10 Steps to Liberate Yourself from Makeup. ~ Tifany Lee

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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?

And beautiful?

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.

Relephant Reads:

> Supermodels without Makeup.

Bad skin? No make up? Hair a mess? Come here & kiss me, you’re beautiful. 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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anonymous Nov 16, 2014 11:35am

I love this article! I used to wear makeup everyday until i was forced to stop because of dermatitis. Not wearing makeup really stirred up weird emotions i didn't know i had… I liked my naked face at home, but outside and specially at work, i felt kind of inferior. Like I wasn't able to keep up with other women anymore. Like i was loosing points! Not being able to wear makeup or dye my hair sometimes makes me feel like i dont have success at BEiNG a women. Of course this is silly, and it is all in my head.
This dermatitis was a blessing, because now i am learning to accept my natural beauty and face my insecurities.
It's also funny how judgemental we are about grey hair.
When i was younger, i used to color my hair all kinds of funky colors to be different and eccentric.
Now i see my greying hair as eccentric again, because i seem to be in the very small minority of women who dont dye their hair!
Thank you for your beautiful article!

anonymous Jan 29, 2014 9:11am

I totally needed this today. I am in my early 20s, and decided a few days ago to give up makeup because I had become so dependent on it, and literally all of my confidence came from wearing makeup. I have nothing against makeup, nor do I have anything against women (or men, for that matter) who wear makeup, but I found it disturbing that without makeup, I had no confidence in myself. The first couple days were tough; I felt like I couldn't approach people and that everyone would look at me and think "Wow, she is unattractive." However, I'm on the third day now and it is amazing how many little improvements in my outlook are happening so quickly. I am suddenly want to pay a lot more attention to my skincare routine, and my teeth care routine, as well as eating well and working out. After only three days, I am getting used to looking in the mirror and not seeing makeup. In fact, I'm beginning to like how I look without it! This is one of the toughest things I've ever done, but considering I'm already making huge improvements in my confidence after only three days, I can't wait to see how much more progress I make as time goes on. The process is truly much easier when you simply stop caring about what people think, as you said. Thank you for this article, well-written and so inspiring!

anonymous Jan 21, 2014 8:11am

Every one wants to add beauty to its self. As you explained the ways to bring out the beauty without caring about others is really good. Thanks.

anonymous Dec 28, 2013 8:48am

I wear makeup for myself. It takes me about 5 minutes to sit down and put make up on. I enjoy taking that 5 minutes for myself, where it's quiet and I can appreciate my family's genetic contributions. I also dye my hair. I found my first grey hair at 15 and now in my 30's, I have quite a few more. I did not earn them and I do not want to be called ma'am. I want to look like the age I am, not like a grandmother.

anonymous Dec 28, 2013 12:27am

I spent most of my first 40 years using little to no makeup most days. Now I enjoy using it most days. Whatevs. Do what makes you feel most happy, most yourself.

anonymous Dec 27, 2013 2:35am

Living in a Northern climate, I wear different makeup than I would in the humid South … not because I feel ugly, but because I love a little color in my cheers and something to bring out my eyes, since there is not much sun. Regardless, makeup can be fun and enhance what you have, not hide it. I realize it can become a mask for some people, and a little goes a long way. As a former esthetician I realized that health inside and out is real beauty. If you love yourself, it will show on the outside. And some people have some issues from cancer and other areas that life has thrown at them, so it really boosts their confidence to take care of themselves. I agree it is very confidence building to embrace the natural beauty at any age, but that doesn't mean we can't have our own personal look, whatever our mood or occasion, any day of the week.

anonymous Dec 24, 2013 2:38am

I admire your courage but just don't agree, sorry. I don't wear masses of makeup, just a bit of concealer, mascara, blush and lip tint. But the difference it makes between catching myself in a mirror looking worn out and just a bit livelier makes such a difference. I never spend time trying to see myself once I've put the basics on, but just as we may enhance our lives through donning things that make us feel better like clothes and maintenance with teeth and haircuts, makeup is just another little trick that is there for us to use at no great time or cost expense if we want it to be. Most women I know love to feel and look beautiful and while going au naturel may cut it for some I think most would be kidding themselves to think its a better look, especially as we age. But each to their own and whatever gets you through the day, I say! Thanks for your thoughts and insights though 🙂

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 8:32pm

I'm 73 and have white hair (natural) Yes I wear makeup. For the women who are reading this there is a season
for all things. From age 20 to 80 and older hopefully we choose what is appropriate and what is right for our age group. It would never occur to me to use what I did in my youth. I don't wear blue eye shadow anymore. (can't believe I used to wear that
color) This is what I have learned at my age. Do what is best for you. If you like make-up, and you do well applying it, fine. Just don't put it on like a clown would. Should you decide not to wear make-up at least keep your face clean and buffed. Iff you want to look ageless, smile from your heart and soul. Keep all anger away from the eyes, face and mouth. Also, being a trash mouth makes every women look haggard.

