A few months ago, I just stopped wearing make up to work. It wasn’t a big decision, I didn’t do it for charity, or as a feminist statement, or because I ran out of make up and couldn’t afford to buy new make up. I just stopped.I’d been trying for a while to use fewer products on my face – I have really sensitive skin and for months have been plagued by sore eyes and skin, probably because I’m spending far more time around a cat than I used to and my body seems to refuse to understand that’s a good thing. I’d given up using all the face washes I’ve used for years, and I’d started to use a natural oil on my face instead of all the expensive moisturisers I had been buying.
And so one day, when I was in a rush, I slapped on my oil, and left my make up to do once I reached the office. When I got there, it felt faintly pointless to be putting on make up just to sit at my desk, so I didn’t. And that was it.
Since then, I’ve only worn make up for evening events, and every time I put it on, it feels faintly strange. When I was on holiday, I questioned why I “needed” to put make up on every day – I didn’t want to look washed out or tired in the holiday photos, so I felt like I had to wear it. Each time I did it, that felt faintly more ridiculous. I’m a naturally pale person – looking washed out is what I do! Why bother hiding it, when everyone who knows me sees me bare faced every day anyway?
For a while, I felt supremely confident in my decision. My skin improved after stopping using so many products (ladies – ditch your products. Seriously. It’s amazing). I’ve been getting so many fewer spots since I stopped that it made giving up foundation feel easy.
But then came the stress. Huge work pressure, long days, evening events, exhausting commutes schlepping back to my parents. And the sore eyes came back. It’s a lot harder to sit there barefaced in the evening, wearing a floor length gown, surrounded by the great and the glamorous, than it is to do it in the day time. So I put make up on – and boy did I live to regret it. My sore eyes feel like they’re on fire, my skin feels clogged and sad, and more than that, I feel disappointed in myself for deciding I needed to wear make up in order to look smart, and feel pretty.
Make up can be a great tool, it can be armour against the world when you’re feeling small or blue, it can be a fun way to transform yourself from day to day, to say “this is who I am today, this is who I want to show”. But it’s only those things if you’re wearing it because you want to. Because you’re experimenting, or expressing yourself, or dressing up, or gearing up to do battle.
If you’re wearing it because you feel like you can’t NOT wear it, then it loses that power, and becomes just another hassle, just another responsibility, just another way to feel like you’re not doing well enough.