There was a time in my life when my makeup routine went something like this: a combination of colors from my MAC eyeshadow palate. Some sparkly blue eyeliner (I may or may not have stolen) from Walgreens. Some kind of powder foundation that was definitely a free sample from a department store that my mom didn’t want. And just a dab of roll-on body glitter over my shoulders and cheeks for good measure.
Seventh grade was weird.
These days, my makeup routine is like my work-out routine: non-existent. As in, most days, pretty much all days, I don’t wear any makeup at all. No foundation, no cover-up, no eye shadow, no lipstick. Nil, zilch, nada. I will admit to getting a little enamored with Sephora’s eyebrow darkening powder, so some mornings I’ll fill in my (un-tweezed, un-waxed) brows if I feel like it, but most of the time, what you see is what you get: an imperfect, pale, often sunburned, sometimes freckled face.
I never thought much of my non-use of makeup until I was recently talking with a friend about what kind of makeup we tend to wear on first dates, and I mentioned I usually go bare.
“Wow,” she said. “Good for you! That’s amazing.”
From the tone, I could infer that she saw this as a “brave” move, something that took guts to accomplish. Perhaps, after years of internalized misogyny and images in the media of what we’re supposed to look like, I had overcome my fears and ventured makeup-less into the world to make a statement: Women don’t need to wear makeup. Women are beautiful just the way we are.
While I certainly agree with those sentiments, it’s not what I’m going for. Not at all. I don’t wear makeup because I just don’t like it, and I pretty much never have. Save that year in 7th grade when I was up for experimenting with all things glitter-based, I never felt like makeup helped me look particularly “better,” and I’m too lazy to do something that gives me no joy. I grew up in a home with two older brothers, so I wasn’t inheriting any fun makeup tips from an older sister. And my mom is just like me—she’s never been much for makeup, and she only ever wore it for special occasions like bar mitzvahs and weddings.
These days, Instagram posts from celebrities rocking the “natural” look go viral because it’s so rare. Alicia Keys had to clarify her “controversial appearance” on Twitter after she didn’t wear any makeup to last year’s VMAs. E! News wrote how “her bare face still made for an understated look that stood out as quite the statement amid all the heavily made-up faces.” But when it came time for opening up about why she made this BOLD, BRAVE move, Keys was pretty clear:
Y’all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn’t mean I’m anti-makeup. Do you! 😘😘 pic.twitter.com/Mg0Ug9YA9q
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) August 29, 2016
That’s the thing about praising women for going “bare”: It suggests there’s something wrong with those who don’t. It’s just one more way to police women for the way we look, whether it’s the size of our clothes or the height of our heels or the way we wear our hair. It’s tiring, and not necessary. Some women like to wear makeup, and so they should. Some women don’t like to wear makeup, and so they shouldn’t. It’s as simple as that.
So yes, I go on dates without wearing any makeup, but that’s not why I’m brave. No, no—I’m brave because I go on dates with men in New York City. That, my friends, is a shitshow worth praising.