Going Bare

Published April 3, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I decided to hold a little bit of a personal experiment over March.  As you might know, I had a month’s leave from work across January and February, and as I spent most of the time just relaxing, I didn’t wear make-up for most of the month.  My skin seemed to really, really like it, and when I went back to work and started wearing make-up each day again, my skin really wasn’t happy.  I broke out lots, the moisture levels changed and I had a flare up of psoriasis across my nose.

Now, I have been wearing a full face of make-up to work now for easily 25 years.  I started in my first job just before my 13th birthday, and as it was in a hairdresser’s salon, it was kind of the thing to wear make-up.  For many years, probably until I was in my early 30’s, I never left the house without at least some make-up on.  I felt that I couldn’t be seen au naturel.  For many years, it was a kind of armour, a mask I wore to present to the world.  Even once I started to work through the self esteem issues I had in my life, make-up was still, to me, required for work to be “presentable”.

So it’s a pretty big step for me to decide to go without make-up at all for a whole month.

And I did it.  The world didn’t end.  Nobody screamed “Look at your hideous face!  Hide the children!”  My skin was far more happy than it normally is.  Nobody pulled me aside at work and told me that my appearance was “inappropriate”.  I saved a bunch of money (I normally go through a bottle of foundation per month).  But most of all, I accepted my face as it is, bare and natural, without feeling the need to hide or disguise it.   I even left it uncovered a week ago when I had a terrible allergic reaction to something.  In fact, I’m even going to share this rather unflattering photograph here:

I look kind of pissed, don’t I?   My poor blotchy nose, cheeks and forehead!  My skin was so fragile and tender, and I still haven’t worked out for sure what I was reacting to.  I think it might be a tree in flower at the back of my house.

I went out that day, to a social event, with a bunch of people I don’t know also attending, and do you know what?  Nobody made fun of my blotchy face.  Nobody asked what was wrong with me.  And the salty ocean air on my bare skin was a wonderful treatment for the tender, itchy, blotchy skin.

It has been really liberating to just let go of that feeling of needing to cover my face and disguise my skin somehow.  I think I’ll even enjoy playing with make-up more now that I know I don’t HAVE to wear it to be seen in public.  I’m actually quite looking forward to playing around with the new MAC make-up I bought a couple of weeks ago, and having fun with colour.

But also, I’ve been able to look at the positive things about myself without spending time using make-up to hide the negative things.  I am 38 years old and I barely have a wrinkle on me.  My skin (when not being all allergic angry or the occasional hormonal zit) is usually good and smooth.  Even though my eyes/eyebrows are lopsided, I have long, dark eyelashes that really don’t need mascara.  I have some hormonal pigmentation, but I usually have good colour and when I smile, my cheeks are rosy apples.  Without make-up, my skin evens out and is not oily or dry.

But even if somebody had carried on about my bare face, and made some negative comment, I’d have been ok.  Because I know people’s value is more than just their physical appearance.  I know what is important is intellect, humour, kindness, honesty, respect, talent etc.

Do you wear make-up?  Do you feel comfortable appearing in public bare-faced?  Or do you feel the need to have your “face on” before leaving the house?  What does wearing make-up mean to you?

40 comments on “Going Bare

  • I almost never wear makeup. I even momentarily considered not wearing any to my own wedding. It’s mostly that I can’t be bothered and that I’ve never worked in an environment where it was expected so I never got into the habit.

    I do own makeup and I think I’m not so bad at putting it on and I quite like how it looks, it’s just not important to me and most of the time it just doesn’t even cross my mind. If I do wear it, it’s on a par with deciding to wear a particular decorative piece of clothing or jewellery, you know, because I feel like it on that day.

  • I do both. I’ve been through long periods in my life where I didn’t wear make up, periods when I wore far too much, and periods of just a bit of mascara and lippy before leaving the house. These days, I wear make up on weekdays, and nothing on weekends.

    For me it’s part of being playful with fashion, which is something I’ve only just started doing. For more than a decade, I tried to pretend I didn’t have a body at all, because I hated the one I had. Since coming out the other side of a major illness, I’ve decided I’ve got one life and one body and I’m going to damn well enjoy it, and make up is part of that. However… someone please be good enough to stop me before I go back to wearing thick makeup!

    You mention sea breezes – have you tried swimming in sea water? It has an almost magical effect on all kinds of skin problems (not suggesting it for looks, but for relief, if itching’s a problem.)

