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Learning to Love My Makeup-Less Face

Barefaced and Beautiful: How I Learned to Adore My Blemishes

Anybody who knows me knows how vehemently proud I am to have a makeup artist as a mom.

As a journalist, it’s a consistently revisited theme in my writing. As a babbler, it’s a primary topic of conversation. It’s a piece of my mom’s identity that’s seeped into my own, one that I’ve always flaunted like a badge of Maybelline honor: “Yeah, MY mom makes humans BEAUTIFUL for a living.”

As a result, almost by means of inheritance, makeup has always been a staple in my own fashion. I’d say I began wearing eyeliner—that fierce, charcoal wing that’s become notorious as the “Talia-Look” amongst my friends—around the fifth grade. Granted, it was sloppy, applied with liner stolen from my mom’s handbag, and immediately removed with a slap on the wrist before leaving the house. But that being said, around the fifth grade is when it began.

Ultimately, that sloppy line refined, that liner was passed down as my first official cosmetic product, and my family and friends got acclimated to seeing me with bold, black stripes across my eyelids.

And thus, the “Talia-Look” was born.

And as a result, I became acclimated to the “Talia-Look” too. It became second-nature to wake up, wash the nighttime grime off my face, and mindlessly apply the foundation, the shadow, the wings, and the mascara. And I loved it, and felt great wearing it. That makeup, that look—it felt like me.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Never did I have a problem with my affinity for makeup. Again, having a cosmetologist as a mother is such an area of pride that when people ask how I learned to apply such pristine eyeliner, my response is a practiced and ingrained dialogue: “I got it from my mama.”

However, in the recent years, with the surge of the “natural look” in the fashion world, I began meditating on how attached I am to my makeup. I love that I have a look that’s distinctly my own, but when I started ruminating on it, I struggled remembering the last time I left my house without my winged eyeliner, or bold mascara, or Neutrogena foundation that conceals my naturally Rudolf-red nose and speckled pimples across my face.

A Barefaced Test

So, recently, I assigned myself a challenge. Once a week, I would go a full day without a lick of makeup on my face. No foundation, no liner, nada. I’d give my wings a day of rest and leave my eyelids be in their bare, blemished glory.

And I remember that first day was tough. Tougher than I expected it to be. It was a Sunday in early June, one of those days during which people were preoccupied inside a church hall, or preoccupied under their duvets, or preoccupied in front of a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. All the same—too preoccupied, I reasoned, to pay much attention to my makeup-less face.

And even still, I recognized an anxiety beginning to gurgle as I prepared my dogs for a morning walk. An anxiety that, I also recognized, was completely unreasonable. Nobody, regardless of their external preoccupations—their religious ordeals, or their late Sunday slumblers, or their emptying box of cereal—cared much about my cosmetic practices. And even with that understanding, shutting the kitchen door behind me and strolling towards my cul-de-sac with my dogs was tough.

I remember seeing my neighbor watering her flowers. She straightened and waved to me as I passed her lawn, and I was surprised at the sudden urge I felt to quicken my walk. I didn’t—I’m polite; I love my neighbors; and I’m self-aware enough to recognize, even in my anxiety, that she couldn’t give a stray weed about my morning appearance. I lifted my fingers in greeting, chirped a “Morning, Elloise!” and continued forward with my dogs.

That walk was chock-filled with ruminations. If I was so aware of how little it mattered that people saw me without my makeup, why did it affect me so strongly? Why did I feel naturally tempted to avert my face from the road as cars swooshed by? Why did I feel the sting of a blush—all natural, mind you—when passing dog walkers made eye contact?

Returning home from that walk, as I removed my dogs’ leashes and refilled their water bowl, I acknowledged the importance of that challenge. It wasn’t for the sake of others getting comfortable with "bare-faced-Talia;"; it was for me. It was so I could look in the mirror, Rudolf-red nose and all, blow myself a kiss and say: “I am stunning, with or without the Maybelline.”

A Beautiful Outcome

And that’s exactly what resulted from the challenge. That acknowledgement of my own beauty moulded into an affirmation, one by which I’ve learned to live my life. One which augments my confidence, my being, my womanhood.

I discussed this with my mother: that brilliant woman whose face is her canvas, who rarely exits the house before her makeup routine is complete. I was almost fearful she would take offence, interpreting my “challenge” as a strike to her livelihood, framing makeup as a superfluous mask.

Her response surprised and relieved me. Makeup, to my mother, isn’t concealment. It isn’t utilized as a means of creation, to manifest a previously nonexistent beauty. Instead, it enhances. It lifts. It takes the gorgeousness already present and adds—and, ultimately, for nobody’s sake but the sake of the wearer. My mother chooses to apply her foundation, her lipstick, and her liner because she likes it, and that doesn’t detract from her self-love after the makeup is removed.

I’ve adapted that mentality into my own practice. If I choose to wear my charcoal wings, it’s because it makes me feel beautiful. If I choose to go out and grab a coffee without makeup, my red nose exposed and showcased to the bustling Starbucks, then great. I’m just as stunning, just as admirable, just as worthy of a wink from the attractive barista brewing my latte.

The “Talia-Look,” I’ve learned, has two faces—and the bare is just as stunning as the flip-side. 

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