I was 14 when I first started wearing makeup. It was a big deal. My friends and I would gather at one of our houses to put on makeup and get dressed before our night out – it was our girly thing to do. It was like we were helping groom each other to be women. This ritual continued until I was in my 20’s.
During the 15 years that I wore makeup, there was only a short phase where I put on really heavy makeup, which in my definition means concealer, foundation, powder, highlighter and the rest of it of course.
That was when I was 16-17 and used to go clubbing in Bangsar regularly. Looking back, I realise that my self-esteem was especially low in those years. One of the main reasons being the acne marks on my face and the eczema scars on my arms and legs.
Wearing makeup made me feel more confident about the way I looked and it felt good. Concealer and foundation were like god to me, they gave me salvation and saved me the embarrassment of having to expose my skin which I thought was hideous. I would also wear long sleeves and long pants to hide the skin on my arms and legs.
Covering up my skin with makeup and clothes was far from the perfect solution though. Malaysia happens to be a really hot and humid country, and when you’re dancing in a crowded club, it’s hotter than hell, especially when your skin is all covered up. This is when your face starts melting and you look at yourself in the mirror and think “this whole looking good thing isn’t very practical for me.”
I’m not the most patient person and so it was painstakingly tedious covering up every spot with concealer and blending it properly with the foundation. Dressing up just took way too much effort and time – it was tiresome.
What’s worse was that I felt ugly and like I was lacking in confidence when I didn’t have makeup on. This was when I started to realise that wearing makeup actually made me feel worse about the way I looked. Wearing makeup gave me the opportunity to hide my flaws and to accentuate my features, but ultimately it also made me feel bad about the way I really looked like without any makeup on.
I wanted to feel confident without having to wear makeup, so little by little I started wearing less and less makeup. By the time I was 28, I had completely stopped wearing any makeup. I remember being “forced” to put on makeup a year later (as I was the bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding) and hating the way my face looked like with makeup. This radical transformation of my perception of myself and my beauty ideals was very liberating and empowering.
I learned that the beauty industry makes us feel inadequate and insecure to sell us things we don’t need, but we can decide not to buy into these fake ideas which are damaging to our self-esteem. My eyelashes look fine without mascara and my lips are kissable without lipstick. I don’t need to paint myself to look better – I am just fine the way I am.
Refusing to conform to mainstream standards of beauty such as makeup may seem like a small act of rebellion, but the impact it has had on my life has been big enough – it built up my resilience which has in turn helped me to overcome many other more challenging obstacles in life.
Here are some of the other more simple reasons why not wearing makeup made me feel better…
Dating becomes less stressful
Dressing up for dates can be fun, but it can also be nerve-wrecking. Some of the nail-biting questions that used to run through my head while putting on makeup before a first date was “what if he doesn’t like me anymore when the makeup eventually comes off?”
It took me some time to realise that if I go on a date without wearing makeup and he likes the way I look, I have one less thing to worry about.
Life becomes more simple, carefree and fun
It was liberating feeling like I could face the world with confidence without having to wear makeup. Dressing up took less time and life became generally more carefree. I also saved a lot of money when I stopped buying cosmetics, which I used to have fun instead, and that made me feel much better than a face full of makeup.
Loving yourself becomes easier
Loving yourself for who you truly are can be challenging, especially in a world where there’s so much pressure on women to look beautiful. Not wearing makeup has brought me one step closer to loving myself more and being kinder to myself and others.
It takes time to ween yourself off makeup, just like any other habit, it doesn’t change overnight. Currently, it’s been about 6 years since I stopped wearing makeup. I still go through bouts of self-loathing, so it’s probably highly unlikely that you’re going to suddenly be completely confident in your own skin, but it might bring you one step closer.
For more articles on like this, read 5 Ways to Overcome Shyness, and also Forget Perfection, Live a Purposeful Life Instead. Here’s How to Start.