Routine Remix: I Didn’t Wear Makeup for a Week and Here’s What Happened

Making natural beauty "natural" again.
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Making natural beauty "natural" again.
No Makeu Promo

Every week, Leslie and I start off our editorial brainstorm by bringing up the things that most interested us in the past week—a sunscreen that would make for the perfect Find of the Week, a book we couldn't get out of our heads. But the topics that come up most often are "what if" questions: what if we tried to actually meditate every morning, what if we cooked every meal from scratch, what if we tried that one beauty trend everyone's talking about? We're both incredibly curious people who thrive from trying new things and doing little experiments in our day-to-day lives (which is probably why we each majored in Sociology and Psychology, respectively!). To that end, we're launching a new series, "Routine Remix," where we switch up a part of our routine for a week, starting with a week of no makeup. Are there any other topics you'd love to see us try? Let us know in the comments below after you read about Leslie's week sans makeup. - Emily

I'm not the type of girl who needs to apply makeup before running out for a coffee, by any means, and I sort of hate it when articles say it's "brave" to not wear makeup. But that being said, I love wearing it and it makes me feel more pulled together, confident, and ready for my day whenever I do. My only complaint, which I'm guessing is yours, too, is how much time it takes. I envy my boyfriend for his ability to shower and be out the door in ten minutes (I'm closer to forty), and resent the arsenal of mascara, brow pencils, and coverup I lug to the gym with me each morning.

I've often imagined that in an ideal world (where everyone's a chic French girl who can get away with no makeup and a red lip), I'd jump in the shower post-workout, add some serum and moisturizer, and let my hair air-dry as I breezed out of the locker room fifteen minutes ahead of everyone else. So I tried it. For seven days, I didn't wear any makeup. There were unfortunate blemishes, dinners I felt very underdressed for, and a lot of lessons learned. Here's how it felt to go a week without makeup: 

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Monday No Makeup

8:00 a.m. Okay, so I don't look quite like the Marion-Cotillard-French-girl visions that fueled this experiment (hello, crazy brows and forehead blemishes), but it's something! This morning, I washed my face with oil and a warm washcloth before heading to the gym for a 6 a.m. yoga class. (I rarely do yoga, but I figured a post-yoga glow could only help my cause.) Everything was going according to plan until I got a rash on my face from the gym soap (this has literally never happened, but I think the universe knew I was going to be photographed with a DSLR and decided I could handle a curve-ball), but I did feel like a rebel breezing out of the locker room in about 10 minutes, flat. 

8:30 a.m. As soon as I got to the office, I cancelled out any time I'd saved in the locker room by doing three outfit changes. The favorite tee I'd thrown on at the gym felt inappropriately under-dressed without makeup, even for our casual office dress code. I landed on a Cupcakes and Cashmere chambray, hoping that the shirt's structure would help me feel a little more pulled-together, which it did, but only fractionally.

10:00 a.m. Even though I rarely wear makeup on the weekend, I felt surprisingly uncomfortable donning my "fresh" face at the office. I was feeling acutely aware of my sleepy, non-mascara-ed eyes when Emily looked up from an email reminder I'd sent out about the week's editorial plan and said, "Wait. You're doing no makeup this week? Leslie, I didn't even notice!" The soap rash debacle that felt glaringly obvious to me, had gone completely unnoticed, proving that my insecurities were exactly that: mine (turns out no one else is looking as closely!). 

7:00 p.m. Working out is my comfort zone, so by the time I went to a boxing class with our intern, Charlotte, I was thrilled to throw my hair into a ponytail and sweat without fear of mascara running down my cheeks. It also felt amazing to wash my face without racoon eyes! 

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Tuesday No Makeup1

6:30 a.m. Maybe it was just a case of the Mondays or the Vitamin C sugar scrub I used this morning, but by the time I left the house, I felt so much better and more comfortable in my own skin. Having learned from the previous day's wardrobe issues, I put on an outfit that felt like a happy medium between carefree/makeup-free and ready-to-work: linen pants from JCrew and a Cupcakes and Cashmere striped tank. I also added some waves to my hair, to make the look feel more intentional.