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 4:51pm

I think there is room to move here, as in many things in life! The older i've gotten, now 49, the less makeup i wear but i wore very little as a 20 yo either. As an Australian i've noticed American teenagers and women generally wearing a lot more makeup. i was in France last year and the young women at a music festival having loads of fun and dressing in silly costumes, were all 'au naturale'-little or no makeup and narey an enhanced bosom in sight! If you've worn a lot of makeup from an early age i can imagine it would be very liberating to go without and well worth the effort – to know you are absolutely ok just as you are. It is also and of primary importance in my mind, much healthier than smearing toxic gunk all over your body, and that includes most of the 'skincare' products with their chemical preservatives which accumulate longterm and can cause cancer. These days i love my organic hemp lip balm which feels so nice on dry lips and a touch of organic mascara if i'm going out, to show off my baby blues 🙂 I've been to a couple of parties recently where costumes were called for and so i was in full Indian makeup for one complete with lavish eyeliner and a red Bhrumadhya spot, and as Frida Kahlo, the thickest blackest monobrow ever! Loads of fun to look so different for a night but right now i'm on retreat in a Buddhist centre where my bare face is soft and relaxed, wrinkles, greying frizzy hair and all, and a friend (male) just told me i look more beautiful than ever…….embrace yourself in all your guises and keep a smile on your dial! 🙂

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 4:09pm

Sounds a little self-righteous… First of all, don't judge another woman's makeup use. You aren't on her journey. Wearing makeup IS a joy and luxury for some people, and not something they use to hide behind. Some use it to accentuate their best features. I love read lipstick, it makes me feel cheerful. I enjoy the fun of doing different looks. Yes indeedy, it is entirely possible to cultivate your relationships, connect with your childhood, be a role model, be a feminist, and cultivate beauty in action all while wearing makeup! Wearing makeup does not make one less authentic or shallow.

I used to be a makeup artist, and I can see what (clean, healthy) makeup can do for a woman. I used to help women with cancer create a little rosiness in her cheeks, a whiff of her lost eyebrows, and a suggestion of lashes. These women just wanted to "feel normal" and not look sick. I have helped a new mother cover up some pigmentation on her face that made her feel embarrassed. Why should she just have to accept it? I have helped women feel their best, by gently taking the laundry list of flaws they've given me to address and telling them what I see – big brown eyes and a beautiful smile, for example. I sent them away with a mere lip tint and a little mascara, and hopefully I have helped to boost their confidence.

We don't have to shun makeup to have a beautiful life. The hair? I'm with you on that one. Love my long graying locks!

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 2:44pm

As a man, I find make-up a turn off. Women are literally smearing dirt and bile all over their faces in some twisted attempt to improve their appearance, but only results in them looking like clowns, automatons, or worse, some sad human being trying to cover that fact up. And the sickness doesn't end there! Now every other woman it seems has mutilated their bodies with botox, silicone, collagen, and the ever present breast implants. I both pity, and am repulsed by them at the same time.

    anonymous Dec 27, 2013 10:11am

    Wow, dude, that was harsh. Maybe take into consideration all the crap that women are bombarded with on a daily basis that says WE AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH as we are. Some women are able to give this message the middle finger and do as they please, but many women succumb to the pressure to be the "ideal" woman. Be a little nicer about it, will ya?

      anonymous Jun 30, 2014 12:46pm

      I agree with you! A man does not understand what it feels like to be a woman bombarded with the messages of who we ought to be and what gives us value. The original commenters message came off so negative towards women who choose to wear makeup and his personal preference of what a woman ought to do with her body. The whole point of the article is that WE WOMEN don’t care what you think of our body, appearnce and choices! It’s not up to you….it’s up to us!