    • Oh yes, when I can I love to swim in the ocean. It’s just not always possible I’m afraid. Where I go for the ocean breezes really isn’t… well, my kind of swimming. It’s inside the bay and mudflats – blech. I like the open ocean with the surf for swimming.

  • I don’t actually know where my makeup is…. must be around 17 years since I wore a little for my wedding. I just never felt the need (and am allergic to most of it anyhow). I just felt like a fake in a clown face so once the allergies turned up I was simply relieved not to have to go there. (read built in excuse🙂

    viv in nz

  • I don’t wear makeup and I can’t be bothered to learn how just because a job trainer (who says that men can never ever ever wear makeup even if they have some hypothetical skin condition that really really needs makeup or they will explode) says that it is “rude” for women to show up at businesses without makeup on. That is all true except the exploding part. The consequences of the hypothetical skin ailment were left unspecified. Also, this is not job training for a job where you would be expected to dress nicely.

  • “For me it’s part of being playful with fashion, which is something I’ve only just started doing. For more than a decade, I tried to pretend I didn’t have a body at all, because I hated the one I had.” omg this exactly. I remember about 10 years ago when i first found pants that were stylish…not just pants that fit my fat ass without showing my underwear. I finally am in a position to play with what i wear. its funny how i am discovering fashion right when my 8 and 9 year olds are.
    I always dismissed people who did that as shallow…but as long ass you dont make it your entire life its fun!.

  • I never wear makeup unless there’s some kind of costume thing happening. I never learned how to put it on, and I don’t own any. If there’s a halloween party or something I just borrow my girlfriend’s makeup. Other than that I can’t stand the way it feels on my face – like a thick layer of dirt and grease that I can’t wipe off. Even the really high quality stuff feels really gross to me. I used to be really into nail polish in middle school (who wasn’t) but I can’t wear it any more for the same reason – it feels like a layer of grease sealing my fingertips off from the world, like a bandaid that, when I take it off, the skin underneath is going to be all pruny.

  • Most makeup I can take or leave, despite having worn it on and off since I was a teenager. However, I wear mascara nearly every day– if I am out in public without it, I feel a bit naked. But I enjoy some eyeliner or lipstick every now and then; I feel so fancy when I do.

  • Pretty rare I wear makeup, although I actually own some now. I never really got into it. I wore it in high school and college to fit in, but hate the stuff. Foundation makes my skin itch, so it’s pretty much limited to eye makeup and the occasional lip dye (lipstick bugs me, too). My husband prefers when I don’t put it on. So it’s either for special occasions/outings, or when I’m feeling really pale and colorless and down and want a little zip.

  • The only time I have been wearing makeup the last few months was when I had a job interview. That changed when I went to a few interviews this week and didn’t want to bother with it. Every time I put on makeup now it makes my skin freak out.

  • I gave up wearing full makeup quite a few years ago and I’ve never looked back. Most days the only thing I do to my face is moisturize and curl my eyelashes. When I do wear make up, it’s just a little bit of eye make up and some lip gloss. I love how fresh and free it feels w/o make up and when I do wear a tiny bit, like G above me, I feel very fancy.

  • Makeup?

    Heh… the other day my other half said something about having never seen me in makeup in the past 10 years…

    I reminded him that I wear it on job interviews, so he’s probably seen me in makeup a few times. But them again, I can’t stand the feeling of something on my skin – it’s itchy and distracting, so maybe he’s right. I may well have washed my face before he saw me after the interview.

    The only makeup that doesn’t trigger “OMG, something’s on my face, get it OFF!” is eyeliner, and that’s just way too much trouble.

  • I don’t wear make-up. I have very sensitive skin and eyes. I’ve never found an eye make-up that doesn’t leave me in pain and swollen. I have good skin (thank you genetics), at at 39 few to no wrinkles. But even if I had them, I wouldn’t wear make-up. Because it makes me itch and my eyes burn. I’d rather have wrinkles show, thanks. I put on a moisturizer, and often wear something like lip gloss on my lips because they’re prone to chapping. If I want to be fancy, I’ll wear water-proof mascara and hope I don’t get a single flake in my eye. (The best is when I do get a flake, and I rub and rub that eye, and end up with one made up eye and one not. That’s a really trend-setting look!) I wouldn’t mind being able to play with make-up more, but I just haven’t found a way to do it without making myself miserable.

  • I’m too lazy to put on makeup most mornings. :p So generally makeup is reserved for special occasions or when I feel like dolling myself up for no apparent reason other than to please myself.

