It all started when I unearthed a slender bottle of clear mascara from my stocking on my twelfth Christmas. Receiving my first makeup product flung open the door to womanhood! After years of observing my mom perfecting her lashes and lips in the morning, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to practice vanity on my own. In that moment, I had no idea that the increase in maturity would result in a dramatic decrease in my already fragile self-esteem.
As I grew older, my collection of makeup grew with me. Beauty scaled up my priority list and dominated the top spot. My braces were removed, my glasses replaced with contacts. I grew out my childish bangs and plucked my eyebrows until my eyes watered. Sleep was sacrificed in order to carve out time for my daily beauty regimen. It became an addiction, a luxury turned necessity, an irreversible habit. I could not even walk the dog, grab a coffee, or video chat without a coating of lip gloss and a swipe of concealer. That’s why, several years later, I have decided to challenge myself. I am kissing makeup goodbye for a month and a half, and I am not leaving a scarlet lipstick stain behind.
The purpose of this social experiment is not only to test my willpower and boost my confidence, but also to witness the ensuing reactions. Initially, I was told I would regret the overall decision. I might fall victim to judgments, hurtful comments, or similar negative repercussions. Why would I take such a risk in the first place if there was a high potential of a terrible outcome?
I want to make a statement. I want to demonstrate to myself and to those around me that imperfections are acceptable and that conforming to society’s beauty standards is not necessary. I have spent my adolescent years setting unreasonable expectations for myself regarding appearance, and I observe the same pressures weighing down teenage girls on and off campus. I hear catcalls and rude remarks relating directly to external presentation. I witness friends dissolving into tears when their insecurities float up to the surface. It makes no sense to me why the way we view others is such a big deal.
Admittedly, I almost gave up. On the first morning, staring at myself in the mirror, my flaws stood out like stars in the sky. Makeup was my security blanket, and lacking it, I felt strangely exposed. Flushed with self-consciousness, I took the dog on a walk across the street, and a stranger smiled at me and told me I looked nice today.
And it only went up from there. First of all, boys did not notice. That was my biggest fear—my natural look being pointed out, talked about, judged by the opposite gender. I realized within the first few days that the changes were not noticeable through the eyes of teenage boys. Without the extensive knowledge of makeup that a typical girl would possess, the differences were hardly picked up.
Even my made-up peers hardly realized the sudden shift in my appearance. I was asked if I got a haircut several times. A couple of them pointed out that something was different about me, but they were not able to place a finger on the specific change. For those who could, majority told me that I looked the same to them.
It got easier every day. My skin became clearer, I could get out of the house in a matter of minutes, and I cherished the extra ten minutes in bed on early mornings. I subconsciously began putting more effort into taking care of myself—without makeup to cover up sleepless nights and unhealthy habits, I looked towards better hygiene instead of the beige bottles on my bathroom counter.
It has only been a few weeks, yet I feel as though I have adopted a different lifestyle. This challenge has enabled me to shed the heavy blanket of insecurity that has been wrapped around my shoulders since puberty. I no longer depend on the opinions of others, and I have come to the realization that those around me aren’t looking at me as often as I think. I feel good about myself when I look in the mirror. I still see my flaws, but I am okay with them.
Next time I see an opportunity in which I can step out of my social comfort zone, I am going to do so. Taking a risk has never felt so rewarding. Forty days of exposure may be a fraction of my lifetime, but the handful of no-makeup mornings I am experiencing have made a lasting impact on my self-esteem. Sometimes, less is more. In this case, taking makeup off allowed me to paint on the most beautiful thing any girl can wear—confidence.