About six months ago, I had the startling realization that for over a decade, I hadn’t gone more than a few days without wearing some kind of makeup. If it wasn’t a full face of makeup, it was a little bronzer here or a little mascara there. Just enough to make me feel pretty. TEN YEARS, people. Meaning the last time I didn’t attribute makeup to part of my identity as a woman, I was fourteen—when I didn’t even understand what that meant. All I knew was that my eyelashes were blonde and if I wanted to be prettier, I’d make sure they were black; my nose and cheeks were covered in freckles and if I wanted to be prettier, I’d make them less noticeable. And while my truths about “being pretty” have changed, matured, and grown far more educated over the years—I was still putting on makeup almost every single day.
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What is beauty, anyway?
I truly believe our beauty is dependent on only one factor, and that’s our heart. I also believe that makeup should be a choice for women. There are all kinds of women in the world—ones that wear makeup and ones that go all-natural, ones that wear pantsuits and ones that wear dresses, ones that have long hair and ones that have no hair. Ones that do all of the above things, mixed and matched, on any given day depending on their mood. Point being, none of these things—especially makeup—make any woman more of a woman. And they don’t make a woman a more professional or capable or beautiful or worthy woman either. They’re just choices we make, or at least they should be. I believe all of these things, but once again—I was still putting on makeup almost every single day.
As humans, we all have the desire to be fully, completely known and still loved in the presence of that knowledge. We want to feel like we are 100% understood, and that when we are, the person understanding us isn’t going to run away or try to change us or tell us we’re not good enough. That’s all we really want in this life, and yet we do all sorts of things that seem to reflect the opposite. We make it difficult for others to fully know us, and we make it more difficult on ourselves to be fully known. We create defenses and put on thick armor. We hide. And if you’re a woman in this society, you probably put on makeup, literally keeping others from knowing your true self. I saw the link. I saw the contradiction within myself. And even so—I was still putting on makeup almost every single day.
Sometimes, I think we have to go without something to grow in our understanding of what it really means to us.
I began to wonder, “Am I really treating makeup as a choice? One that doesn’t affect how beautiful I feel?” My inner dialogue went something like this:
“I don’t even wear that much makeup.”
“Yeah, but what I do wear, I wear almost every day.”
“But if I absolutely don’t want to, I don’t.”
“Really? Can I honestly say I WANT to put on makeup almost Every. Single. DAY?”
“Well it’s just part of my job. I need to be confident to do what I do, and I love the way I look with makeup.”
“Understandable. But if I believe what I claim to believe—shouldn’t I be able to feel confident and beautiful even without wearing makeup?”
And round and around again. The truth was, I didn’t know how much it was affecting me. I never gave myself long enough to figure that out. So in true all-or-nothing Lindsay fashion, I decided to do something kind of crazy: I gave up makeup for Lent. I made the choice to go without it for a while. Sometimes, I think we have to go without something to grow in our understanding of what it really means to us.
Maybe you don’t do Lent. Maybe you don’t do religion or God at all. That’s okay. I think we share enough common ground as women to relate on this topic, wherever we’re coming from. For me, this choice came from Lent. Giving up makeup was about sacrifice. Sacrificing something selfish that I cling to in this world in order to grow and refine my heart. Giving up makeup was about replacing something material with something spiritual.
I gave up makeup because my attachment to it was bad. Makeup wasn’t doing anything wrong; I was the one who needed to change.
All of this being said, I want to be clear that I have nothing against makeup. Makeup can be wonderful, it can be fun, it can be art. I didn’t give up makeup because it was bad; I gave up makeup because my attachment to it was bad. Makeup wasn’t doing anything wrong; I was the one who needed to change.
Trust me, I realize I’m not some kind of martyr here. It’s not that big of a deal. But women in our society treat it like it is one, myself included. And while I felt like this makeup cleanse would be good for me, I hoped it might also be good for other women who’ve experienced the same attachment to makeup as me. I hoped they might see that if I can do it:
- A singer/songwriter who performs in front of strangers and co-writes with new people on a regular basis.
- A receptionist at a fancy-schmancy hair salon who is the first person every client sees when they walk through the door.
- A single, 24-year-old woman.
Then they can, too. If they want to. If that’s their choice. And guess what? The world didn’t end.
I gave up makeup for 46 days, and I lived to tell about it.