I Didn't Wear Makeup For A Week: Here's What I Learned

As misleading as the title may sound, this wasn’t an intentional decision.

It all started last Monday when I woke up, only to find that I couldn’t open my eyes. They were crusted shut. Oh no. I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details, but in that moment, I knew I had pink eye.

Rewinding to everything that had happened prior to that morning, here’s what my life was looking like for the next two days: I had three exams to take, two classes to teach, an entire Shakespeare scene to memorize and perform and I had already been battling a cold for a week. Long story short, I wasn’t looking or feeling my best.

When I went to the doctor, I was told that I did, in fact, have pink eye and that I had to apply drops 4 times a day for a week in order to get rid of it. I felt so sick at the time, I took the eye drops and it almost didn’t occur to me that the doctor had told me not to wear makeup for a week as I left the dreary office.

My history with makeup has been an interesting one. Unlike most women my age, I didn’t wear makeup regularly until the last few months of my senior year. I went to an all-girls high school, so not many people made a big to-do about appearance. It wasn’t that I was opposed to makeup, but for a long time, I didn’t think I had to worry about it.

However, after I scored an internship at Girls Life, a teen fashion magazine in May 2016, I began to think about makeup differently. Suddenly, I was opened to a world of all things cosmetics and unexpectedly fell in love. I began using mascara, eye pencil and platinum eyeshadow each day to highlight my big blue eyes. Makeup became a big part of my life at that point. It made me feel put together and confident, especially as an emerging young professional.

So, when I realized I had to ditch the not-so-smokey smokey eye for a week, I wasn’t a fan at first. Not only was I sans makeup, but my right eye was incredibly puffy that Tuesday morning and painful to look at. When I set out for the day, I wore sunglasses inside for about an hour, but eventually realized that looked ridiculous. Maybe it was the newly acquired sense of caring less and less about what people think that my 20s have brought me, which led me to take off the glasses and just roll with it. And despite my eyes still being physically crusted shut, they were opened to the reality of a beauty expectation many women deal with.

During that week, I began to think about what value we assign ourselves when we look and feel our best and when we don’t. What about the value society gives us with and without a full face of makeup? Why do people see someone without makeup as a representation of looking scattered or not put together? Why is it that every time I have to recruit new members for my sorority, I’m expected to have “recruitment ready hair and makeup.” Is it strictly to present myself in a clean manner or does it have underlying meaning? What changes about me and who I am as a person when I have eyeshadow on versus when I don’t?

As an adult, life gets to be too much sometimes. It’s easy to want to hide behind something and pretend you know what you’re doing instead of admitting internal or external defeat. Projecting the best image of yourself is something we all aim to do and that’s normal. My question is, how can we redefine what’s “normal” and “acceptable?”