I stopped wearing makeup a couple of years ago. I just quit.
I had begun to recognize the disturbing quality of makeup to slide down my aging face—the makeup just didn’t sit on the skin like it did when I was young. My lipstick seeped into the lines around my mouth. You could still see my blemishes, I just had foundation layered upon them. I wondered if I was highlighting my skin problems instead of hiding them. I began to wonder if my makeup just looked like I was painting my insecurities about aging prominently where everyone could see them: on my face.
And my hair…always the bane of my existence, my hair was even frizzier than normal somehow. I realized—with horror—that my gray hair was a different texture from my brunette locks, and while I could cover the color up, I couldn’t cover up the texture. I began to look around and see twenty-year-old hair everywhere. I began to wonder: what am I so afraid of? Haven’t I worked hard for every gray hair, every wrinkle, every year that I have survived this life? Why is my age something I am supposed to try and hide? Or, why are we trying to hide our age when it is obvious to everyone that we are older? What if I flaunted it?
My mission became to make my life beautiful. I wanted people to admire my beautiful life.
My first venture out into the world without makeup was a lesson in humility. Suddenly, I saw myself as everyone around me saw me already—a forty year old woman. I continued to go without makeup even when it hurt. In the following weeks and months, I came to accept and come to terms with my age. And I did it in public.
Cut to the present moment. I was putting my now salt and pepper hair up for an event, grateful as always that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time on my outward appearance. My reflection revealed a different person than the one who stopped wearing makeup several years ago. I marveled at the gray hair that had now fully grown out. Wow! It’s like God’s highlights. And people call me ma’am. I like it. It’s respect. But strangely, I feel more now like I did when I was a child: unencumbered. Wild. Free. My face reflects that. How stupid I have been—to think that anyone would look so closely at my skin. I paint my face with my emotion now.
I had a conversation with my niece recently about beauty and skin care and tried to impart to her the meaninglessness of makeup and the importance of cultivating ideals of greater worth than physical beauty. She is a young teenager and is reveling in the mirror. My heart aches when I think about her making the same mistakes that I have made. This list is dedicated to her.
Ten Steps to Liberate Yourself from Makeup—or, How to Build a Beautiful Life:
1. It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks of you.
Really. Anybody. Just don’t even worry about it.
I know that you have heard this countless times before, but you’ve never really let go of caring what people think until you’ve quit your makeup routine.
2. Be an individual.
Nobody has your lips. Okay, maybe your sister has your lips…and maybe they aren’t even your lips—they’re your mom’s—but no one has your unique combination of traits. Why muck up this perfection of uniqueness by smearing the same lipstick on your face as millions of other women? Worship yourself, not an outside ideal.
3. Focus on your body.
I loved slathering makeup on my face but loathed getting up and moving my body. Looking back, I can’t believe how out of whack my priorities have always been until the moment that I stopped wearing makeup. I used to lounge around like a couch potato—my spine curved like an old cane. My shoulders caved in, my heart hidden and cast down from the world. But my eyes were painted perfectly! So at least there was that… Now, I revel in moving my body. I don’t have to worry about what my makeup is doing. I get physical. My body looks great now that I don’t focus on my face.
4. Wear your glasses.
Wearing my glasses might have been more difficult than going without makeup, but I did it anyway. I saved on the expense of contacts, the discomfort and the consumption of time. I wake up now and I am ready to go!
Men try to pick me up with compliments like, You must be really smart. It is ridiculous, but I answer back, Why, yes. I am! I attribute the glasses as a large reason for the added respect I receive from everyone everywhere I go. Gray hair + glasses = being treated politely. What could be better than that? Which leads me to the next step:
5. Grow your gray out.
An older woman with a dye job looks like just that: an older woman with a dye job. Everyone knows how old you are even if you cover up the gray. They just do.
6. Cultivate your relationships instead.
Start by stopping your daily gaze into the mirror. Just stop. It is a colossal waste of time besides having serious overtones of vanity and self-absorption. You will have more time to build your beautiful life. Spend your time looking at other people and how beautiful they are!
Don’t you think that your best friend is absolutely beautiful? Even without makeup? Don’t you think she might think the same thing about you? Enough said. Spend time with each other, not by yourself with your mirror.
Or fall in love. WIth your husband. All over again. Love can really capture the glow in the skin better than any fake blush can. Also, it’s nice to remember that your significant other could care less about your makeup.
7. Save some money.
Let go of the last stronghold of conspicuous consumption: the beauty industry. I’m sorry that the object-based market society will fail. Sorry. I don’t think that it was really thought through in the first place, so…I don’t know what to say L’Oreal, Maybeliine and Cover Girl, but, Buh-Bye!
8. Connect with your childhood self.
Remember her? Wasn’t she exquisite? And excited about life? And smart?
9. Cultivate beauty in action.
Spend all of that time and money that you would have spent on your physical appearance and do some good in the world. Or build your wildest dream. Or live out a fantasy. Beauty is a whole being, not the individual parts.
10. Be a role model.
The most important reason. The only reason.
What could the lives of the women that we protect under our wings look like in twenty years if we all let go of makeup? Wouldn’t this alone change the world? Gender relations? Wake feminism from its sleeping slumber?
Show the women in your life and the world that you think that you—and they—are good enough just as you are. Build your beautiful life and people will admire you all day, every day no matter what you look like.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons