I remember the first time I got my makeup done professionally. It was my junior year of high school, on the day of prom. I went to the makeup studio in my ultra-suburban town, sat down, got my face beat for about 20 minutes, walked out, and promptly began to cry. “I hate it so much,” I whined to my mom. “I look like a freaking Barbie doll,” I said, as I proceeded to wipe off the $50 job. And that’s more or less the relationship I’ve had with makeup ever since. Every time I tell people that I don't wear makeup, I'm met with raised brows, slight gasps, drawn-out exclamations of "Whaaat?," even the occasional eye roll. My team here at R29 — and pretty much the entire editorial staff — knows not to come to me for foundation suggestions, mascara hacks, or eyeliner pointers. I've been dubbed the no-makeup, no-really-no-makeup beauty-team member. It's blasphemous, I'm aware. This is not to say there weren't snippets in my life when I experimented with the occasional product. I owned a lip gloss in every frosted pink shade in middle school. I dabbled with eyeliner in high school. When YouTube became popular, I even embarked on a mission to nail the ever-tricky smoky eye (to no avail). But none of these phases really stuck. After a while, I came to the conclusion that buying cosmetics, looking up tutorials, and practicing and perfecting looks was more work than it was worth. For me, wearing makeup devolved from an empowering experience into an exhausting one. Makeup eventually took a backseat to styling my hair, taming my brows, and caring for my skin. Let me be transparent: I do apply the occasional vampy lip, mascara, and/or dab of blush when I'm feeling ambitious. But makeup doesn't make me feel as good as that extra 20 minutes of sleep does. So, makeup loses. Every time. Beyond that, I
blame credit my upbringing — the family members and friends in my life — for my no-makeup approach. My mother has one distinct beauty marker: her red lips. Rain or shine, 11 a.m. or 11 p.m., Zumba class or wedding, you’ll never find her without her red signature swiped on. Her best friend once said that if she didn't know better, it would seem like my mom woke up with red lipstick on. To that, my mother replied: "Well, I do, if I don't remove it." But aside from her staple lip, her face is bare. No foundation, blush, mascara, nada. When I asked her why this is, she replied, “I never thought I needed anything else, and putting all of that on is one extra thing to do in the morning.” Thus, she cemented what I already knew to be true: I am my mother's daughter.
Makeup doesn't make me feel as good as that extra 20 minutes of sleep does. So, makeup loses. Every time.
Before sitting down to write this piece, I polled my bare-faced friends about their reasons for keeping things minimal. Their answers ranged from practical ("because it's an expensive habit to keep up"), to relatable ("because my mom never wore makeup, except on special occasions, and I always found her to be gorgeous"), to hopeful ("because Black don't crack"). But one explanation resonated with me the most: "I was always afraid that if I wore makeup all the time, I'd never find myself beautiful without it." And that, right there, is the slippery slope that I face on the regular, and have to make a conscious effort to pull myself back from. I never want to get so used to wearing makeup that I end up resenting it. I never want to feel like I need to doll myself up just to go to the corner bodega. To me, covering up my blemishes, filling in my brows, and enhancing my lashes daily feels like a gateway to a negative self-image — something I've wrestled with in the past, while dealing with problem skin. That's why I also understand how makeup can act as a great confidence booster, and a vehicle for self-expression. The trick is to wear however much (or however little) you choose, without allowing others to dictate that amount. My inbox is filled with emails every single day about improving this, smoothing that, taming the other. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that I am enough, that I have enough, that I do enough.
Sometimes, it's easy to forget that I am enough, that I have enough, that I do enough.
Demi Lovato once said, in an interview with us: "What makes me sad is to see so many girls on Instagram with their faces painted, literally, and the contouring tutorials and the lip tutorials. I had a moment where I thought, Are my lips not big enough? And, no, I have great lips. While it's great to learn, some of these tutorials make you think you have to put pounds of makeup on, and that’s not the case." There's nothing wrong with waking up each morning and beating your face to the gods if it makes you feel good about yourself, or if covering up this or enhancing that gives you the confidence to take on your day. You do you, boo-boo. But if you're piling on the product because you can't appreciate yourself without it, then it might be time to readjust your outlook and gaze beyond that image in the mirror. I think my reaction when I first got my makeup done professionally — which I continue to have to this day, tbh — was so strong and visceral because I didn't recognize the person staring back at me. Did she look pretty? Yes. Did I feel pretty in that moment, and do I feel pretty every other time I'm wearing a full face of makeup? Absolutely. But the most important thing — to me, anyway — is that I feel pretty outside of that moment, as well.