Makeup, Manic Panic Cosmetics, Manic Panic

Why There Is Nothing Wrong With My Face

Makeup, Manic Panic Cosmetics, Manic Panic
By Julia H Edwards (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The other day, I walked into work and one of my coworkers greeted me by saying, “Oh my god, what happened to your face?”

As you might imagine, my hands flew to my cheeks à la Macaulay Culkin until she clarified. “It’s really red and stuff.”

Well, by that point I was blushing like crazy, so no wonder.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t wearing makeup. Any, actually. Or maybe only mascara? I don’t know, but I do know I wasn’t wearing a lick of foundation.

Back at university, I remember a friend challenged herself not to wear makeup for a month, and I joined her. It was something about vanity and giving our faces to God, if I remember correctly, but whatever the impetus, I recall it as an odd, freeing experience. For a decade I’d felt shackled to concealers and powders, creams and cover ups.

Why? Because starting around age 9 I had terribly painful cystic acne that caused me no small amount of pain, both physical and emotional. It responded to nothing. It seemed to operate like an internal, sadistic parasite. Nothing helped. Not washes or creams or gels or those weird plastic stickers they sold for a while that you were supposed to litter your face with before bed. I tried every OTC remedy I could buy with my meager allowance — and later every harsh, caustic prescription.

No sooner would one giant, swollen “undergrounder” subside but another — or three — would appear in its place.

So I turned to makeup. My moms, seeing that my acne was wreaking havoc on my self-esteem, allowed me to start wearing makeup in grade six.

Starting then, I wouldn’t leave the house without it. Even when we finally resorted to Accutane, that insidious holy grail of bespeckled teens, I didn’t feel okay without makeup.

Fast forward back to university — that month or so was interesting and scary.

“You look tired.”

“Are you okay?”

“Didn’t get enough sleep, eh?”

“You look exhausted!”

“Are you sick?”

Almost every day I got the message that without my makeup, I looked wrong. Sickly, tired, washed-out, heaps of adjectives I didn’t feel. I quickly wearied of having to explain that no, this was just my face.

Last Sunday, I was reminded again.

“What’s wrong with your face?”

She didn’t mean to be insulting, but wow, what a rude question. I think the assumption was that there was something wrong. I’d been on a five mile hike in 20-degree weather the previous day, and it’s possible I was a bit wind-burned — but I hadn’t noticed it on myself in the mirror.

That’s my face. My real face without layers of cosmetics and goop. My face.

On last week’s Bachelor (I know, I know), one of the women was surprised by a cooking flurry of Juan Pablo at the mansion one morning before she “had her face on.” My own grandmother used to echo that same sentiment, and it always struck me as strange, like without her makeup her face-place was a gaping blank, a black hole, a white easel with no paint.

Those are the messages women are sent. By society, by men, by the media, even by each other.

The message that our unpainted faces have something wrong with them. Something to be covered up.

Today I went without makeup again. I might just continue until my face is simply my face again.

Because there is nothing wrong with my face.

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16 thoughts on “Why There Is Nothing Wrong With My Face”

  1. There’s nothing wrong with your face.I managed to attract a man, marry him, and bear him two children all while saving make-up for special occasions only. I hear you about the acne thing – one of my sisters had an experience similar to yours – so if you’re not ready to go cold-turkey, I get that, but a lot of the make-up thing is an external expectation applied to us to sell product.

    Just don’t take away my haircolor. Please.

    1. Agreed on all points. On days when I stay home, I seldom wear makeup unless I have to broadcast Magetech or Wine and Winchesters. Spouse never looks at makeup as something I should (or should have to) do.

      It’s also one of those stupid double standards, because the same people who think women look “bad” without makeup are those who will pounce on someone they think is wearing too much.

  2. I’ve never worn makeup because I never learned how to do it properly. Haha, I’m completely serious! I’ve noticed some of my friends do look different without it on, but it must be such a burden to feel like a slave to putting on your face… I feel that way about my weight, which tends to fluctuate a lot. If I am on the losing side, people say “you look nice, did you lose weight?” Which isn’t MEANT to be an insult, but still!

    1. Yeah, comments like that always rather irk me because it feels like people are implying we didn’t look nice before. Which is sad.

  3. I’ve heard of women who not only do make-up fasts, but also do mirror fasts, where they avoid any reflective surfaces for a month (or more) at a time. Not sure I could ever do this, but it does bring up some interesting questions about not only how we as women (and people) exist within the male gaze and the fellow-female gaze, but also the self-gaze.

    Great post!

    1. Interesting. Also a thought: I wonder how much self-gaze is influenced and molded by the gazes of others. Probably a lot.

