Feminism | Posted by Amy A on 07/19/2011

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

I’m 17 years old, a rising senior in high school, and I am unusual among a lot of my friends for this one reason: I don’t wear makeup.

That’s not to say I have never worn makeup, because I have, on occasion. I’ve worn it for two of the four high school dances I’ve attended, for the occasional band concert or dress-up day, and for the school musicals (although then it was stage makeup, a completely different matter). I have never worn makeup for a school picture. Why? It’s not like I’m heart-stoppingly gorgeous or anything. I am an average looking girl, but I’m comfortable with that.

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t wear makeup. One main reason is that I really like sleeping. I would much prefer to spend a few extra minutes in bed in the mornings than to spend that time stabbing myself in the eyes with colored pencils. But there’s more to it than that.

The way I see it, I would rather look completely normal and average (aka, like myself) about ninety-nine percent of the time and have that be the way people see me, than look extra good ninety-nine percent of the time and have others get used to seeing me as someone other than myself.

One night I left something at a friend’s house and went back the next morning to pick it up. I was startled by how much different my friend looked that morning without any makeup on. She didn’t look like herself at all, because the self I was used to seeing was heavily altered by eyeliner and mascara. I don’t want the way I actually look to shock people. I want my friends to recognize me, no matter what time of day it is.

Whether or not to wear makeup is certainly not the most pressing issue facing feminists today, but it’s still an important segment of the larger issues of body image. To me, a big part of feminism is the empowerment of women. Feminism has certainly empowered me more than any other influence in my life, and I wish more people felt that it was socially acceptable to like the way they look naturally. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear makeup, because that’s a personal choice, a choice that I do sometimes make. I just wish that it wasn’t so weird to not wear makeup on a regular basis and that people, especially young girls, didn’t feel so much pressure to look perfect all the time.

I like my face (most of the time, anyway), and I don’t need makeup to make me feel that way. Instead, I have feminism to make me feel good about myself, and I’ll take those beliefs over eyeliner and lipstick any day.

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  • Em @ at 11:12 am, July 19th, 2011

    Amen to that! I used to wear makeup every day but now the closest I get to wearing it is perfume. It was hard, though! I used to hate how I look but just like you said, confidence from feminism is better than confidence from eyeliner any day. :)

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 11:33 am, July 19th, 2011

    Great article, I couldn’t have said it better. I feel the exact same way. The only time I ever wear make up is when I’m going glam to concerts and stuff like that. Honestly, I think people look prettier without make up on – when I see my friends wearing make up, I think they look ugly. They all tell me they’re looking forward to yearbook pictures, when they’ll tie me to a chair and force me to wear eyeliner.

  • Katherine C. @ at 5:26 pm, July 19th, 2011

    I love this! I’ve been protesting the “you-would-look-so-much-prettier-with-makeup comments since I hit puberty. Even today, at 18, I only wear a smidge of lipstick (because I have anemia, and without the lipstick my chalky lips look dead). Confidence from feminism FTW.

  • Nano Muse @ at 6:08 pm, July 19th, 2011

    Heh, I never got into make-up at all. There was a time that I tried to wear a lot, every day, but I hated it. At most, I’ll dab on some powder *if* I have a spurt of bad achne or something, but most of the time, I don’t. Oddly enough, some people think I do…? I use chapstick, the moisturizer kind, but that’s it.

    Irony: getting ready at a friend’s house for prom, she cares about make-up about as much as I do, but her mom hired a make-up artist. Afterwards, I had to help her wipe a lot of it off because she hated how much she didn’t look like herself. I looked at her mom’s make-up bag and the artist’s set, and I had NO CLUE what about 2/3 of it was – something her very glamor-happy godmother found amusing to no end.

    Make-up is something which I think should be used a.) sparingly and b.) something to create the effect of a prettier version of yourself. But I see people wearing it all the time – to the point some make-ups are considered “sleep friendly”! – and to just create a whole new mask that looks nothing like them. Ugh.

