Beauty IRL: Making The Case For The Bare Face

I realize the benefits of makeup. I acknowledge its usefulness in looking and feeling put together, pretty, and confident. If you have a zit that’s screaming for attention, the ability to slap on some concealer and go about your business is fantastic. Lipstick changes your entire appearance and makes a sweatshirt and crappy jeans that you’re not crazy about look #normcore. These are positives that I am not denying, but foregoing makeup entirely has its benefits too. There’s something empowering to walk out of the house in the morning with your face as it is, without embellishment.

As of now, my routine is pretty minimal. It’s about as no-makeup as you can get. Mascara, lipstick, highlighter, and I’m out the door. But, it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when I wouldn’t leave the house without eyeliner and hardly knew what I looked like without some sort of foundation. Sometimes I left the house looking like a chorus member of a particularly plucky local theatre production of “Cabaret” — all dark eyes and pencil-thin eyebrows. That shit took time, man. Liquid eyeliner is no joke, and mastering that when you’re 16 years old and late for school is a feat that’s both impressive and unnecessary. I learned the hard way that Revlon’s Toast of New York lipstick, while sophisticated and edgy on the blonde-haired and blue-eyed, made me look anemic or like I had just finished eating the bodies of my enemies. It was a dark time.

I realized a little while ago that my face actually looks younger without makeup on. I don’t think that I look particularly old to begin with, but there’s something about poorly-applied concealer on the under-eye area that’s rushing gamely towards crepe-y that ages a face, fast. There are weird wrinkles where there didn’t used to be. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of myself in the subway window when the light’s hitting all my angles wrong, and I look like a ghoul. Covering up whatever is naturally happening to my face makes me look worse.

I could say that leaving the house without makeup on is some sort of feminist statement rallying against the patriarchy and its unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look, but the truth is, I’m not fully invested in that. Really, it’s a lot simpler. Not wearing makeup is a choice, pure and simple. It’s not that deep. It’s just a choice, like the thousands of other choices we make in a day, like getting a salad and a seltzer from the deli down the street instead of bringing your own lunch, or wearing the same outfit, over and over again, without caring about variety. It’s not giving up, or giving in. It’s just a choice.

Besides, everyone talks a lot of mess about how makeup is the business but what you’re really missing is that skin care is the sleeper agent in the game of looking your absolute best. Makeup conceals the fact that you slept for four hours last night and had the club goin’ up on a Tuesday, but if you’re into eye cream and ritualistically massaging night serums into your face at least three times a week, your skin will show it. Use the moisturizer. Trust in the eye cream. Put on that sheet mask that makes you look like a serial killer and lay down for 20 minutes and don’t move. You can’t start over and get new skin. I mean, maybe you can. Is that what a face lift does? I don’t know.

I wake up every morning with about 20 minutes to actually compose myself and leave my house. I put on clothes and consider my bare face in the mirror before deciding what it is I should do with that face. Sometimes, if I got a good night’s sleep and have made it through half my coffee, I’m good to go. Some chapstick, some moisturizer and I’m out the door. It’s nice to go through a work day with a bare face, because I never run the risk of looking in the mirror at lunch and seeing a goblin with black rings around their eyes from errant eyeliner or that lipstick that’s been on my chin since I left my apartment. I know the face that people are interacting with, scars, blemishes, freckles and all, is all me.