Ever since I started my venture into womanhood (aka puberty), I’ve had acne — and not just on my face. I had it on my back, my shoulders, and my chest. Starting at a young age, I tried all the creams, topicals, and antibiotics my doctor would prescribe. It eventually got to the point where my doctor recommended that I start taking birth control. When taking “the pill” regularly, usage can help monitor hormones and, therefore, help control breakouts and oil production. Knowing how frustrated I was with my skin, my mom gave me the go-ahead at the ripe old age of 13.
Fast forward to today, I’m no longer taking birth control, but I still have acne. No matter my age, the one consistent relief from acne I’ve always had is makeup. I’ll have a massive zit on my forehead, but I’ll just cover it up and make it less noticeable. Sometimes I think, “Maybe if I put on a little more eyeliner, it will distract people from my blackhead-covered nose.” Having the ability to have some kind of control over my face, even cosmetic, gave me back a sliver of my confidence.
Throughout the years, I naturally gained the self-confidence that comes with getting older and wiser. In college, I learned to be OK not wearing makeup in front of my then-boyfriend, now-husband. My 28-year-old self loves her body more than my 13-year-old self. And while my acne has improved since my puberty days, it’s still there. Lingering. An old, unwelcome friend.
That being said, I love having a bare face. My job allows me the luxury to work from home some days, and on those days, I embrace not wearing makeup. It saves me time, but I also feel it gives my face a break from the products I pile on it each day to cover up my blemishes.
One day when I was bare-faced at home, I told my husband I hadn’t worn makeup in two days. His response, “Good, you don’t need makeup. You look great without it.” It seemed so straightforward coming from him. Just don’t wear makeup. Could it really be that simple?
“I told myself I’d go the next 10 days without makeup. No cover-up. No foundation. No mascara. Nothing.”
While I’m all for not wearing makeup at home, going makeup-free in public sounded scary. I’ve definitely hit the gym or the grocery store with a completely bare face, but unless I’m having an exceptional skin day, it’s makeup for me. The thought of not having anything to cover up my imperfections gives me so much anxiety, so that’s exactly what I had to do. I told myself I’d go the next 10 days without makeup. No cover-up. No foundation. No mascara. Nothing.
The first few days were easy. I was working from home, and it was a weekend where I had minimal plans, so little social interaction meant little to fear. Then came the Sunday scaries on steroids. In all of my professional career, I have never gone to work without makeup. Never. So this was going to be a first. I was very nervous. How would I feel once I go to the office? What would my coworkers say?
When Monday morning came, I was happy with the time I saved not applying my standard makeup. Even if it usually only takes me 10 minutes to apply my basic “natural” look, it was nice to have a few minutes added back to my morning. Then, I got to the office . . . and I waited. I talked to people. I had meetings. No one said anything. The end of the day came around, still nothing. Were they just being polite? They had to have noticed, right?
An entire week passed, and no one at work said a single word. I was shocked. Not one, “You look tired today,” or “Do you feel OK?” The feedback (or lack thereof) gave me a much-needed confidence boost. Throughout the rest of the 10 days, I grabbed coffee and dinner with friends, and I even went to a bridal shower. And still nothing. No one pointed and laughed. No one commented. No one asked one question.
Then it occurred to me: I’ve spent all this time trying to cover up something that, in all honesty, no one else cares about. The only one concerned with my acne and bare face is me. We’re all human. We get zits. We get our periods and our faces break out. It’s normal.
While I won’t stop wearing makeup forever, it’s nice to know I don’t need it to feel great in my own skin. Makeup should be fun, a form of self-expression, and a way to enhance our features, not cover them up. While I’ve accepted my acne is most likely here to stay, it’s nice to know my self-confidence is, too. Self-love is a powerful thing that even the best foundation can’t cover up.