It’s Over! Lessons in not wearing make up

Finally, finally, let joy be unconfined, finally it is February. The long hard slog that is January has come to an end and with it my self imposed make up ban.

I am thrilled that it is over, but pleased that I ploughed on with it, even in the moments where I thought ‘OK you’ve learnt your lesson and this is making you a bit miserable so just forget about it and slap on some lipstick.’

I carried on with it because I said I would do it. I wrote it down, and told you I would do it. And sometimes you just need to do things because you said you were going to. Don’t throw in the towel, because it’s boring, or seems pointless. Just doing something, anything, that is different to your norm can result in change, even if at first it is imperceptible.


Girls will be Girls

Anyway, back to the make-up. One of the big puzzles for me was that I just couldn’t manage to pick apart the reasons I was wearing it. Was it purely for fun and personal satisfaction? Or was it because I felt society was telling me I needed to , to play the part of a woman?


By coincidence I read Emer O’Toole’s Girls Will Be Girls at the same time as doing this challenge. It’s a study of playing with gender stereotypes and I recommend it to you unreservedly. She has been through phases of experimenting with her appearance, including not shaving her body hair. She talks a lot in the book about whether we make our choices through our own free will or are influenced by society (agency vs structure) and has this to say about the dilemma,

If on consideration of your body practices you find yourself unable to work out whether you’re doing things out of personal choice or coercion – try performing differently for a while. Explore your emotional and psychological relationship with fashion and adornment.

In her own experiments with make up , O’Toole says she has trained herself out of thinking she looks better with make up. She still enjoys the ritual of wearing it, but likes the before picture better.

Before and After

I can’t honestly say that I grew to love my before picture better. The amount of times I looked in the mirror and thought,  ‘God you look like crap’, definitely outnumbered the amount of times I thought I looked OK. And that does make me a little bit sad. But. I went out and I did it anyway, confident in the knowledge that my appearance is not all I have to contribute to the world. I went bare faced in situations that I genuinely would have never conceived of doing before this month: meetings, presentations, nights out.

Self Expression

What I have also learned is that I enjoy make up. I enjoy the element of mindfulness it brings to your routine. Amidst the hurry of the daily routine, make up application is the chance to pause and consider yourself. I missed doing that.

I missed not being able to change the way I look on a daily basis: doing the eyes one day, focusing on lips the next. Choosing ‘this is who I’m going to be today.’ It’s taking control of who you are , how you are going to present yourself to the world.

But it’s also fun and pretty and frivolous and we shouldn’t diminish it on those terms. We are allowed to like fun things. We are allowed to be pretty. A love of frivolous things, does not make us frivolous. We contain multitudes.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Writer, Academic, Feminist, Beauty Lover- She believes Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. 

If I had to summarise my learnings in a handy, arbitrary 5 key points format I would say:

  1. Getting an extra 10 minutes in bed is nice.
  2. A ‘wash and go’ attitude to leaving the house is liberating.
  3. People will not turn to stone confronted with a naked face.
  4. Confidence comes from within not the colour of your lipstick.
  5. Make up is fun.

The Truth

This post should have wrapped up with a photo of me wearing full make-up. I wrote this post yesterday, 31st January, with the intention of getting up a bit earlier this morning to put on my make-up. But, in the interest of honesty and speaking your truth, today was not a get up early and put on your make up kind of day. Today was a day when I would have much preferred to turn over in bed and not face the world. So it’s the first of February and I’m still not wearing make-up. But now it’s a choice, my choice. I didn’t feel like it, so I didn’t do it. Little victories.

Maybe tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “It’s Over! Lessons in not wearing make up

  1. Brilliant piece Beth! That is my attitude exactly! Bed over beauty is not a compromise both are enjoyable and should be choice-once we make make-up a chore we loose the joy in it! As a make-up artist (lol I can say that now) I use makeup as an art form something to enjoy, experiment and develop with and would hate to loose that appreciation for it. Also totally reading that book, sounds amazing!


  2. Hi Beth,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Nowadays it is rather unusual for a woman to NOT wear make-up in public. Of course there are some women who almost never wear make-up, but most of us do.
    It must have been a really tough experiment. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine going out “naked” every day – especially at work or when going out at night it would be quite tough.
    Still your conclusions totally make sense. I guess it really teaches you more about being self-confident. The great thing is that we have a choice – because that’s what make-up should be about: The possibility to experiment with your look, but only if you’re up to it.

    Btw I launched my new feminist some time ago – maybe you want to take a look at it? x


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