and self-conscious — two emotions I rarely identify with. (Okay, fine, I'm a little shallow — I work in beauty, after all. Sue me.)

Only, I'm not alone. According to a recent survey of 2,000 women by SkinStore, a mere 2% of respondents said they feel confident enough to go au naturel. Worse, a whopping one-third admitted they wouldn't leave the house without makeup at all. (A stark contrast to the barefaced movement sweeping Hollywood right now.)

"Interestingly, wearing too much makeup has the same effect as not wearing any,” says Emma Bradley, a U.K.-based sociology education specialist, adding that it's all about balance. And that rings true for me, too: I vividly remember applying loads of smudgy eyeliner during my teenage angst years, and hearing multiple friends' parents whispering about it and gossiping that I was vying for attention. (Which, let's be real: What 13-year-old isn't?)

In truth, makeup has always made me feel confident. So, I've done my fair share of experimenting. Perhaps now I'm just comfortable in the fact that I've found my happy medium — the just-right amount of coverage.

Eventually, my date ran out of talking points and walked me to the subway. As we said our goodbyes on the platform under the bad fluorescent lighting, I finally relaxed. I knew I would never see him again, and that was a relief. Even though I do wish I had been wearing makeup, nothing could cover up the fact that there was no spark between us. (Had there been, I guarantee I would have been thinking about a whole lot more than my lack of blush.)

At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference. Some people have no qualms baring it all on a regular basis, and I respect the hell out of them for that. But me? I’ll be reserving my future strip-downs for after a good date.
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