The One Beauty Ritual I HAVE To Do Before I Have Sex

This story was originally published January 27, 2017.
For some, the pre-sex checklist looks a little something like this: Spritz on some Black Orchid. Swipe on a few coats of ultra-black mascara. Swap your stretched-out cotton underwear for... any other pair. Line up some Miguel tracks on the playlist. Set the mood lighting.
Me? I don't need any of that. In fact, one of the few places I'm not insecure — about my hairy arms or my gross toe — surprisingly, is the bedroom. So there's only one thing that needs to be done before I hit the sheets with a guy: the removal of every last trace of makeup. Whether it's a one-night-stand or a LTR, I go bare from the brows down.
The compulsion formed after my first time. Yes, the sex was brief and awkward, but that's not why it was so bad. When I crawled over to face my new adult self in the mirror, I was greeted with melted foundation, flakey mascara, liner smudged by my temples — and the pang of makeup shame struck me hard. I expected to look like Marilyn Monroe, not Tarman. And so I vowed to never let it happen again.
Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
When I come out to friends about my no-makeup-in-the-bedroom rule, I'm met with shaking heads, confusion, and the occasional "WTF?" Clearly, I'm not the only woman in the world who washes her face before (many people never wear makeup to begin with), and there's obviously no wrong or right way to look while having sex, but there is a wide gap between comfort zones in my friend group. For me, rolling around in eyeliner and blush is a small form of personal hell; for them, it's a confidence booster.
Thus far, only one partner has commented on my pre-coital routine: A former boyfriend groaned about how long I took taking off my makeup and even fell asleep by the time I was finally ready to go, but it's hardly hurt my sex life. In fact, men have complimented my freckles that are normally hidden by foundation and said my natural eyelashes are long as hell. I don't need this validation, but I sure don't hate it. Look, there are a lot of fetishes, habits, and preferences out there: Some people are into sploshing; others like to do it at the gym; I want to be as bare bones as possible. I think it's because the act is already so vulnerable that if I'm in it, I want to really be in it — I want to let my partner see me at my most fragile and embrace the flushed pink afterglow and bed head. (I like to imagine I look like the kind of nude forest nymph you see prancing on the ceilings of chapels, but that's up for debate.)
But the best unintended benefit of sex sans makeup? No need to get up and wash your face means no need to cut cuddle time short. Just make sure you get up to go to the bathroom at some point — congested skin sucks, but UTIs are way worse.
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