Redefining Beauty: A Week Without Makeup
Words by Kayla Sturm | Photos by Talia HodgeAt 7:30 a.m., I wake to the sound of my alarm, squint at the bright light on my iPhone and slide my finger to unlock the screen after hitting snooze four, five or six times. I toss off the blankets and step onto the cold ground. Next, I reach for a pink beautyblender in my makeup collection before heading upstairs. Once I make it to the kitchen, I grab a decorative ceramic mug and place it under the Keurig, selecting the strongest coffee option to help get me through my 9:15 a.m. ethics class.
The morning isn’t the best part of the day for me; I am usually rushing to get ready because I oversleep and feel the need to maintain a certain image. In my mind, I’m obligated to this image because I am a fashion student and feel better overall if I look presentable.
I head to the bathroom to dampen the beautyblender and wash my face, trying to wake myself up.
Turning off the bright yellow bathroom lights, I walk back to the kitchen, balance my coffee and breakfast in both hands and carefully head back downstairs. After grabbing a fluffy eyeshadow brush, I reach for my Morphe 350 palette. I mix the light brown matte shades and work it into the crease of my eyelid, then with a flat eyeshadow brush I apply a shimmery metallic shade. While indulging in hot coffee during the process, I dig for a lipstick that will go with my outfit, usually a bold, dark color.
Makeup is a way for women to feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin, which is one of the reasons why I do it. Even though inner beauty is much more important and makeup doesn’t define a woman, it’s still hard to stop applying products on my face to make me look capable. I was asked to change my routine and complete a daunting task: go makeup-free for an entire week.
I’m not the only woman who is inspired by makeup and sees the creative side to it. Suzy Q. Campbell, an associate professor of costume design, appreciates makeup as art, too. Campbell understands wearing makeup enhances natural features, but mentions women need to consider what products they use on their face.
“Women still have to be very careful about wearing makeup on a daily basis,” Campbell says. “Red lipstick means one thing, pink lipstick means one thing, and can be misinterpreted.”
On my first day of wearing zero makeup, my best friend Lindsay Miraglia and I travel to a sunflower field in Avon, Ohio. She parks her car in my driveway, and I hop in.
“How do I look?” I ask.
“You look fine,” she replies, looking directly in my face. “I’ve seen you without makeup before.”
I don’t feel like I look fine, though. I feel boring and nervous. An hour later, we make it to the field, walking around in the humidity and wind while snapping photos. As we take pictures together, I don’t like half of them. My eyes lock on my face immediately, which looks plain without highlighted cheeks and colorful lips.
Deciding to eat, we locate a Winking Lizard close by and a fresh wave of nerves come rushing to the surface. Even though I don’t know anyone in this area, it still feels strange going into a restaurant with a bareface.
In my world, a dab of mascara, bronzer and a cute outfit showed I could look put together.
The unsettling feeling exists until we head inside the restaurant. I remember that I will never see these people again and need to care less about what they think.
The following day, I show up to Texas Roadhouse with butterflies in my stomach because it’s the first day my coworkers will see me without makeup. I walk through the noisy kitchen, say hello to a few coworkers and clock in. To my surprise, no one says anything to me about being without makeup. Almost anyone I encounter will say something about my makeup, so this seems out of the ordinary.
Only an hour into my shift, one of my coworkers, Alyssa Schueller, and I talk as my body leans against the wood of the hostess stand.
“Does it feel weird not wearing makeup?” she asks.
“Yeah, extremely weird,” I admit.
As a woman, I feel there are certain standards I need to live up to. I know makeup doesn’t make me beautiful and can’t change my personality, but that doesn’t mean a little bit of glam hurts. It makes me feel empowered and presentable.
Gail Williams, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Kent State, is an expert on the subject.
“Women often feel that they have to look a certain way even if they just go to the grocery store,” Williams says. “Even if they just put on some concealer and mascara to look presentable. It’s because the message from the environment around us is to fit in.”