    When I do put makeup on I generally only wear a little powder, some eye liner and/or mascara, maybe some eyeshadow, and lipstick. Nothing too extensive. Takes me like 5 minutes to put it on. No 20 minute face primping sessions for me thanks.

  • I actually don’t leave my house without it. I don’t know that I will ever be able to. (Granted, some think it’s a tad unusual or artsy, and that might be a factor as to why I don’t normally go out without it-barring an illness or emergency) Even for a day at the beach, I use just a bit. I feel like my face shape and skin tone are too unusual for me to “get away with” being natural like everyone else. I also generally feel run-down since I’m a mother to young children, and for me, it’s like war paint-helps to face the day, makes me feel a bit stronger…even if I do have…cheerios in my hair…But I think it’s wonderful to see women bare skinned. It takes courage not to have to have that war paint to feel okay🙂

  • I only occasionally bother to put on make-up, and only foundation on really awful zits. Right now I prefer to wander around without it, and I empathize with that feeling of freedom. It’s so nice not to feel obligated to do something to go out among people.

    My only concern is I expect to show symptoms of rosacea when I hit 30, because my mother has a pretty severe case of it. Time will tell whether I change my make-up habits for that.

  • i’ve gone through phases of makeup wearing.. I grew up with a really abusive aunt who was obsessed with appearance and used to force me to dye my hair, would burn my skin while curling it, jab me in the eye with eyeliner and force me to wear makeup I didn’t want to wear… so When I got to middle/high school I never wore makeup except for the occasional glitter or eyeliner (especially during my goth phase!). I refused to dye my hair and I stayed far far away from curling irons. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started wearing heavy eye makeup again and even then I never wear foundation. I use makeup to achieve a certain look- goth, punk, glamour, etc but not as an every day necessity. I have hypothyroidism which effects my skin, but I still don’t feel the need to make excuses for it. It’s happy when I don’t wear makeup and so am I. I know curling irons are off topic but I’ve also recently gotten one.. I’m learning to enjoy doing my hair and makeup for me and no one else. (and, btw, I don’t mind men wearing it either.. heck, i think men with eyeliner are hot :D)

  • *oh, i should add that I do have to wear makeup when doing any sort of photoshoot, but I always hate it >.< because I know my skin will hate me for it and it's a special circumstance.

  • I wear lipchap/lipbalm every day. I only wear makeup for special occasions and even then it’s just lipstick. All the women in my family and most of my female friends are the same way. Because there was no pressure to wear makeup, I never made that part of my routine. On the rare occasions that I do wear makeup, I usually have an acne reaction within a day or two.

    I have a theory that having mildly oily skin means that your skin is naturally moisturized and prevents it from drying out and developing wrinkles sooner.

  • I love makeup. I have some kind of strange addiction to it. But I really also appreciate the days when I go without (most weekends.) It’s important to feel like you genuinely have that choice, and that you’re not obligated to put on a face-mask every day. For a long time, during my teenage years, it really was a mask I was hiding behind. Nowadays, I feel more comfortable taking the mask off🙂

  • I have to clarify that I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wearing make-up, in fact I think it’s a fantastic way to play with your style and identity, and just like any other form of body decoration (fashion, tattoos, piercing, hair colour/styles etc), it’s a lot of fun and can help you express something.

    It’s just that I felt I was wearing it to somehow disguise or flatter my looks, not for me, but for other people, which is kinda screwy really!

  • When I was younger I felt ugly without makeup. When I was 20 I made a conscious choice to stop wearing it so I could come to accept myself as I was. For a full 2 years I went without, and by the end I really felt pretty without it. Now I wear it when I feel like it, but I’m comfortable without too. I agree; it’s so important to feel like you’re okay with or without, and then you can choose to decorate yourself as you see fit.

  • It’s funny, I’m pretty new at this accepting-my-body-the-way-it-is thing, and one result has been that I’m wearing *more* makeup these days – not as a way of hiding or blending in, which is what makeup used to be for me, but now as a way to play with my image, to decorate this body that I’m becoming pretty good pals with, and to stand out. So it’s not that I feel like I *need* it to be presentable – it’s more that now I’m saying, my body isn’t invisible, and my face isn’t either: ta-da!

  • I used to wear the full make-up when I was a young girl, say from 18. Then when I met my husband to be, he told me that I was beautiful without the make-up so I stopped using it except for the lipstick. I used lipstick up untilour red 2 1/2 years ago as I finished working. Now I don’t leave the house so have no need to use any. But I still love lipsticks.
    I also have loveley hormonal acne and it bloody hurts and looks really red and horrible. Oh well, it goes away eventually.