2:30 p.m. One of my biggest concerns in this experiment was looking like I didn't care about preparing for meetings outside of our core team. I felt like my fresh face said, "Oh me? I just rolled out of bed and into this meeting. Whatever." I didn't feel pulled-together in the least, but in a meeting with a chef for an upcoming restaurant recipe post (Get excited—it's a good one!), I realized my concerns were unwarranted. She also wasn't wearing a speck of makeup, which served as a helpful reminder that the women's lifestyle world can sometimes make it feel like everyone wears photo-ready makeup and spends Tuesdays on the beach sipping mimosas. In short: Going makeup-free isn't the scandal I imagined it'd be.

8:30 p.m. At the end of the long day, I met family friends for dinner looking like a drowned rat (literally: I didn't do a great job at staying dry at our last shoot of the day, at a rooftop pool), but they of course didn't give any indication of noticing I wasn't wearing makeup. What was I afraid of? That they'd say, "Leslie, not sure we can eat with you—your eyebrows look sparse and you smell like chlorine."?

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5:30 a.m. Woke up to a small Everest of a pimple on my right check (which is just out of frame in the photo above). I'd definitely expected my skin to clear the further I got away from foundation, but the exact opposite happened. By Day 3, I couldn't tell if I had more pimples and blackheads than any other time in my life, or if I was just hyper-aware of them thanks to not having the option of coverup. 

Makeup Free Slack

7:30 p.m. At dinner with some of my best girlfriends, I waited till the end to see if anyone noticed my no-makeup look before bringing it up (then again, they aren't the type of people who would say, "Your cheek looks like a topographic map!"). As soon as I told them, they voiced their impression at my dedication—it's surprising how difficult the idea of going without makeup feels when we all already opt for "natural-looking" makeup. We each spend ten to twenty minutes every morning adding makeup to create the illusion that we're not wearing makeup, even though everyone knows we're actually wearing makeup (did you get all that?). Even my friend who actually doesn't wear makeup undergoes time-consuming and expensive procedures, like microblading and lash extensions, to be able to do so. Lesson learned: The beauty industry is thriving. 

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Thursday No Makeup

7:00 a.m. Before my makeup-free week, I definitely expected to have a moment when I came into my own and fully embraced it—maybe even realize that I didn't have to wear makeup ever again! Even though that definitely isn't what happened, I did reach a point where I stopped caring as much and just went with it. I also became hyper-aware of how much my mood is tied into how I look—when I look good, I feel good, which is great! But at the same time, it's probably a waste of time to spend the day in a bad mood because of a bad hair day.

8:30 p.m. Most days, I work out in the morning so I don't have to reapply makeup before after-work plans, so it felt freeing to be able to sleep in then head to an after-work class, and still grab drinks with a friend afterwards! 

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Friday No Makeup

11:00 a.m. After a painfully early spin class, I headed to a marathon of meetings and spent less time concerned about how I'd be perceived and more time thrilled that I didn't have to pause to apply makeup or do any touch-ups throughout the day. It really has its perks! 

6:00 p.m. This evening I went to an event I'd been looking forward to just as much I'd been dreading. Since it was held at a popular salon in Beverly Hills, I knew I'd be the only one rocking a hippie-chic vibe (au naturale, baby). And, to make matters worse, my air-dried hair went nuts in the summer heat and performed its best finger-in-the-electrical-socket impression (the photo above was taken in the morning and my frizz only multiplied from there). As soon as I walked in, it felt glaringly obvious that I was the only one who hadn't primped—everyone looked gorgeous! But here's a secret: It didn't matter. Aside from the friend I brought and the few work friends at the party, anyone who saw me and thought "That girl looks like a swamp monster" probably forgot about me entirely five seconds later. Best case scenario? They thought "Woah that girl really didn't try. That's kind of cool."

At an event like that, or anywhere that there's an unspoken expectation to look good, chances are you aren't the only one feeling self-conscious. As much as I was thinking about my own frizzy hair and blotchy face, I'm sure another girl was thinking about her own too-tight clothes/dull skin/chipped nails, or one of the thousands of appearance-related things there are for women to obsess over.

Overall Thoughts: Would I go an entire week without makeup again? Of course! But maybe not for a meetings-packed week of work. Even though I came around to the idea of not wearing makeup by the end of the week, and learned that no one else really noticed, I realized that wearing makeup is important to me. It makes me feel more pulled-together and confident and, to me, that's worth an extra couple of minutes in the morning. And I have to say, I felt pretty fantastic swiping on mascara the following Monday morning.

I'd love to hear: Do you go makeup-free all day, everyday? Do you swear by makeup? Share your thoughts in the comments below!