    Besides, the fact that I don’t normally wear make-up means that when I do, for things like prom and conferences, people are far more likely to tell me “you’re so beautiful I barely recognized you!”, rather than the over-generic “you look great!” most of the makeup-all-the-time girls got, and the difference in appearances – and reactions to appearances – was staggering. Maybe that makes me just a wee bit bitchy and evil, but well. :)

  • Rainicorn @ at 6:39 pm, July 19th, 2011

    I don’t wear make-up because I’ve had pretty bad acne (as in, requires antibiotics, and the scarring will probably never go away) since I was about 17. Make-up covers the acne and scars in the short term, but it makes me break out even worse and I don’t want to get caught in an endless cycle of cover up – break out – cover up…

    That’s the major reason I don’t wear make-up, but feminist and other concerns apply too:

    –Like OP, I don’t want to waste time on it.
    –Or money. That stuff is ridiculously expensive!
    –I’m prone to stimming, which quite often involves rubbing my eyes or touching my face, so I would smear the make-up everywhere.
    –I think women and girls should be allowed to love the way they look without requiring expensive and time-consuming procedures. I so admire the OP – and all contributors to this website – for being switched on to feminist issues as teens. At 17, I wasn’t thinking critically about body image issues; I just wanted clear skin. I wanted it so much it hurt. (Okay, at 22 I still want that. I’m beginning to realize that I have not worked through all my issues here.)

  • jen @ at 7:07 pm, July 19th, 2011

    i only wear make up when i feel like dressing up or going out. middle school and high school there were rare few occasions because…i looove sleeping. besides no one really noticed the difference or cared. everyone says i have a great complexion. that’s because i don’t muck it up with make up

  • Icefox @ at 9:56 pm, July 19th, 2011

    I don’t wear makeup daily because I don’t have time, and I’m always touching my face so it smears. I agree with what you said- I want people to recognize me with and without makeup (unless it’s a costume, of course)! But I don’t think anyone should take a “no one should wear makeup” attitude. Makeup is fun to play with and it really is a form of expression. Seriously. I’m not just making excuses!

  • Rachel @ at 12:52 am, July 20th, 2011

    Hmm, I understand the point you are trying to make, but much of your article is written from a biased point of view, making several assumptions.
    To start, “stabbing myself in the eyes with colored pencils” shows that you obviously have an already negative view of makeup, one which is centred on unnecessary pain – no one chooses to stab themselves in the eye with a makeup pencil, just as no one chooses to drop a weight on their foot. It happens when one is learning and trying new things, and you get over it.
    I must say that your paragraph abut your friend hurt me. To hear you say you were shocked to see what your friend looked like without makeup – how do you think she would feel to hear that? You should be as comfortable seeing someone in as out of makeup, just as people who wear makeup should be able to be comfortable in and out of makeup. Makeup does not change one’s appearance so drastically that a friend cannot recognize the person sans makeup – if this is the case with this ‘friend’, though I hope it is a large exaggeration to emphasize your view on makeup, you may want to consider getting to know this person better before calling her a friend.
    I don not know where you live, but in my home city and in other places to which I have traveled, there are plenty of people without makeup on. In my opinion, people should be as comfortable seeing a woman without makeup as they are with, and as comfortable seeing a man with makeup as with it.
    Saying that you like your face an you don’t need makeup to feel this way is a logical fallacy; you are assuming that since that since you are happy with your face and you do not wear makeup, people who wear makeup must be dissatisfied with their appearance. This is an over generalization and one that I quite dislike.
    Sorry for the long winded speech, but I just wanted to but my two cents in! Or rather, 2 dollars :P

  • Mollie @ at 9:16 am, July 20th, 2011

    Very noble of you, bucking the percieved societal norm, and good for you with your self-accepting attitude.

    That being said I agree a lot with Rachel. While there is pressure on women to wear make up to look “presentable” to a degree, this doesn’t mean that not wearing make up > wearing make up. Your language does give away a negative attitude towards make up as Rachel said, and just be careful that you don’t end up disrespecting or thinking less of women or men that choose to wear make up because it makes THEM feel good – not for anyone else’s sake.