    By the way I love your red hair Kath.

    • Thanks Jan, I’m going purple next!

      I too get hormonal acne and it bloody hurts. Instead of finding the “cure” for fatness, why can’t all those “experts” put time and effort into helping us clear up painful acne?

  • love this post! as usual, you inspire and challenge me!
    i didn’t wear makeup until maybe after college? I was an athlete so i generally just sweat it right off🙂 I wear it now, but it really depends upon my mood. lots of times it comes down to whether i want to sleep an extra five minutes in the morning! (the sleep wins a lot) the makeup i use is Bare Minerals (do they have that in your neck of the woods?) and i switched to it a few years ago and love it. it’s basically a bunch of different powders that don’t cake on me and feel light and airy. definitely love playing w/ colors on the ‘ol eyelids, especially bright liners. i love it for the same reason you mention – it’s another way to celebrate and decorate our bodies.

  • I’ve had PCOS (now under control) and I also have psoriasis, now mostly in remission. For years, I had problems with a butterfly rash across my nose, eyebrows and part of my cheeks. I haven’t worn makeup regularly since my early 20s. The rash would ebb and flow according to my hormonal cycle, never quite disappearing. When it got bad, I used a steroid ointment and that would clear it up for a little while. I always seemed to have a flaky bit of skin in the creases behind the nostrils.
    In retrospect, I think the rash was more likely seborrhea than psoriasis, because it always felt a bit oily.
    My oily facial skin always felt great after a good soaping, but I’ve since learned that regular soap can aggravate oil problems. If your face is oily, try a milder cleanser if you haven’t already done so.
    I use a skin treatment from a small American cosmetics firm. My face is now the most even-toned it’s ever been in my adult life. That could be due to the skin treatment, the better-balanced hormones, or just getting older and being less oily-skinned.
    I still rarely wear makeup, but I’ve been known to use it more for repair than enhancement. I use it to hide skin blotches on my face and elsewhere when the occasion arises. I use lipstick partly to keep my lips moist. That’s about it.
    A lot of the process of making up strikes me as over-elaborate, which makes it not fun. How many liners and pencils and wands and powders and sticks and whatnot do you really need anyway?

    • I kinda like all those doodads, but mostly because they’re like a giant paintbox for adults. I like the artform of make-up (and anyone who doesn’t believe it’s an artform, Google Kevin Aucoin – the man was a master) but not as some kind of disguise/concealment.

  • I wear makeup just about everyday and have done since I was about 14 (I’m now 44) I would say my taste and technique have improved over the years though! When I dont wear it (and I really dont wear a lot) I feel quite selfconscious as I am quite pale and have had people at work ask me if I am sick or helpfully tell me that I look really tired..hehe gotta love those caring comments

  • i adore a little bit of makeup and most days i put on the same things which take me two minutes: a dusting of mineral makeup powder, a dusting of mineral blush, a dash of lipstick or gloss or just balm.
    i prefer a natural, unmade up look, so everything goes on very lightly.
    i cannot bear anything around my eyes, but fortunately i got the good dark lashes and brows in the family.
    i am a minimalist, so i keep product and tools to a bare minimum…..makes it easy when travelling too.

    why do i wear my little bit of makeup?
    it makes me happy. it is one of the few girly things in my life. i enjoy playing with it. i like to decorate myself.

  • It is so refreshing to hear a focus on the positive: the paragraph where you describe what you consider to be the good points (no wrinkles, long lashes, etc). Perhaps we could all concentrate on injecting a healthy dose of this positivity into our skincare regime!

    And it makes me wonder, because I have recently come to the conclusion that cosmetics don’t actually alter my face very much at all. There is a pretty powerful psychological element here, because although I do wear eye makeup and concealer most days, it feels more ritualistic to me than actually necessary, if you know what I mean? I am very pale, with blonde lashes, so the mascara and liner have always been my go to items (foundation doesn’t suit me for some reason), but what really determines whether those natural blonde lashes actually need to be disguised? What the hell is so wrong with them anyway? So I ponder where we pick this shit up!

