The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We’re almost a year into the Coronavirus pandemic now, and to say it’s changed everything would be an understatement. In the span of a few days life went online, and all senses of normalcy went out the window. With it went my makeup.
I can’t say I was a makeup guru, or even a makeup enthusiast before this pandemic. At the bare minimum, my pre-pandemic makeup routine included skincare and mascara. On a good day, I might’ve done a full face of makeup, but nothing too intricate. When the pandemic first started, I carried on my regular makeup routine. I got prepped and ready for Zoom meetings as if the people on the other end of the call were going to see me in ultra-high-definition. For a few months, doing my makeup to sit in front of my desk on video calls for 9+ hours was my new normal, and I did it gladly. Every morning I’d wake up like it was a regular, non-pandemic day and put on my makeup. Swirling my brush in pretty eyeshadow colors or swiping a bold new lipstick over my lips gave me a sense of control that, until that point, nothing else was giving me. I did my makeup because I liked that my eyelashes would look so fluttery and bold in my tiny video call squares or the way my highlighter would glitter in the light of my desk lamp. I felt pretty and validated any time my peers would compliment how “put together” I looked even though I wasn’t leaving my house, and the world outside was falling apart.
But, as the months went on and life continued online, I spent less time seeing people face-to-face or virtually and more time just sitting alone working at my laptop. It started with one day of not wearing makeup. I woke up tired, with a full day of work ahead of me, and I wasn’t in the mood to add another task to my to-do list, so the makeup remained untouched on my bathroom counter. That day turned into weeks. As pandemic stress mixed with grad school stress mixed with work stress, makeup became the last thing on my mind. Thinking about my own appearance seemed so trivial, given everything going on in the world. Was anyone even going to care if I wasn’t wearing makeup? Was I going to care?
I started attending virtual meetings bare-faced, certain my peers could see the bags under my eyes, the acne scars on my cheeks, the traits I would have usually kept hidden. At this point, I haven’t touched my makeup in months, and I might not ever pick it up again. This pandemic has given me a lot of time to spend with my bare face. Like, maybe more time than I’ve spent with it since I started wearing makeup six years ago. And while I enjoy wearing makeup and feel pretty in it, I’ve noticed a few things.
It’s really hard as a woman to untangle myself from the belief that I have to look pretty and “presentable” at all times, and that makeup can help me achieve that. This belief has been ingrained in me by social media, magazines, commercials, television, and more for the past 22 years. It was like I was unintentionally trying to break away from a core value by not wearing makeup. The less time I spent wearing makeup, the more I realized that I wasn’t even doing the makeup for me some days. Some days I was just doing it because I thought I had to, and that it was the only way to gain validation or acceptance from my peers.
Studies show that for some people, makeup can boost confidence. Pre-pandemic, I thought I was one of those people, but a few months of bare-faced Zoom calls have helped me realize I’m not. Makeup is something I enjoy, but it isn’t the defining aspect of my persona. I get my confidence from funky earrings, good curly hair days, or just being able to let my personality shine – not from my perfectly blended eyeshadow.
When it’s summarized like this, becoming makeup-free sounds easy, but the truth is, no matter how much time I spend without my makeup, there are days where I feel uncomfortable and distracted seeing my bare face in the mirror or my little Zoom box. Sometimes I scroll through Instagram, seeing a ton of beauties with full faces of makeup, and I feel plain and unremarkable. But I still can’t bring myself to put the makeup back on. Instead, I get off Instagram or look away from the Zoom box and make a conscious effort to appreciate my appearance without makeup. Sometimes I’ll sit in front of the mirror and just think of things I love about my appearance like the natural arch of my eyebrows or the shape of my eyes. It’s not always an easy process, but I’m determined to continue making peace with my makeup-less face.
Wearing makeup is a different experience for everyone. Makeup can be empowering, it can be another thing you just have or want to do, or it can be the furthest thing from your mind. For me, it’s been a journey from lining my waterline with dark black eyeliner to doing a full face of makeup for class to now, not wearing it at all. I still appreciate makeup and the creative things people can do with it, but I’m at the point where I’ve considered throwing most if not all of my makeup in the trash. Even though my makeup sits in a clear display right on my bathroom counter, most days I don’t even notice it’s there. I don’t think about it at all.
Over the past ten months, I’ve only worn makeup for Zoom interviews or the rare fancy at-home dinner date. Lately, putting on makeup feels like more of a gesture I’m doing for the person on the other end of the Zoom call or the other side of the table than something I’m doing for me. In other words, I feel like I’m putting on makeup to “look pretty” for the other person. That’s a societal norm that I haven’t been able to shake yet.
I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to regularly wearing makeup, not even once the pandemic is over and I have face-to-face meetings again. Spending so much time with my bare face has taught me to be confident about my appearance in a way that I never have been before and in a way that I won’t be able to maintain if I go back to wearing makeup. I’m strongly considering a makeup-less future because I’ve learned to love the woman I am without it and to feel confident in my appearance. I don’t want to lose that.