The Year Without Makeup

What started as doctor’s orders for one writer turned into a new kind of confidence


I’m low maintenance, I always told myself. I’m a slick-of-lip-gloss and one coat of mascara kind of girl. But the first day I went to work without makeup I wore sunglasses. In the office.

To be fair, that was mostly because my bleary eye was still secreting a mysterious cloudy liquid. I was recovering from a nasty eye infection and under doctor’s orders not to put any cosmetics — not even sunscreen — near my face. I didn’t know then that I was living my first of 365 days total without makeup.

I felt naked at first. I had never worn more than mascara, blush, maybe a bit of eyeshadow for special occasions. But I didn’t realize how much those little embellishments protected me. They were my armor in a world where being female feels like a never-ending appraisal of beauty.

In the office, my bare face seemed unprofessional. The first time I went to a club, I worried they would turn me away at the door, or at least ask me to apply a layer of lipstick before joining the bronzed, contoured girls with feline eyes inside. Out on the streets, pale-faced and dry-lipped, I felt like I was fighting a battle I didn’t believe in: that by side-stepping makeup I was becoming a poster girl for a rebellion my heart wasn’t actually invested in. I was not an anti-cosmetics crusader then. But the experience has turned me into something of a convert now.

That year taught me that makeup may be a shield, but it is not a weapon. It is a transparent cloak that everyone but you can see through — all potions have limited power. You look the way you do, and you can either accept it now and get on with your life or you can continue painting your face in the vain hopes that one day Angelina Jolie will gaze back at you from the mirror. She won’t.

Wearing mascara never hid what I looked like from others. No nightclub turned me away. Men did not recoil at the sight of unpainted lashes. Women didn’t make snide remarks. People told me I looked nice just as often as they did before, if not a little bit more. After a couple of months, I gave it no more thought, instead enjoying my extra minutes of sleep in the morning and leisurely drinks before going out.

Of course, makeup can function as a confidence booster. I don’t deny its ability to hide the sins of late nights and greasy food. When faced with a special occasion — a date, or a presentation at work — a touch of color can be a bolstering shield. But sometimes it’s empowering to throw away the crutch. Try going makeup free for just one day, and I promise: precisely nothing will change if you face the world as you really are.

Image on the left shot by Ben Toms for Garage Magazine, Image on the right shot by Juergen Teller for a Céline ad campaign

Beauty on the mind, now? Read about Cara Delevingne’s skin routine. Or check out Rita Ora’s hairstylist’s curly hair tips. You could also just twirl your hair with your pinky, or watch Amelia in action making beach waves with these GIFs.  

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