What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Dear Beautiful Women

I randomly came across this short essay in my digital journal about beauty. It was written nearly 4 years ago, yet it still makes sense to me today. I'm sure I meant to post it at some point, but like so many of my words, I kept it to myself. Today I choose to share it in hopes that it reaches you when you need it most.  Dear Beautiful Women,

I've felt self-conscious lately. Vacillating between extremes. Both aware and oblivious of my own beauty, the kind that shines from the inside out.

When I'm listening to the voice in my head, the voice of knowledge, the voice that was born from all of the lies I've accumulated over the past 26 years, I feel ugly. I feel judged. I feel that I will never be good enough.

When I'm listening to the voice of my true self, my highest self, I find a deep knowing that I was born perfect and will always be perfect. My so-called flaws are not flaws, it is only my perception that is flawed.

Once upon a time, my aunt wanted a nose job. She is gorgeous, my aunt. As a child, innocent and pure, I was unaware of the societal consensus that a nose must be inconspicuous and perfectly curved, not too straight or too bent, to be beautiful. I could not understand what was wrong with her nose.

Can we agree that all noses are miraculous? As babies, we use our noses to seek out our mother's breast. As we grow into children, scents have the unparalleled power to invoke emotions and memories. As adults, our noses lead us to pleasure as we inhale the scent of our lover, to relaxation as we relish in the soothing properties of a lavender sachet, and to love as we bury our noses against the head of a newborn baby.

Now in her early fifties, my aunt says, "you spend the first half of your life wishing things were different, and the second half of your life wishing everything would stay the same." She never did get a nose job.

I want to know: what does the size of our nose matter? Or the straightness of our teeth? Or the perkiness of our breasts? If we can smell the sweetness of a rose and chew the fruit of the earth and nurse the children of our womb, why are we complaining? Why are we wasting energy when we could be celebrating the miracle of life?

The voice of knowledge, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the fallen angel -- they are around every corner. In magazines, on TV, on the internet, in movies, on billboards, in windows, in parents, in friends, in spouses, in children. Everywhere. The web of lies is thick, and it's growing every day, with so many people busy at work, adding their own intricate layer of false convictions and lies of imperfection.

The truth, however, will always set us free. No matter how detailed the lies have become, the truth is always underneath. If you stop believing in the lies, they will fall away like dead rose petals because they've lost the life force behind them: you.

My Dear Beautiful Women, I've heard your cries. You believe you aren't good enough. You have wrinkles. Your nose is too big. Your teeth are too crooked. Your hair is too curly. Your skin is too pale. Your thighs are too big. Your breasts are too small. Your waist is too thick. Your arms are too chubby. I won't even get started with the deeper insecurities, except for to say that you are never doing enough for your career or your children or your partner or your self.

What if we knew these were lies? What if we believed ourselves to be perfect right now as is? Your highest self knows the truth, can you hear her? Her voice is smaller than a whisper at first, but she gets louder when you learn how to tune out the other voices, the ones spouting lies.

Let the truth set you free. Let your beauty shine from the inside out. Next time you look in the mirror, allow yourself to see perfection.

I will, too.

All my love,