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In the era of highlighting and contouring, strobing and baking, with makeup brands popping up faster than you can scroll through your Instagram feed, and beauty vloggers earning six-figure salaries — the beauty industry is indeed, booming.
There are women, however, who choose to forego the foundation and keep it au naturel.
Their reasons? Well, they range from embracing their natural face after years of wearing makeup to simply saving time.
I spoke to a few women about leading a makeup-free life.
Why did you make the decision to either stop or never start wearing makeup?
Jessie Kahnweiler, filmmaker and comedian: I never wore makeup growing up. I don't know if it's more being lazy than anything. I was never a total tomboy or anything, I liked getting dressed up. I was never like, I can't leave the house without wearing makeup.
I feel like it's like when people are like, "I don't watch porn", and everyone's like don't start, because once you start, you won't be able to stop. That's definitely how I saw makeup.
Belise Thomas, graphic designer at NBC and HRDCVR: Never wore it. I don't know if there was ever a solid reason, but I was always the kind of person that liked to do the least, if that makes sense. I like to wake up and not have to do too much. I just didn't want to have to spend all that time doing stuff.
Curly Penny, YouTube personality: I actually used to wear a lot of makeup. From 13 to 16 years old, I wore a full face of makeup. I had really crappy self-esteem. When I took off the makeup, I just felt really crappy about myself. I said, you know what — I'm gonna start this journey and try to accept my most raw state. As natural me as I can get. So starting at 16 years old, I slowly started just getting rid of the makeup. I noticed that it wasn't helping me at all, because I was only confident when I had it on.
Tyler Hamilton, visual merchandiser at Topshop: I don't think it was much of a decision, it just wasn't something I was really ever interested in learning how to wear.
Marie Van Cooten, pre-K teacher at the Joan Snow Pre-K Center: I guess it all started when I was younger, I was mostly like a tomboy, so I was never that interested in makeup. As I got older, people would tell me, oh you have nice facial features, you don't need makeup. So I kind of left it alone.
So you're 100% makeup free?
Jessie: I kinda have two modes. I'm pretty extreme. Either I'm on set working or it's an event or something and I'll have a professional makeup person. I feel like it's fun and I embrace it, because it isn't exactly who I am, but I embrace it. If I'm directing the piece, I really like minimal makeup for all my actors too.
Marie: When I was younger, I took dance lessons, so for recitals I would wear it. I wouldn't wear it outside of that.
Did you grow up around women who wore makeup?
Jessie: I think my mom was a positive role model. She wore makeup and my sister probably wore makeup, but she was never like, this is how a lady looks and all that stuff. I would probably say I was more of an oddball. Everybody sort of has their thing, and I remember being really insecure about being really hairy. I always had a uni-brow, I was nervous about my mustache. That was what I obsessed over more, but I never started wearing makeup.
Belise: My mom didn't. My grandmother, no. She was a minimal person as far as getting herself together. She just swore by Vaseline. Then my mom was the same way, now I'm the same way. My older sisters always had on makeup, that was their thing.
Curly Penny: My mother never really wears makeup. She only wore makeup to family gatherings. That's the only time she would ever whip out makeup. My sisters, they would wear makeup every single day. My aunts are heavy makeup users. My aunts would always ridicule my mom for not wearing enough makeup, and they still do til this day. They call it fachosa in Spanish, that means like, lazy girl.
Do people make a big deal out of the fact that you don't wear makeup?
Jessie: My friends don't care. I would say that I think my mom will try to send me stuff. It's just never really been my thing. I would say though, men love that I don't wear makeup. You would think it's the opposite. In my experience, the guys that I have dated, they were like, "I love that you don't wear makeup."
Belise: I think that now, I'm finding that when I'm around my friends or girls that do wear a lot of it, they'll probably ask me like one time, like "hey, do you wear XYZ," and I'm like no. it's never really a big deal. And I know one of my closest friends, she wears it sometimes, but she's kinda getting to a point where she doesn't want to wear it at all.
Curly Penny: Somebody actually told me I was brave for not wearing makeup.
Tyler: Not really, because I don't think most people even notice that I'm NOT wearing any makeup. I do put quite a bit of effort into my skin, so I think i can get away with a barefaced without looking "bare."
Instagram and YouTube is a hub of swatches, reviews, and demos. Do you ever feel pressure to say to hell with this and run to Sephora?
Jessie: I would say not as specific as, "I need to go buy that foundation." But I would say, more so Instagram than YouTube because you feel like there's less separation between you and celebrities because you're all using the app. I would say it's unhealthy and it makes me nervous and it makes me grateful that I didn't become a teenager with Instagram. When I have professional makeup people, it looks different. I just think it's important to notice that.
Belise: I never felt any pressure. I think one time when I did try to wear something it just felt like I had an extra layer of something on my face and I needed to get it off. I just never felt compelled to do it. I do see the reviews and stuff all the time, and I'm like it's cool, but it was never something that I had that much interest in.
Curly Penny: Majority of the time, I don't feel any pressure. I don't have anything against people who like makeup, because I see those tutorials, and I'm like, that looks cool. I felt pressure one time and it was recently. My fiance's friend invited us to his yearly garden party, and I had never been to one of his garden parties before. When I showed up, I didn't go with makeup, because that's usually how I present myself. Literally every single female was decked out, they were wearing makeup, hair done, really beautiful gowns, heels. I felt so weird because I was the only chick with frizzy, curly hair, no makeup... and I'm sitting there, I felt so weird.
