We live in a time where it’s an actual news story when a woman chooses to forgo makeup for a year, but that’s exactly what 38-year-old Phoebe Baker Hyde did. Baker Hyde was moved to go makeup free when she and her husband moved to Hong Kong, and she noticed that not only was she surrounded by appearance-obsessed women, but she too had fallen under the beauty industry’s spell.
“I had become a nervous, critical, angry, insecure woman,” she said. “I was not the woman or the role model I wanted to be, especially in front of a big-eyed baby daughter. I was at war with the world around me and at war with myself — the only self I had.”
To counter that, she went in the opposite direction: She threw away her makeup, cut off her hair and stopped shaving her legs. The goal was to feel more liberated and happy, and says Baker Hyde, that’s exactly what happened.
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see wrinkles, anxiety, zits, or exhaustion, although they are all there,” she said. “Instead, I see a face, a person, a personality, a life. If someone asked me if I felt beautiful I would have to answer honestly: yes.”
And she saved money, too: Baker Hyde estimates she spent around $1,000 a year on products — just a small part of the nearly $7 billion a year women spend on making ourselves look better.
I have to admit, when I first read this story I was a bit shocked that Baker Hyde’s experiment warranted a news story. And then I got to thinking — would I go without makeup? Out in public? No fucking way. My boyfriend didn’t even see me without makeup for like, six months.
For me — and I suspect for many women — makeup is transformative, and fun. I feel better when I have it on, and perhaps that’s partially because I live in one of the most image-conscious places in the world. I’m cool with what my face looks like, but I prefer the makeup-ed version. I genuinely don’t think that’s a problem (maybe you do?), but what’s weird about stories like Baker Hyde’s and others, is that there seems to be an underlying tone of morality at play — that women who choose not to wear makeup, are just a bit higher on the pious scale.
Makeup is not the problem — it’s our relationship with makeup that’s the problem. Using makeup as a crutch to not work on your own self esteem isn’t healthy. It should enhance the thing s you like about yourself, not be the reason you like yourself. Not only our feelings about the stuff we spackle on our faces — but what we project on other women about what they happen to be putting on theirs. If we stop judging women — by proxy assuming that makeup or no makeup means certain things, I think we’ll all be happier. And isn’t that the key to beauty, after all?