What happened when I stopped wearing makeup for a month?

Last August, I traveled around a fairly large area of ​​Southeast Asia—and most of the time I did it without makeup. After spending some time in New York and seeing how many women there had natural makeup, I had been toying with the idea of ​​going makeup-free for a month. So when my cousin offered to pay for me to go to Bhutan so that I could take care of his three daughters for a few weeks—and my job actually allowed me to take time off to do it—I decided Four weeks of a five-week vacation with a bare face. You know, for journalism.

In the six months leading up to my adventure to the Far East, a lot of New York's badass women had unknowingly inspired me to throw out all my foundation and eye concealer, so I decided to stop using my trusty mascara, brow gel, and Colored products. Moisturizer doesn't make much of an adjustment for me. I mean, I was going to be a nanny in the jungle for four weeks—not going on dates or going to fancy bars with my friends. I honestly don’t think I’ll miss wearing these, but I do fully expect to feel less beautiful without makeup. I ended up being wrong on both counts.

This is what happened when I didn't wear makeup for a month.

At first, I felt completely naked without mascara

You can’t tell by looking at this photo of me and my little cousin Weiwei, but my eyelashes are really long. The thing is, they're also blonde AF - so when I don't wear mascara, my lashes are all but gone. On top of that, I've almost always had stubborn dark circles, and over the years, wearing mascara was one way I managed to feel less self-conscious about them. I'm also a big fan of this stuff because it's fun and pretty. For these reasons, I usually wear mascara every day.

So when I took this particular photo on the second day of my experiment, the first thing I noticed wasn't how happy I looked, but how happy my eyes looked without their usual coat of mascara How naked it looked. But it wasn’t long before I was mentally punishing myself for it. I mean, how can I write about body positivity and feminism on the internet and then be so picky about my appearance? Most of all, I felt guilty for focusing on such trivial things when I was actually embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. I decided to work harder on overcoming negative self-talk in the future.

In a weird way, not wearing makeup actually makes me feel less self-aware

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Even though going makeup-free makes me feel like a miracle without eyelashes, in a way, going all-natural also makes me feel safer. Don’t get me wrong, the Bhutanese people I met were incredibly polite, and Bhutan is known to be one of the safest countries for women to travel to alone – but none of that stopped me from standing out in a big way.

Unsurprisingly, there weren't many tall, blonde, blue-eyed Western women hanging out in the Himalayas - so I quickly realized that "fitting in" wasn't going to be an option for me while I was there. Since my anxiety often makes me feel uncomfortable and scared, even when no one is looking at me, I've been happy to find that going makeup-free is a way to draw less attention to myself while relieving my anxiety.

Since I didn't wear makeup the whole time I was in Bhutan, I'm not sure if wearing makeup would increase the number of stares I get. Honestly, it's probably all in my head - but since I generally experience more street harassment when doing makeup in the US, I thought that keeping it natural when doing makeup in Bhutan might also help me avoid unnecessary focus on. The only thing I know for sure is this: not wearing makeup makes me feel less self-conscious, and I need it.

After a week, I started to feel more physically active

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After a few days without makeup, I find myself focusing on all the things I love about my appearance instead of thinking about how makeup can help me look my best. When I look at the photo above, I notice how clear my skin has become over the years (puberty!) instead of immediately worrying that my dark circles are making me look tired. Instead of lamenting my bare eyelashes, I thanked the magic of genetics for giving me healthy blue eyes and Blake Lively hair. I saw the blush on my cheeks and thought about how great hiking among the prayer flags made me feel physically and mentally —and I didn’t even think about whether my brows were “flying” enough.

After less than a week of going makeup-free, I'm already starting to think of myself as a more beautiful person. I don’t know if this started happening because I wasn’t inundated with so many photos of seemingly perfect models, or because I was hiking every day, or simply because being in a developing country forced me to put into perspective the things I often think about myself. What a negative attitude. Maybe it's all of those things. Whatever makes me feel this way is great.

I slowly stopped caring about how I looked in photos

There was a time when I wouldn't even post a picture of myself on Instagram if I wasn't wearing makeup. Luckily, that started to change a few years before I went makeup-free for a month—but after this experiment, things changed even more. Literally every photo I shared in Bhutan was without makeup—and since these photo posts were my primary way of communicating with my loved ones in the U.S., I shared a lot of them. I was a little hesitant at first (partly because I thought my new friends would see all of this) but mostly I was so excited about my beautiful surroundings that I couldn't wait to take everyone home.

It turns out that the more photos I posted without makeup, the less I cared about how I looked without makeup. I'm sure living in a developing country helps with that. I mean, it's hard to care about something like mascara when clean drinking water is a luxury. That said, I think getting into the habit of not wearing makeup has really helped me stop caring about how I look in photos. I've been back in the States for over a month now and it still feels good to post makeup-free photos on Instagram.

I take better care of my skin

I have loved grooming for as long as I can remember and it has so many healing properties. I've been washing my face twice a day since adolescence, and even in junior high I thought it was sinful to do things like sleep in makeup and not wear sunscreen. But when I stopped wearing makeup, I started caring more about protecting my skin.

I'm sure part of this has to do with me living in a country with an average elevation of 8,000 feet (the average elevation where I live is only 1,7772 feet), but I guess just knowing that I can't cover my skin with tinted moisturizer also has to do with this related. Regardless, I took better care of my skin during the experiment than ever before. Whether I'm hiking up a mountain or just strolling over to my cousin's Egg Lady house in the Village, I make sure to slather sunscreen on my face and bring my umbrella or Yankees ball cap for extra sun protection Protect.

I still compare myself to other women, but not in the same way that I used to

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In Bhutan, many women wear makeup, so it’s not uncommon for me to meet Bhutanese ladies with beautiful makeup on their faces. The lady pictured above is one such lady and her eye makeup is stunning . Admittedly, I think she looks much prettier than me, but I don't make the mistake of thinking her obvious beauty detracts from my own, and mostly admire her flawless eyeshadow.

Before, I might have thought, " Oh my God, I look like garbage next to this fox," or, "Oops! Why don't I wear makeup?" However, this time, I just admired her artistry. . Then I started getting excited about makeup again. This got me thinking...

Towards the end I was so excited to wear makeup again

As you can probably tell from my face in this photo, this is the end of my travels and experiments. When I took this photo with my little cousins ​​in the back seat of their dad's Mahindra Bolero, I was exhausted, mesmerized by the real jungle weeds, and very excited about the long trek back to the US nervous. Beyond that, I was so ready to wear makeup again that I almost screwed up the whole experiment. Grooming has always been a reliable calming ritual for me, and it's not easy to go too long without grooming. Plus, after a full month without any alone time or hot showers, the idea of ​​putting on makeup felt like a luxury to me. However, it's worth the wait.

It was really fun when I finally allowed myself to put on makeup again (in the bathroom at LAX, in case you were wondering). I had a six-hour layover, so putting on makeup was a fun way to pass the time—but it didn't stop there. For the first time in years, I view makeup as a luxury rather than a professional and personal necessity. After a month of doing all-natural makeup, the whole makeup ritual felt like a damn treat to me. This is still true.

I changed the way I put on makeup

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Now that I'm back, I still wash my face, moisturize and use sunscreen every day - but I don't wear makeup when I don't want to. I feel like makeup should be fun, so I decided not to use the stuff at all on those rare days when it feels like a chore to me. I still wear makeup a lot, though—partly because the ritual touch-up leaves me feeling cold. Now, since I only wear makeup when I feel like it, I always enjoy the whole process. This is a beautiful thing.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Enochs/Instagram