Could You Go Without Wearing Makeup For a Week? A Day?

A friend of mine was horrified by the Today show and their “No Makeup Monday.” So much so that she texted me regarding her outrage.

“They looked downright scary. People need makeup. And as we get older, we absolutely need makeup.”

“I disagree,” I texted back, a bit annoyed. “Society has conditioned us to believe that. And there is such a huge double standard. “

“Double standard? Matt Lauer looked like shit too! All I’m saying is would it kill people to run a brush through their hair and slap on some lip gloss?”

“Not wearing makeup some days is liberating.”

“Liberating?” said my friend. “I say yuck and lazy.”

And so goes the dialogue we have with our friends and with ourselves. It’s painful and anything but pretty.

Do I wear makeup? Do I look like shit without it? Do I look beautiful in my 40s? Do I need more makeup to cover up these damn wrinkles, no-sleep circles and darkening age spots?

WAIT, before we continue, let’s caveat all of this to say that there are much bigger issues in the world than whether we apply lip liner. I’m staunchly on the side of no makeup is fine, especially if you’d prefer to spend your money on things like, oh, feeding your family.

Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up…

Screenshot 2014-04-22 11.12.20

I am a 46-year-old woman who loves dabbling with makeup — not to any Tammy Faye Bakker extreme, mind you, but enough to be dangerous with a liquid liner.

Probably like most of us, I’m a bit bipolar about it. I toggle between fancy days and plain Jane days; buttoned-up meetings and Saturday errands; girly-girl interest in face paint and WTF-I’m-a-Feminist disinterest. I love the way a manicure looks but getting one is about as fun and interesting to me as watching paint dry — oh wait, that’s what it is.

I think many of us are secretly very knowledgeable about things like BB creams and multi-use lip gels. Or maybe that’s just my own hidden skill. One out-of-town friend said she likes to stay with me because my shower is like the contents of a beauty aisle.

Sure, I’m stocked with oodles of jars and creams and powders, but I’m just as happy to go makeup free. Mostly because yes, I am lazy and/ or on those days, I’d rather use those extra five minutes for other things: a longer snooze, that last chapter, a smooch with my husband. (Hair? Now that’s another matter entirely.)

That being said, if there was an airbrushing tool that could shellac the whole thing on in one spray, I’m sure I’d use it.

Like I said, bipolar.

In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about makeup a lot, inspired by a few different events and articles.

One was this piece by 20-something fashion blogger Leandra Medine – aka the Man Repeller — defending her decision to not wear makeup (after being called “ugly,” which is beyond ridiculous.) She writes, “I want to know that if I don’t wash my face, I won’t tarnish my pillow….More important than that though, I am comfortable with how I look. I don’t hate what I see when I look in the mirror…” It should be noted, too, that sort of an unspoken ethos in fashion, that it’s the clothes that count — you’re just a mannequin. A lot of the top designers, editors, fashion insiders don’t wear much makeup if at all. If you ask me, Medine fits right in.

Screenshot 2014-04-22 11.24.17

Over on the other end of the age spectrum, I watched a woman more in my 40-something zone, Mika Brzezinski, spontaneously and emotionally remove her makeup live on stage at the Women in the World summit.  During this Dove-sponsored panel, it was clearly a big deal for the MSNBC anchor to remove her “face.”

To cheers of “Take it off” from the audience, Mika spent about 20 minutes removing her makeup and told a story of being denied entrance to CBS once, because she was unrecognizable in an unmade-up face.

“Makeup shouldn’t own you,” she added.

Screenshot 2014-04-22 11.31.11

For their part, Dove has capitalized on the inner-beauty bandwagon, with their various viral-videos — from their Real Beauty Sketches, to the mom and daughter “Selfie” experiment to the bizarre Dove Beauty patch — which (spoiler!) is a placebo meant to make women realize, hey, you’re beautiful just the way you are. Brilliant marketing, though it always feels like a bait and switch — “Feel good about you! Now buy this body wash!” They’ve even inspired a hilarious parody video, that takes their “social experiments” to task [via Jezebel 

Ultimately, in all of these scenarios — whether you think it’s shameless or insightful — we’re talking about beauty, self esteem and the double standard, and that’s a good thing.

