I have been wearing makeup with consistency, in some form or fashion, since I was about 11 years old. That’s not to say I was allowed to wear makeup as a kid – I wasn’t, so it often involved sneaking into my mother’s bathroom when she was at work to put on some mascara – but by the time I was 11, I was starting to have regular, noticeable acne. Not boobs, of course, or any of the other perks of puberty – just angry red pimples that started out occasionally and took over my face for the rest of my teen years. Eventually, my mom took pity on me and let me get some concealer. Not foundation, just concealer to cover up the spots I was being teased mercilessly about, but it wasn’t long before I was smearing that little wand all over my entire face because there were more “little spots” than there was clear skin. It was the beginning of my obsession with makeup.
It would be accurate to say that I have worn makeup nearly every single day since then. This includes the times I have had surgery and been explicitly instructed not to put any on – I mean, a little mascara and some under-eye concealer isn’t going to kill anyone, right? Until I completed my first round of Accutane back in 2006, I did not even leave my room without makeup covering all of my imperfections, perking up my eyelashes, and masking all my acne. I would not even walk to the kitchen of my own house without makeup as a teenager because I was so afraid that my parents or my brother would notice how terrible my skin was and make a comment on how bad it looked that day – or even if they didn’t say anything, that I would see it on their faces. It was that bad.
I’ve worn makeup for every race I’ve ever run (to the dismay of more than one reader who thinks its absurd) and although I’ve always said I’m not wearing makeup to run, I’m wearing it to take pictures…I wear makeup on runs at home, too. And I wear it to teach barre classes, and to work in my yard, and to walk my dog around the neighborhood. Until this year, I had never gone to a store without wearing makeup in some form or fashion.
All of this changed in a very dramatic and, if I am being honest, panic-attack inducing way when I arrived in Antigua a little over a month ago and couldn’t find my makeup bag. I don’t wear a lot of makeup anymore, but some under-eye concealer and a little mascara never hurt anyone (especially people with blonde eyelashes), and having none was, well, terrifying. Even worse was the fact that I was going on that trip specifically to take tons of pictures and write about the race and event for a variety of different outlets, meaning OMG MY NAKED FACE WAS GOING TO BE ALL OVER THE INTERNET.
So after I panicked, I made a plan. I would go to the ATM and get some cash out so I could go to the nearest pharmacy and at least grab some mascara and eyeliner. Surely, I could handle that. Well, the only ATM near our hotel wasn’t working with my card, the pharmacy closed by the time we got there and…before I knew it, I was on Day 2. And time and time again, it seemed like the stars aligned and conspired to keep me from getting my safety blanket, and I just had to deal with it.
It sounds so, so stupid – I know. Trust me, I’m judging myself as I write this, but this was a really big deal for me. Would people shrink away in fear when they saw how tiny my eyes look when they’re framed by my “real” eyelashes and blonde eyebrows? Would the huge black circles I just know I have under my eyes in real life be as obvious in photos as I thought? Would old acne scars on my skin cause everyone to visibly recoil?
In a word – no. No one cared. No one noticed except me. And although I thought I looked absolutely ghastly in the pictures at the time, a strange thing happened while I was there – I started to get used to how I look without makeup. I started to notice how dewey my skin is now thanks to the new skin care routine I’ve been doing. I noticed that my eyes are still blue, and that my eyebrows do look sort of ridiculous when they’ve been lightened by the sun and then put next to slightly reddened skin. And I noticed that none of it was really that bad.
So when I came home, I went right back to my normal makeup routine – a little concealer, some eyeliner, and some mascara and occasional eyeshadow – and my immediate reaction was that I didn’t look like myself. I looked… weird. I had just spent 4 days staring at myself makeup-less and I got kind of used to it. Despite wearing makeup everywhere I went every single day for 19 years, I suddenly didn’t feel like that was the real me anymore. I was a very bizarre realization.
While I can’t say that I’ve completely stopped wearing makeup (or that I have any desire to do so), I no longer put it on when I leave the house to go run – and yes, I still know how ridiculous that sounds. I sometimes go to the store without it. I certainly walk around my neighborhood. I’ve come to like the freshness of my skin and want to show it off. I appreciate a little bit more what it looks like to be the natural version of myself, and most importantly, I’m not afraid to be that version of myself anymore.
All of this is particularly relevant since, as you are reading this, I am currently in Nicaragua for two weeks for work, sweating my face off. I’m with 11 other people from my company and, prior to this trip, I had never met any of them. Our pictures will be used in promotional materials probably forever, and of course, I’m taking a ton of my own pictures of the trip to share here when I get home. I will have no mirror, no actual shower, and will really be roughing it for two weeks. A few months ago, the thought of going on this trip without makeup would have been laughable, even though I’m going to be sweating to death in the Nicaraguan jungle while camping and oh yeah, building a giant bridge. Not exactly a glamorous situation in the first place, and certainly not one that would inspire most people to bring a bag of makeup with them. I think what’s so funny about this is that if you know me in real life, you know that I’m not particularly high maintenance about much of anything – I’m just terribly insecure. But that’s not the way it comes across when you’re lugging your eyeliner into the jungle, ya know?
Anyway, I consider this a big deal and another huge step forward in accepting my body and accepting myself as I am. Yes, maybe it took 30 years to get to this point, but better late than never right? So, sorry I’m not sorry about all the bare-faced sweaty selfies to come and flooding you with approximately 2 weeks worth of makeup-less pictures upon my triumphant return from Nicaragua. Hopefully my face won’t be covered in mosquito bites the entire time, but I make no promises.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you have a personal flaw that you are particularly insecure about and have tried to hide?