    I do feel that anyone who feels they HAVE to wear make up to walk outside the house probably has a lot of body image and insecurity issues to deal with, but you should feel just as comfortable and natural going out while you wear make up as when you don’t. It shouldn’t matter.

    Bear in mind it’s not always about feeling ugly without make up, it’s often just about feeling nice with it. :)

  • Cherokee @ at 6:40 pm, July 20th, 2011

    It’s always good to know that there are other non-makeup wearers of my age out there.

    I have nothing against people that wear make-up, nothing at all, I just, as you pointed out, can’t be bothered in the morning, really. Sleep is more important to me, and in other cases, make-up is more important to other people.

    I do however really like make-up, though, and if I had the patience, I would do it every morning, but a quick dash of mascara is fine for me. In my eyes, there is quite an artistry to doing really nice make-up, and at the moment, I don’t have the time to learn some great make-up techniques.

    I don’t think that you are giving a negative view towards make-up, either (as Rachel and Mollie have suggested), but I can see their points.

  • Mariella @ at 11:25 am, July 21st, 2011

    At the moment I have pretty terrible skin, and don’t feel I could go out without at least a little cover up on… this is not something I’m comfotable with, however, and I hate the way I feel like I have to wear makeup to feel strong and confident. I would say it’s my own personal choice but I often question whether or not it really is.
    However, I do often geninely enjoy experimenting with and wearing makeup, and how it can make me feel. When it comes down to it: We can’t deny that looking good makes you feel good, however shallow that is.

  • Amy A @ at 7:29 pm, July 21st, 2011

    Thanks guys for all of the feedback!

    Nano Muse said very eloquently the point that I was trying to get across: “Make-up is something which I think should be used a.) sparingly and b.) something to create the effect of a prettier version of yourself.”

    @Rachel: The time with my friend occurred several years ago, within the first two months of high school. At the time, I didn’t know the friend very well and had never seen her without makeup on. I didn’t mean to imply that I was shocked because she was suddenly ugly or something; she’s very pretty with or without makeup. I was merely shocked at the difference between the two versions of her.

    I’m not going to argue that I am not biased on this issue. I think it’s very difficult to write about this kind of thing without showing personal bias. I wasn’t trying to say that all people who wear makeup are unhappy with their appearance because I know that’s not true. As I mentioned, I do wear makeup on occasion and understand that it does have its merits. Sometimes a person just wants to look extra special! My intent was more to comment on the nature of choosing not to wear makeup in high school and feeling that it is an abnormal choice.

    Seriously though, thanks. This is my first post (after having been a reader for more than a year) and I really appreciate all the comments. :)

  • Meagan @ at 3:08 pm, July 26th, 2011

    I can say I grow up in a family that does not support the wearing of makeup which is kindof nice in regards to the fact that my parents already think that I’m fine the way I am. Also, I have found that a lot men I date don’t like me to wear makeup and prefer me natural, and these guys are like every other guy out there, tall, handsome, muscular, popular.
    Also, on another note, makeup seems to make my skin worse which makes me wear even more of it. So I can say I completely support you in “the wear no makeup” advocacy. I also noted that when I don’t wear makeup people don’t seem to notice a difference, there has been many times where people have actually commented on my natural beauty or have asked me what kind of makeup I wear to make me look like this.
    I also want to add that makeup is becoming ridiculous, not only economically but just socially. My girlfriend just had her eyeliner tattooed onto her eyes which I think is unnecessary. Makeup to her I feel like is a way to cover up things, and she looks great without any. Makeup also has gotten so expensive; people are paying over $50 just for mascara, which is a complete waste of money in my mind.
    Overall, I think your advocacy is great! This is a great start to what I believe is something that effects every girl in America and even Worldwide. I honestly can say that I feel just as beautiful without it, and it seems to just make my skin worse, which doesn’t surprise me, it’s probably a way for cosmetic companies to make more money. Anyway, I support your cause, and I can say for a lot of guys, they prefer you more natural, or at least all the men in my life do. So for whatever reason everyone wears makeup, there’s probably 50 better reasons not to.