By the time another Monday of early classes rolls around, I am just becoming confident in myself until a couple of zits appear on my chin. I can’t stop looking at them as I splash water onto my face to get ready for class, especially knowing I can’t apply any concealer or powder. My fingers trail across my face throughout the day, poking at a large bump, knowingly making it worse.
I write in a text message to my friend, “I have a zit the size of a planet on my face” while I wait between classes at Starbucks, feeling like everyone notices my breakout.
I head to my fashion class next, feeling out of place in the halls of Rockwell as students with immaculate outfits, complete with full makeup and accessories, pass me. Just being inside the building feels like a fashion show because of all the well-dressed people.
My class eventually ends and I walk across campus to my car to go to work. Once there, I walk inside, trying not to fall on the slippery kitchen floor, plates and bowls rattling as a horrible stench of soap, prime rib and bread fills the air. I speak to my coworker and friend Amy Timmerman by the sweet tea jugs that sit on the counter at the beverage station.
“Are you OK?” she asks. “You look really tired.”
I laugh because this is a rare time where a coworker notices something different about my appearance.
“Yeah, I’m OK,” I reply. “I’m just not wearing any makeup.”
Luckily, I didn’t encounter many guests this night at work. When I finally do get home, I feel relieved people didn’t see the breakouts on my chin. I can hide from the world for the rest of the night.
Even though makeup can’t hide insecurities, it can enhance natural beauty and make a statement. Makeup can boost confidence, especially if the person researches and learns new techniques to achieve the talent.
“Makeup is an art,” Campbell says. “[If] most little girls or young women find that enhancement adds confidence, then yes they should wear makeup. Women need to feel powerful. Women have to find a way to be powerful, but not to be too glam to the point that nobody takes you seriously.”
Some aspiring makeup artists out there transform their face into a completely different person when they are getting ready for a normal day. Even though this is considered a talent, it shouldn’t take away from natural features.
Schoolwork keeps me busy throughout the week, which makes for a good distraction. That is until one night, the fifth day of being makeup-free, I decide to procrastinate from assignments and watch videos on YouTube. Since I got into the makeup craze, I’ve subscribed to more than 100 beauty gurus. While watching the videos my immediate thought is, “I want to recreate this, or at least try to.” Then I remember I can’t play with my makeup for another two days, causing the corners of my lips to pull into a frown.
I walk to my desk where my makeup drawers are. I open them and look at the different colored lipsticks because I miss them. It sounds crazy to miss makeup, but when one does it every day, it’s hard to be away from the products. Sighing with frustration, I close the MAC lipstick tubes and place them back in the drawer, deciding I shouldn’t watch any more makeup tutorials until the week is over.
Before I know it, it’s Sunday and I successfully made it through the week without putting makeup on my face. I don’t work until 2 p.m. today, but I allow myself extra time to get ready. It takes me a while to figure out what kind of look I want to do, but I know it has to be dramatic.
Browsing through my makeup collection of 10-plus eyeshadow palettes, I eventually choose two to work with. I grab my contour and highlight palettes, one of the most important parts of my makeup routine, and begin to work on my face. Eventually, I figure out the look I want to do: full face dewy coverage with extra highlight on the cheekbones and deep contour, bronzed golden eyeshadow with a vampy purple lip. I feel reunited with my makeup, appreciating it even more now because I feel comfortable in my naked skin.
That week tested the waters for me because I have always struggled with self-confidence. Growing up, I never felt like the prettiest girl in school, and even now as a 24-year-old woman I still struggle with it. It isn’t a bad thing because when I do something like go without makeup for a week I learn more about myself. I learned inner beauty is more important and it doesn’t have to be expected of me to wear makeup every day. Since this experiment I have worn more natural makeup and it has helped my confidence.
I’m never going to be perfect and makeup can’t hide insecurities. I’ve always known this, but I think part of me wore makeup because it’s what people expected of my age. When I walk into work with makeup again, a few coworkers comment how nice I look. I feel empowered and confident because the person I am becoming is still in the making.