Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup

The first time I went outside without any makeup I felt horrible. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that without concealer everyone could see the bags under eyes, without foundation everyone could see my acne and blemishes, and without color corrector everyone could see the redness on my cheeks. I had never felt so completely exposed – it was a vulnerability I had never experienced. I felt like no one would recognize me and that everyone was staring, wondering what was wrong with me. “Am I sick, lazy, messy, or all of the above?” were thoughts that ran through my mind. I was miserable without the cosmetic safety blanket that makeup had reliably provided me through the course of my life. It was because of those negative feelings that I knew that my relationship with makeup wasn’t a healthy one and that something had to change.

I never realized how uncomfortable I was with my physical flaws until I was looking in the mirror, openly scrutinizing every tiny blemish I could see. It hurt to look at my face; my acne scars, the bags under my eyes that have only gotten darker and deeper over the course of my college experience, patches of discolored skin and wrinkles. Applying makeup every day gave me a way to avoid confronting my insecurities about my appearance by covering them up: if no one can see your flaws, then it’s all too easy to avoid seeing them yourself. The face of makeup I put on every day became the desired version of myself, the face I was proud to show the world because I could pretend that those physical flaws I couldn’t bear to see in the mirror were gone. Only in hindsight have I realized that the confidence boost I got from seeing a flawless face of makeup only contributed to the disappointment I felt when I took my makeup off. I was always dissatisfied with what I saw in the mirror because I expected makeup to change me, to transform me into a physically flawless, successful human being. After all, the media that we’re exposed to equates makeup to a kind of superpower, a cosmetic confidence booster, a quick fix for low self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong: makeup isn’t inherently harmful. Many people use makeup as an art form, a way to enhance their features while expressing their individuality and creativity to the world. What we have to be aware of is when our relationship to makeup goes from a positive means of expression to a means of hiding our insecurities and flaws. My personal interest in makeup started out as a way to express my individual style, but when I would watch beauty gurus create these beautiful makeup looks I always wondered why I couldn’t share in the positive experience they were having. I know now that I was using makeup as a band-aid for a lack of self-confidence and that made it a constant source of anxiety: I didn’t feel like myself with makeup on, but I couldn’t go makeup-free without feeling like a shell of myself.

It took me till this year to realize that my constant battle with makeup stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t wearing makeup for me. Since elementary school, I’ve been wearing makeup for everyone who wasn’t me: for the compliments from crushes, for the acceptance and appreciation from friends, for my older sister who first taught me how to apply concealer and for the strangers who tell me that I look tired or should try a little blush. I was wearing makeup to conform to someone else’s standard of beauty, and I lost myself in the process. But what could I do? All I knew was that I no longer wanted my self-esteem to be dictated by the opinions and expectations of others - I wanted to find comfort in my insecurities so I could be the source of my own self-confidence. At the beginning of this spring semester, I decided to stop wearing makeup entirely. At first, it was extremely intimidating but it made me realize that if I couldn’t accept my flaws I would always be my biggest critic. It’s now my fifth week of not wearing any makeup and I’ve found it to be incredibly liberating. It’s an amazing feeling to know that when or if I start wearing makeup again, it’ll be on my terms and no one else's. Now I’ll ask you: who do you wear makeup for? Who defines how you feel about your flaws and insecurities? Take it from me – don’t give people power over how you feel about yourself: take your power back.

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