  4. OMG! I have big issues with cystic acne around “shark week.” Birth control helped for a bit, but it seems to be making a comeback. I’m 32, for christ’s sake! This is ridiculous!!! Did you ever find anything to help???

    (Oh, and good article! lol)

    1. I went on Accutane when I was 15, which did away with most of it. Though that was a pretty hellacious ride…that treatment has some serious issues.

  5. You have a lot of patience not to make a nasty retort to the rude woman. I do go without makeup a few times a week and just started using one of those BB creams that has SPF and tint in it to even out my skin color. Going without makeup, especially anything with parabens is a good thing.

    My son had cystic acne so bad, on face, shoulders and back that he refused to participate in gym and wanted to drop out of HS. We found a dermatologist who suggested he go off all dairy, prescribed vitamin A, and a cream called Psoria-Gold
    curcumin gel. In one month he was better, in three months 75% better. He’s now in college, still off dairy (he turned Vegan), and acne free.

    1. She’s someone I know and work with daily, so I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

      The vitamin A thing I’ve heard before — I think Accutane has extremely high levels of vitamins A and D because as I recall you’re not allowed to take any supplements while you’re on it. I was allergic to dairy as a kid, so that was never really part of my diet, but that’s interesting to me that the dermatologist cited it as a possible cause. I never had any luck with creams because my skin is so sensitive that even the mild ones left me itchy and inflamed. 🙁 I’m curious about that cream though.

      I try to eat healthy as much as possible, and I’ve been considering a tinted moisturizer as well. Lately though, I’ve just been going bare. 🙂

  6. There’s no getting around it, Emmie. That girl was just plain rude! I know I never think of the right come back at moments like that but it might have been fun to say, “Nothing! What’s wrong with yours?”
    In your photos and videos you look young and beautiful. Now when you get to be my age that term “putting on your face” does actually mean what it says because everything starts to disappear!

  7. My grandma says the same thing! She never goes anywhere without putting her face on and it is weird on the very rare occation that I see her without makeup on as it really does change the way she looks. I personally like putting on makeup. I like playing with eye-shadow and blush and matching it to what I’m wearing, but this is a big, on-going argument between my mom and sister. My sister hates makeup and my mom is convinced wearing it is necessary. I always think its a shame that guys don’t ever have to do this. Why can’t they be the one with the weight issues and laundry list morning to-do lists? And there’s a difference between wearing some make-up and having to be put together like those women on shows like ‘The Bachelor’. My mom and sis were watching that last night and all I could think was that no real woman should have to weigh 100 lbs, get fake tans, dye her hair, and wear the entire makeup counter to get a husband. I’d love to see girls on TV just in jeans, Converses, and hoodies. Much more realistic 🙂

    1. Agreed! I loved the women last week who tromped into the kitchen with no makeup and gave him a hug. It made me happy after the one literally hid her face behind her hand so he wouldn’t see her without makeup.

  8. Great post Emmie! It brought to mind an early silent film, The Painted Lady from 1912 starring Blanche Sweet. I think the message was whether or not you decide to wear makeup you should always be yourself, oh, and don’t pick up strange men at the ice cream social.

    In the Gilded Age, etiquette suggests that only the “demimonde” wore makeup, wholesome (upper class) women never touched the stuff. Perhaps because makeup would attract the wrong kind of attention and women were supposed to sit quietly in a corner and not make a spectacle of themselves.

    Now, the cosmetics industry seems to profit most by making women feel bad about themselves. We’ve got so much to correct these days, even the “natural look” requires several products. Historically, wearing makeup goes as far back as humans do, so I think we can all be confident in our ambivalence.

    People should embrace the makeup-less face. Maybe it will stop those magazines from printing photos of stars without their makeup. 🙂

  9. My older sister and I both had severe acne in as tweens and teens. It was the kind that makeup only made worse, though. Sigh. B vitamin shots eventually did away with it. But even now, I get the stray pimple now and then! I only wear full-on foundation and all that for special occasions. If someone doesn’t like the way I naturally am, they don’t have to look at me. 🙂

  10. Awww, I’m so sorry. I believe women are so hot without make-up, for more then external reasons. I wanna see feminine pores, because FEMININE PORES ARE SOOOO frickin HOTTTT X10. I’m the opposite. I need to keep my mouth shut when women are wearing make-up. It’s so cool when women wear make-up for pleasure or amusement, not for necessity. Women are beautiful with bald heads too. I’m talking sizzling HOT, DAMMIT!

    I had acne problems too. I became the Noxzema Master and changed my diet. No make-up for moi. I wasn’t allowed. I had to ahhh, What was that phrase? Oh yeah, be…..a…..MAN. I was eleven, man. What are you talking about?

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