    anonymous May 7, 2015 7:14pm

    I am a woman in my late 20s and I use very little make-up, blush, lipstick and I curl my eyelashes. Some people think I'm not even wearing make-up sometimes. But I like using this bit in the morning even though it wears off as the day goes by and then I just don't bother. I don't do anything to my hair. Since, I was young I always tried to push myself not to wear much make-up even though I felt the pressure and felt inadequate and ugly because I did not meet beauty standards. I pushed myself not to wear much of it though because I could not live with myself trying to hide under make-up in order to be more liked and accepted by others as "beautiful". What a difference it made to wear a lot of make-up when going out and receiving much more compliments for how "beautiful" I looked. Sure Oddfellow's message may sound harsh and perhaps it could be said more light-heartedly but there are a couple things he is saying that are true and truth hurts at times. First of all, it is great that men come forward and say how they prefer natural women, I love that! The less I wear make-up nowdays and the more I focus on loving and taking care of myself and the less I care about what others think of me, the more men find me attractive, it's incredible. Even some women have told me that they've felt inspired by me seeing that I don't wear make-up and how I am just myself and men come to me. Even a girlfriend recently stopped straightening her hair everyday. I am even surprised about this myself and it is all because I've been working really hard on myself from the inside out. Also, here are many quality men out there who do prefer natural looking women and I'm so happy to have met many men like this. Secondly Oddfellow alludes to the fakeness and shallowness of this society. No matter what women say or how much they are bothered by this type of comment, the truth is we live in an extremely shallow society where most women who use tons of make-up and go through plastic surgery to enhance their looks do it because they feel insecure, they lack confidence in themselves, they lack character and courage and they rely mostly on appearance as a cover-up for self-esteem and confidence. They desperately want to be accepted, liked and desire. Who does not want to feel that? Let's just be honest, everyone wants to be beautiful, confident, accepted, liked and desire. But what women fail to realize is that you can have all this without make-up and surgeries. For the most part, make-up and plastic surgery in this society serves as an ego booster NOT a soul booster. Women should just admit this, that they feel pressured to look certain way, they've been programmed this way and so they create a fake appearance for themselves to supposedly feel better. And the truth is this make-up and plastic surgery do not bring happiness, nor confidence, nothing! All these traits truly come from inside first but that requires work to free the mind from the concepts of beauty that we've let the beauty industry and society to enslave us with. Also, women need to show solidarity for other women, be a role model, be strong and encourage other women to be natural, to be themselves, to show their true colors without fear! If women or any other human being do not work on themselves from the inside out, the make-up and the plastic surgery is just going to make you look like a clown, automaton and a fake just like Oddfellow says, that is the truth. It is different if you've done internal work and you feel confident without make-up, then putting make-up here and there is just something that you do, like an art, like getting a tattoo or putting clothes on, is something you can have fun with. But if you become a slave to make-up, fashion, plastic surgery to the point you do not feel good about yourself without it, you are a slave to these things and you do not love yourself the way you are, you are afraid of seeing yourself fully naked and others seeing you. Be honest with yourself, be aware of why you do what you do. This is the truth and is best to admit the truth in order to evolve and grow instead of covering it up, let's be honest with ourselves. Perhaps Oddfellow could have make reference to the pressure that society puts on women, that's true because we are all responsible for perpetuating this shallowness, not just women…but saying he feels pity for these women, I mean I don't blame him, many of these women do evoke these feeling, I feel sad for them too, I even used to feel sad about myself and many women who incredibly alter themselves with surgeries and make-up do look repulsive even though they try otherwise. If we continue on this path of looking fake, we as a society will appear repulsive, no essence, hollow, empty inside, what's the beauty in fakeness and fabricated personas? Nothing, it's a lie, beauty truly comes from within.

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 1:51pm

gee whizz…..I like myself with or without makeup….as an older woman and today is my birthday…I really don't think it matters whether you wear makeup or not…I think the most important thing is how you feel, yes, feel inside….once the inside is all healthy and comfortable it really won't make a difference if you choose to wear it or not especially if you don't care what the others think. happy day to you….

anonymous Dec 23, 2013 10:58am

Excellent article! I am in my late twenties and decided to go without makeup 6 months ago and it has been extremely liberating! Now I focus on making my own skincare products that are all natural and moisturize without the fuss of added chemicals and "beauty enhancements." The last thing I gave the boot to was lipstick and interestingly enough, going to a store the other day and looking the mirror trying on a lipstick for the first time in months I realized: I like myself better without it! Great article, great advice.

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Tifany Lee

Tifany Lee is a singer, musician, theatrician, activist and yogini. Her playZombie U was recently published in the APW Press Anthology, and her third album, Southern Gothic, is in production and will be released in 2014. She loves spending time with her domestic partner and bulldog in Athens, Georgia. You can catch up with her at tifanylee.comFacebook and Twitter.