Tyler: I definitely feel urges to learn and or try it. I see the difference it makes in women's looks and confidence, why wouldn't I want that boost? Or to feel beautiful? I mostly wonder for my partner, does he think I'm too plain? Am I limiting my beauty? Or am I simply afraid of trying new things? However, I think I remain true to what works for me and understand that I can learn, try, change my mind about makeup whenever I feel ready.
Marie: Not really pressure, but I'll show some interest in it. I might go down the makeup aisle and look at little things. I'll pass by it, but I won't really want to buy it.
Do you believe there are any benefits to not wearing makeup?
Jessie: I just feel like it's a great metaphor for being me. I feel like I get to show up in the world and I want to be vulnerable in the world. I'm a writer, I'm an artist. I love interacting with people, that's my work. It's nice to just have to just put on my sunblock in the morning, brush my teeth and go out into the world as me. Literally, warts and all. Pimples and all.
Belise: I'd say I save a lot of time, money. I feel very comfortable in my own skin. I think that also helps.
Curly Penny: Spiritually, mentally, emotionally speaking a big benefit is I'm not attached to it. I used to be attached to it for happiness. I needed my makeup to feel confident. I've learned to put my confidence in other things besides how pretty I look in the moment.
Marie: For me, I have pretty sensitive skin and I'm just afraid that if I put on all that cover-up and foundation it's just gonna make it clog up and break out more, so I'd rather not just risk it cause I have enough stress in my life already. I don't want to make it even worse.
Women can often feel the unique pressure to look "polished," which by many standards includes some form of makeup, particularly in the workplace. How do you combat that pressure?
Jessie: As far as acting jobs. Have I not gotten acting jobs because I didn't look a certain way? I'd rather not get a job as myself than pretend to be something I'm not. When I need to look polished, I look at what makes me feel the most comfortable. Like, I know that sounds like such bullshit, but it really is the truth. If I need to look good, I take a shower, I wear my bad ass jean jacket. I wear tight leggings because I like my butt, a loose tank top or loose T-shirt. I have all these necklaces I wear, I put on lip gloss and I'm ready to go.That's what makes me feel polished, when I feel good about myself.
Belise: I'd say no, only because I'm a designer, so I can be very casual. I really don't have to dress up, I don't have to do that much. When I do have to dress up, and look a certain way for an event, I've never gotten any strange looks or backlash.
Curly Penny: I've struggled with that. When it comes to those really fancy situations, I go to show people, I'm a girl and I can show up without makeup. It's not the end of the world. A soft spot I have are weddings. My wedding is going to come up soon. I remember telling myself, I'm not going to wear makeup to my wedding, but once I put on my accessories and dress, I thought, oh, maybe a little would look nice. I'm struggling with that right now. Like, should I wear a little bit?
Any products that you believe help your skin thrive?
Jessie: I use Arbonne. I started using their stuff a couple years ago. I had an eating disorder for a lot of years and I wouldn't even wash my face at night. I was in that whole hell. Coming out of it, washing my face at night, putting on moisturizing cream, it feels like I'm being a woman of dignity. Even on the worst days, that's given me confidence
Belise: African black soap. Vaseline is great. I drink a lot of water. I'm really into green juice, making sure I get my veggies, staying away from dairy — so that also helps. I noticed my skin, probably from college til now, has gotten way better, the more I cut out certain things. Black soap is the shit, that's my main takeaway.
Curly Penny: I wash my body, including my face with African black soap. To moisturize sometimes I use rose hip oil, or sometimes I use coconut oil or shea butter. Usually it's whatever I can find the quickest because my products are all jumbled together. If you use a bit of Vaseline on your eye area, it gives you a bit of a dewy look. I like the dewy look.
Tyler: A Clarisonic, black soap, coconut oil, Cervae or Cetaphil facial cleanser, rose water toner, water.
Marie: I usually stick with Clearasil or Clean and Clear. They seem to do the job. Nothing too crazy.
Any advice for women who may want to go the no makeup route, but are a little nervous about it?
Jessie: It's whatever your comfort level is. It's your body. It's not anybody else's body. Whatever you feel comfortable with. I always see pictures of myself when I was a little kid. I'm 31 now, and I always see those pictures and I'm just playing, laughing, having fun. It's before I've become so aware of my place as a woman or what I need to look like. It's trying to cultivate those kinds of moments, because then you're not thinking about your face or what you're wearing.
Belise: I think like anything, if you've done something for a long enough time, it's kind of a habit for you and it can be hard to let that go. I'd say, start slowly maybe on a Saturday or on a weekend where you're just chillin', walking around the city, or running errands — don't wear any makeup or wear something light. With anything it takes time.
Curly Penny: I didn't really know any other females who were doing that at the time. It was hard for me because I didn't really have somebody to do it with. I think if you had somebody to do it with, it'd be a lot easier. My little sister, it's gotten to the point where she doesn't wear any anymore with me. It's a nice feeling to have somebody do it with you.
Tyler: You're beautiful, sis! Please don't allow anyone standards of beauty to define yours.