Remember when seeing a celebrity without makeup was reserved for those questionable tabloid magazines in the grocery store candy aisle? Flash forward to 2016 and celebs have taken back control over their makeup-free faces, turning the 'no-makeup selfie' into an Instagram phenomenon. (Of course, with the option to take 5472 photos until they find just the right lighting and filter.) Most recently, celebs are actually posing on the red carpet sans makeup. Alicia Keys and Alessia Cara rocked the look at the VMAs and even Kim Kardashian—the queen of contouring—went makeup free during Paris Fashion Week, and remarked on her Snapchat how nice it was to forgo hours in the makeup chair for once. Oh how far we've come.
Full disclosure: I love the idea of this 'movement' of sorts and empowering girls to feel confident in their own skin, especially during an election cycle where women's looks have been critiqued endlessly. But, as someone who has been obsessed with lipstick since about the age of three, writes about beauty, and really enjoys makeup, it's a struggle. Also, there's the fact that I just don't look like Alicia Keys without makeup, and don't have thousands to drop on beauty treatments that will miraculously transform my skin into that flawless Snapchat filter.
When my coworkers and I discuss this, they're confused. You barely even wear that much makeup, they say. Well, that's because my typical 'no-makeup makeup' look is designed precisely to trick people. It may look like #iwokeuplikethis, but in reality, my typical morning routine involves a minimum of 10 products including a tinted moisturizer, concealer, setting powder, two brow products, bronzer, blush, highlighter, mascara, and a lip balm or lipstick—sometimes a subtle nude, other times a bright red or deep plum. (I've honestly lost track of how many lipsticks I own, but it's more than fifty.) I always carry around a makeup bag with me so that I have multiple options of all of these staples with me throughout the day. (See also: 7 Steps for Perfecting the No-Makeup Look.)
But since I’ve tried just about every other makeup and skin care trend, it seems only fair that I test out the bare face 'trend' too. Here's how it went down.
Monday: As always, I wake up as if I've just awoken from a coma and my first thought is that I can snooze 10 more minutes since I'm skipping my makeup routine. Never been happier. As someone with fair skin and dark circles under my eyes thanks to genetics, I’m floored that no one comments that I look tired this morning. Hoorah! I go through Monday on auto-pilot (luckily I have face mists to test so my face isn’t bored) and don’t think too much about how I look because well, Monday. I will admit I feel irrationally anxious going into a meeting with a woman I’ve never met before, but then realize she isn't wearing makeup either so it's all good.
Tuesday: Today is hard. I debate running to the bathroom to dab on some concealer before heading to a meeting, but stay strong. I feel distracted by the fact that I am not wearing makeup, convinced that everyone else must be thinking how sloppy I look. Granted, there is literally no reason I should feel this way since many of my other coworkers wear little to no makeup and they’re the ones who put me up to this, anyway. In the elevator, our beauty director, Kate, and I bond over both being makeup-free today. She says she couldn’t even tell I wasn’t wearing any—major compliment.
Wednesday: Damn, I love being able to rub my eyes and not have to worry about smearing mascara everywhere! I definitely feel less polished and less confident moving about my normal routine, though. After work, I have two beauty-related work events and feel like I need to announce to the room, 'This is not what I normally look like!' I better get used to it.
Thursday: Discovered another no-makeup perk: Evening workouts are such a breeze. Normally I'd remove my makeup with a wipe pre-sweat to prevent clogging my pores, but no need for that today. Also, no need to waste time afterward re-applying for dinner plans.
Friday: Casual Fridays in the office (read: everyone wears workout clothes) makes wearing no makeup feel more natural. I’m also hanging out with my parents for the weekend which is a relief. Upon seeing my mom she immediately tells me I look good, but could 'use a little color on my lips' or 'maybe just some highlights?' What are moms for?
Saturday: The rest of the weekend goes by easily. No one at the Buffalo Wild Wings in my suburban New Jersey town cares whether I am wearing mascara or not.
Sunday: Tonight, I develop a serious case of the Sunday scaries, stay up until 2 a.m. watching Netflix, and a breakout seemingly appears out of nowhere. (See below for the Snapchat a lucky few received.)
When Monday rolls around again I wake up with my skin looking as tired as I feel. If I’m going to continue this for another week, I realize I'm going to need to step up my skin care routine, so I can stop hiding behind my hair at all times. I visit dermatologist Jennifer Chwalek, M.D. of New York City-based Union Square Laser Dermatology who gives me a skin evaluation. (And checks up on my moles from last year's skin cancer scare.) Confirmed: I do have combination skin, which really just means addressing all my skin's problems is kind of complicated. Surprise, the most important thing she tells me is to remember to use a moisturizer with SPF (she recommends this oil-free EltaMD version with hyaluronic acid) if I'm forgoing my normal SPF-containing tinted moisturizer. (Here's The Best Skin Care Routine for Normal and Combination Skin.)
Without makeup to cover up my various skin problems, I also added some new products to my arsenal.
For removing dirt: Normally I'm pretty lazy when it comes to using fancy devices, but Dr. Chwalek suggests I start using a Clarisonic brush in the evening to help clean and exfoliate (paired with a gentle cleanser like CeraVe or Cetaphil) and after using it one time, my skin feels super clean and noticeably softer.
For acne: I started upping my mask game, using Glamglow Supermud Clearing Treatment and this InstaNatural Charcoal Mask in an effort to suction my pores clear of any dirt and impurities. I also started using Kiehl's Breakout Control Acne Treatment Facial Lotion which contains antibacterial, acne-suppressing salicylic acid but also soothing aloe vera, so it doesn't dry me out.
For dullness: On mornings when I didn't get enough sleep the night before, I started using Glossier Super Glow Vitamin C Serum under my moisturizer which helps reduce dark spots and helps create 'smoother, light-reflective skin' so I don't miss my highlighter so much.
For dark circles: I started being more diligent about using eye cream day and night. This Olay Illuminating Eye Cream with light-reflecting pigments helped soften the look of my dark circles, even without concealer.
I also *try* to do the following:
- Cut back on sugar and alcohol. Since my skin tends to look worse and more dehydrated after a night of drinking or when I've gone on a junk food binge, I try to cut back this week. #Struggle.
- Sleep more. I get more sleep than a lot of friends my age, but those late-night Game of Thrones binges aren't doing my under eyes any favors. This week I vow to get at least 8 hours. (Maybe I should try Napflix?)
- Meditate. There are a ton of stress-benefits, but according to Dr. Chwalek, meditation can also do wonders for acne-prone skin like mine.
- Remember to cleanse post-workout. I tend to forget to wash my face post-workout to prevent breakouts, so this week I'm extra careful about carrying cleansing wipes to keep my pores from getting clogged.
It turns out actually taking care of your skin problems rather than just covering them up works like *magic.* My skin looks noticeably better by my third week of going makeup-free so I don't have the same impulses to cover up like I did in the first week. Yes, I'm pretty pumped to going back to wearing lipstick, but I'm also cool with showing up to work without concealer. On the first Monday after my little 'experiment' is over, I actually opt to join in on #makeupfreemonday—something I never would have done before of my own free will.