    Having recently reached the age of 37, I am probably supposed to rethink my cosmetic situation, search for tips to enhance what i’ve got and reduce what I wish to hide – but I would prefer to rethink this process. I would prefer to approach it more…positively. For instance, since reaching my mid-thirties I have begun to actually ‘play’ with make-up as opposed to using it as some sort of mask or defense: I have only just decided to embrace red lipstick, brighter coloured eye shadows, even a subtle amount of glitter, hehe. So in reality, I have somehow regressed, opened myself up to the fun of cosmetics, instead of worrying about how acceptable my visage is the the world at large!

    I agree with patster above: the girly, decorative part of me thoroughly enjoys to meddle with make-up, whereas when i was younger I tended to have a more critical, tomboyish view of it, dismissing it as a negative trait. To *not* require societies approval makes for a more liberating relationship to just about anything – which has become more apparent to me with growing older, and now my younger self appears so riddled with insecurity, tied up in a web of weird restrictions.
    A strange paradox, for we are ‘supposed’ to be more reckless when young.

    These days I also tend to view make-up as a sort of body art. Having stripped it of political connotations (in my own personal sphere), I have begun to have fun with it. Women’s self-decoration will possibly always be a highly charged political issue, regardless. So much food for thought!

  • I rarely wear makeup. Mostly eye. Never ever foundation or blush. I have great skin.

    I am always on the hunt for the elusive perfect lipstick. It’s become a quest.

    Recently I went au natural withy hair. No more color. I have a giant white patch and the softest, thickest hair I’ve had in ages.

    xo susie

  • I have never been one to wear a lot of makeup. My daily makeup consists of Benefit Blush Lip and Cheek stain which I brush on both cheeks, and lip balm. When I go out for karaoke or to special occasions, I wear eyeshadow and lipstick along with the stain. Not wearing makeup I believe has helped my face. When I was in Sephora two years ago in NYC, one of the employees was amazed I had no wrinkles. I also don’t have a lot of breakouts either. It’s a good thing I’m stubborn and didn’t start slathering on the stuff as a preteen, like my mom wanted me to.

    I also have the dreaded T-zone and because of my tendency to sweat a lot, most of the makeup completely disappears as the day goes on and my face gets shiny regardless of whether I wear makeup or not. Basically, it comes down to choice. If you like it, great, if you don’t, that’s great too. But I can tell you that going natural feels so good to me.

  • Today I tried something new. I have bought a great big palette of MAC eyeshadows (120 colours, it’s like a paint box for grown ups!) and I really wanted to play with them, but I didn’t want to go through the whole routine of putting on a “face” to conceal or flatter.

    So I just used a little eyeshadow (no mascara, but I am blessed with dark lashes) in pink and silver to go with my outfit, and a coat of lipstick… and I’m done. No big routine of hiding my skin, but I still get to play with a little colour.

    It feels good!

  • I’ve always meant to be a great make-up person, but I usually end up sort of a talented “minimalist”. (I’m 38 myself, and haven’t left off having the occasional break-out while still seeing that my eyes have just a few more lines than previous, etc. I give my skin “amnesty” when things are pretty bad, itch/blemish wise, and it does make a difference.)

    For me, make-up will always be a bit of experimentation. I know how to make my eyes look awesome, or to get my lipstick to stay a few hours, or how to conceal a really nasty blemish, but I’ve never made a habit of putting on a full face every day. I love make-up and have spent ridiculous amounts at Sephora (a somewhat up-scale make-up store, which is near the Lane Bryant at one of my local malls, which proximity makes me go completely “shoppy” at both stores, to the extent where I’ll get a pound of underwear at LB and then a pound of face paint at the other–“while I’m at it” –too susceptible to shopping-temptations, me). And for a few days I am the happiest kid with new crayons–but it’s hard for me to stick to any regime. Some days I’m glam, some days I’m nearly nude. My big make-up thing is trying to get myself to see my face as a thing to enhance–not cover, and to try more colors (just like looking at my too-much purple and black wardrobe–I must get away from just black eyeliner and dark burgundy lips–post goth! post! goth!) My ideal result is softer, prettier, flattering–I think I might have to post a fatshion pic if I have a really good face/wardrobe day.

  • I do have phases when I wear very little, like just a bit of concealer. To me, that almost feels like no makeup.🙂 Even though I still feel the need to at least do a bit to hide skin issues, I’m much less attached to makeup than I used to be–I didn’t start ditching the full routine every once in a while until about 4 or 5 years ago. Wearing next to nothing does feel freeing, and also saves time that I would usually rather spend elsewhere.🙂

    • Isn’t that time really valuable? I’m also noticing the extra time since I cut my hair off. It might only be 15 minutes here and there, but God it’s awesome.

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