  • Mango @ at 6:09 pm, August 1st, 2011

    This is definitely a refreshing article to read! I, myself, have never worn make up, except for those occasional events like dances (mostly because I was forced to haha), and I am 19 years old. Honestly, I feel as long as if you are confident with yourself and choose to spend your energy elsewhere other than makeup, you will look naturally beautiful. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I do not wear makeup; they find me naturally pretty, regardless. And I believe everyone is naturally beautiful. (:

  • Loel @ at 5:55 pm, November 12th, 2011

    Make-up is an apology for being born with this face.

  • lolly @ at 5:38 pm, November 13th, 2011

    I totally agree. I don’t wear makeup. ever. I think that the makeup industry advertises that women are not okay as they are now, its actually insulting if you think about it. All of my friends wear makeup, they say because it is fun to put it on, but more than once they have admitted that it is because they don’t think they are pretty enough without it. They even wear makeup to sports practices which is kind of ridiculous. They are gorgeous without makeup but feel that they aren’t good enough without it because our society doesn’t accept woman who don’t look like the movie stars. I am fine with makeup and when people use it, but so many people let it define them.

  • Alicia @ at 11:47 am, November 20th, 2011

    I totally get u r saying. But for me makeup is art and I enjoy using it. I’m perfectly fine going to school without makeup on though

  • Saraha @ at 11:43 pm, November 26th, 2011

    I grew up not wearing make up and got use to it. I will say i always wanted to wear it and look like one of those models but I see it like this… one day a guy is going to love me the way I look natural! And not love me for having tons of make up on my face. I look at myself and say, “Hey I AM A good looking girl.” Even though most days I feel ugly. But, not wearing make up is fine with me. Because if someone doesn’t like what my face looks now… SCREW THEM. That is their problem! I wish more girls would realize they don’t have to impress anyone! BE YOURSELF.

  • Lauren @ at 5:03 am, September 7th, 2012

    This is just me! I am like the only one in my year or whole school that doesn’t wear make up but people take me for who I am! A lot of people used to think I was weird and tries to get me to wear it but I really am too lazy to get up early to sit and slap it on my face ahah x great article

  • Teacher @ at 7:43 pm, September 8th, 2012

    I stopped wearing makeup when I started realizing how pretty my friends and sister looked without it! They didn’t seem to know it and would apologize for not having makeup on at random times….but I was always thinking how great they looked without it…they looked younger! So, I just stopped. I never wore eyeshadow, but I would wear a liquid foundation, powder, blush, sometimes eyeliner….but now I only wear mascara and clear lip gloss….that’s it. .All I put on my skin is witch hazel to clean it, and a moisturizer with a good SPF. I still get compliments and flirting from guys which is a lovely surprise. : ) I’ll never go back to makeup.

  • Lynn @ at 3:36 am, March 22nd, 2013

    Thank you for posting this and I thought I was the only one that didn’t wear makeup. I am 44 yrs old and still don’t wear it. I just don’t like the way it feels on my face, plus too time consuming. Saves me a whole alotta money as well. Good for you stick to what’s your personal choice.

  • Kate @ at 6:21 pm, September 7th, 2013

    AMEN. I’M A FRESHMAN IN COLLEGE. and I didn’t wear make up in high school. I don’t like it and i don’t understand WHY it’s a girl’s must to apply it! The only times I wore makeup was special occasions like weddings or pictures. I feel comfortable in my own skin. And I don’t care if i’m a “Plain Jane” to guys. I TOTALLY agree of how shocking my friends faces look when I don’t see them in their regular make up. And I don’t know if its just me, but I don’t like the feel of it on my face- it doesn’t feel natural! Guys will like you for you- don’t apply makeup to get his attention! Plus, a lot of guys don’t like girls who wear TOO MUCH MAKE UP. They rather have natural! refreshing article to read! LOVE IT- You aren’t alone :)

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