Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
“Full coverage, please,” I parroted to the makeup artist during a free five-minute color-matching consultation. To be completely honest, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I tried to play it off like I did. My friends had begun to dabble in makeup that summer before our senior year of high school, and after so many trips to the mall cluelessly waiting for them in Sephora as I would my mom in Whole Foods, I decided to dabble, too.
“You have such nice skin!” the makeup artist said, asking me if I was sure I wanted such heavy makeup. I wasn't, but because I felt like a fish out of water, I mimicked the same routine as my acne-prone teenage friends. She tested a few shades of foundation against the back of my hand, and brushed one of them across my face. It was cold and creamy — I felt like a small child getting my face painted at a carnival. But it was what I thought I should be doing, so I went with it.
The thing is, though, I didn’t even need it — any of it, from the heavy foundation and color corrector to the HD concealer. My mom has always had seemingly perfect skin — few wrinkles, virtually no pores, and absolutely no blemishes — and I was lucky enough to inherit the same situation. Even as I swung through puberty (and to this day), my skin was always keen on cooperating with me. That was one of the biggest reasons I didn’t wear makeup until I was 16. The other reason was that I just didn’t care to, especially considering this was before the YouTube makeup tutorial era and kids in high school were all still unanimously ugly. (In exchange for my skin, I remained the chubby friend with inconsistently straightened hair for four years.)
I kept up this unnecessary routine for years, even through the surge of BB creams and the “barely there” foundations that all mass-cosmetics giants seemed to be turning out at the same time. I felt naked without a full face on, and I’d somehow convinced myself over the years that I really did need it. For years I had this totally false view of myself, this severe self-consciousness that I’ll never honestly know the root of. Looking back, it was pretty dramatic: I’d cancel plans if I ran out of foundation.
A lot has obviously happened in the eight years since that first consultation, both to me and to beauty in general. New trends, brands, formulas, and, of course, new ways to find out about them very literally changed everything. (Unfortunately for teenage me, the Instagram Explore page wasn’t a thing, and people weren’t quitting their Real Jobs to make beauty tutorials on YouTube.) As I’ve gotten older alongside it all, a more streamlined, minimal routine has become more and more attractive.
When Glossier launched in the fall of 2014, it was the first time the whole “no makeup” makeup, dewy thing felt authentic enough for me to want in. (Obviously the infamous branding and newness of millennial pink helped, too.) I bought the entire product line, aside from the skin tint, an ultra-thin wash of color that brings you as close to bare skin as possible. Definitely wasn’t ready for that.
Milk Makeup followed at the very beginning of 2016, with tons of similar young, buzzy brands before and after. Models that looked like my friends and my coworkers — largely because most of them weren’t models, but Regular People scouted on Instagram — were posing for up-close and very personal shots of their nearly bare skin. Pores and scars and glow, all together. (I want to note that I’m completely aware that 1) this sounds like a corny testimonial, and 2) this response is literally the goal of advertising.) Regardless of the actual products, which I do love, those images changed my perspective. I didn’t feel like I had to be doing anything anymore.
I spent the entirety of last summer floating between different skin tints and dewy highlighters, trying out new face masks every other night, watching YouTube tutorials on Korean skincare routines, and trying to figure out the difference between essences and toners. I was hyper-focused on making up for lost time with my skin, so excited to let it breathe. Now when I head home to visit my family, I bring dozens of new products for my mom and I to try together. She’s asking me questions now.
Skin tints are now my go-to, even through the winter, and I just ran out of the last bit yesterday. When this happens now, I don’t freak out, and I don’t stay inside. Some days, I even choose (!) to go without it — just a bit of de-puffing eye cream and moisturizer, and we’re good to go.