I was 18 years old and had just moved into my college dorm. In an effort to make friends, my dorm’s entire floor made plans to go clubbing together. I was in the community bathroom applying eyeliner until mesmerized, I dropped what I was doing to watch a girl sweep gold eyeshadow across her eyelids and bronze her already sculpted cheekbones. She used brushes with weird names like kabuki and products I’ve never seen before.
I’m what my friends would call a late bloomer. Up until this moment, I had minimal experience with makeup; my daily routine consisted mainly of my sister’s eyeliner, and I’m not sure I knew how to properly cleanse my skin. I noticed most girls in my dorm applied makeup daily—even if it was just for class. I found it so fascinating. Like a canvas, they would paint their face and experiment with different combinations of colors and textures.
This is when my obsession with makeup really began. My friends and I would binge watch makeup gurus on YouTube and take weekly trips to Sephora—it became ritual to buy makeup before we went clubbing on weekends. I would perform trial and error until I found products that complimented my face and skin tone. My collection slowly started to build; at one point, I owned 7 foundations that I would literally use for 7 different occasions (extra, I know). Every single morning I’d follow the same routine: cleanser, moisturizer, primer, concealer, foundation, bronzer, highlighter, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick. These rituals stuck with me into late college.
(Sophomore Year of College)
Mornings easily became my favorite part of the day. Applying makeup felt therapeutic. There were few things I couldn’t conquer with contour and a bold lip. And as someone that isn’t very creative, applying makeup felt like the closest I could be to an artist. It allowed me to be as precise or careless as I’d like to be. And if I didn’t like it, I could wash it off and try again. From cat eyes to cut creases, I would practice every single day.
But then I started to feel naked without makeup. I would refuse to run errands without BB cream and concealer at minimum. I would push back dates if I couldn’t get ready in time. I would feel self-conscious when the kids I coached pointed out I looked tired without makeup on. I would feel uncomfortable showing my significant others my bare face. One of my earlier boyfriends would even make bets with me to go to restaurants without makeup on (FYI I never lost).
When I made the decision to travel more often, I forced myself to be more minimalist with my makeup application. Backpack space for my Naked Palettes were exchanged for battery packs and adapters. Time I usually took to meticulously apply my eyeshadow was instead replaced with early morning starts to go on adventures. If you opened my Google drive to take a glance at my recent travel pictures, most pictures of me are actually sans makeup.
This wasn’t just limited to traveling either. A friend recently tagged me in some Facebook photos dated a little over a year ago. I had on a full face of makeup—fake lashes included. I paused to look in the mirror and compare our faces. Although I still cleanse and moisturize twice a day, unlike my college predecessor, I skimp out on the makeup most mornings. I found myself trading in my beauty blender and eyelash curler for more sleep and black coffee.
My initial decision to wear less and less often was more out of practicality. Now, I think it’s an active choice to do so. Wearing makeup helped me carefully construct an image of how I wanted to be perceived—I thought I looked smarter, more confident, more secure (some studies do confirm that). Somewhere down the line I stopped wearing makeup for me; I started wearing it for other people. And I think that’s where I fell short.
I needed to fall in love with my own skin again.
My skin is far from perfect. I struggle with cycles of acne and my lashes continue to grow straight no matter how much I pray to Indian Jesus. But I’ve learned to stop being overly critical of my face at its most natural. I think makeup can be wonderful as a form of creative expression, but it should never cause you to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing or taking an overt stand against makeup itself either; I still binge watch beauty gurus on YouTube on the regular, my favorites including ilikeweylie and Kaushal Beauty. I’m just giving myself a break to love my skin as is. I’ll save the full face for special occasions; in the meantime, hold my coffee please.