Last year The New York Times tackled the makeup question in this multi-perspective feature on whether makeup helps or hinders self-esteem. One of the authors, Nancy Etcoff, a research psychologist, cited her study of the impact of makeup on viewers. She asked people to rate photographs of women with and without makeup.

“Faces with natural makeup were seen favorably but faces with more dramatic makeup were seen as less trustworthy…. Grooming rituals can be temporary confidence boosters, and studies suggest that the confidence they inspire is itself attractive…”

Makeup, she wrote, “is a powerful but understudied tool.”

The article also points out that “makeup won’t help the woman who feels like it’s an obligation.”

For me, makeup isn’t a requirement, but a mood enhancer. Give me a hit of that lipstick and I’m good. It’s that extra polish. And sometimes, stylistic self-expression. And yes, as my features shift, dull or — eek — enhance with age, there’s no shame in a bit of synthetic beauty.

The thing is:

Let’s just get past judging women by the quality of their hairdo and instead by the content of their character (see: Hillary).

Let’s allow for a woman to feel empowered by her makeup if she wants, or empowered by her lack thereof.

Let’s do a better job of seeing and accepting ourselves — and our daughters, mothers and sisters — as beautiful human beings, even if we do have a pretty kickass stash of products in our shower caddy.

And what do you think? Could you go without makeup for a week — even just a day? Tell us why or why not on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Tell Us in the Comments

What do you think?

13 Responses

  1. Pretty, Unmade-Up You: 17 Women Take It Off | Tue Night

    […] like most of us, I’m a bit bipolar about it. I toggle between fancy days and plain Jane days; buttoned-up meetings and Saturday errands; […]

  2. Katharine English

    I can and have done it, sometimes for days at a time. Partly, this is because I work from home a lot. But also, who needs a full face when you’re walking the dog or popping into the neighborhood diner or grocery store? That said, I always doll up for client meetings. When’s the last time a guy did that, who wasn’t David Bowie?

  3. MargitDetweiler

    I’d personally love to see David Bowie attend a client meeting. But yeah, there’s a double standard. While there’s shaving and neckties to consider for men, is that really the same as layering on the face mask?

  4. Odds and Ends | whoorl

    […] Could you go without wearing makeup for a week? I totally can, pretty much out of laziness more than anything […]

  5. SilverCityPink

    I love make up! But my daily routine would seem like a lot to some but not much at all to others. Moisturizer, age-defying make up, blush, eyeliner blended, mascara.  I feel in the workplace it makes me look like I care plus I like the way it makes me look.  And going out, I LOVE putting on more (that would mean eyeshadow and maybe an extra coat of mascara).  You will never catch me with no make up on.  Really.  So there it is!  Even at the beach I will sport some waterproof mascara and lip color (and SPF!)

  6. DianeO718

    SilverCityPink Love the handle, I recall this as my second-favorite lipstick of 1986, right behind Zinc Pink! (And Frosted Brownie was #3.)

    Really well-written piece, MargitDetweiler

  7. Monica Dennis
    Monica Dennis (@jigsawverbiage)

    You ask if I can and I say I already do. I only need my two, fully-fingered hands to count how many times I have worn makeup in my lifetime. Most likely it is because the women in my family, for the most part, aren’t into it, including my mother who preferred natural as does my father. I married a man who also prefers natural (I never understood why men wanted to kiss lipstick), but these people aren’t really the reason I don’t do it today. I have always thought I simply didn’t need it. On top of that, I have eczema and though my major flareups have counted as few, the duration of those flareups have been substantial. If you saw me during one, you would swear I was wearing makeup AND you’d tell me I looked good! I figure this is God’s way of making this up to me – I get a skin condition to live with and manage, and in trade I look like I wear makeup when I don’t. Many people LOVE the natural look of my mascara. Uh huh. Sometimes I explain. Sometimes I say thanks and keep going.

    I also have allergies and one eye is just about always tearing up (another annoying thing I manage). My hands are always in my face. Nonetheless, I am soon to be 44 and recently I decided I wanted to at least balance out my color. I’ve been even most of my life, but I’m not seeing that so much anymore and I choose to try to do something about it that I can live with and do most days. That’s my current goal. We’ll see where I end up. 🙂

    Thanks for the great read.

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