“Putting on armor:” why I choose not to wear makeup

I don’t wear makeup. When I was 10 years old, I convinced my mom to buy me a $3 Wet and Wild eyeshadow palette at CVS. I chose the bright blue one and when I got home I smeared the color all over my eye- lids. When I went downstairs, my mother exclaimed, “What on earth have you put on your face?”

I washed it all off. Somewhere I still have the eyeshadow.

I don’t wear makeup anymore. I haven’t worn it at all since I’ve been in high school, and if somebody asked me, I don’t think I would be able to tell them why. If you had asked me when I was 13 or 14, I might have told you that I don’t want to waste my time putting crap on my face in the morning. I have since realized that this is not an espe- cially nice thing to say because it implies that everyone who puts makeup on in the morning is wasting their time. I don’t think that’s true. I think it makes people feel better. I like the idea of having a layer between myself and the world, like another kind of armor.

My friend who wears red lipstick says it makes her feel strong. I have a red sweater that makes me feel strong, and I imagine that the feeling is the same. Some people like to look older or younger, and some people like to cover up acne and scars. Some people like to wear makeup to match their outfit, or make their eyes look bigger or their skin less red. I would like to look older, and cover up acne, too. I think I missed the makeup train. A lot of people’s mothers taught them how to use makeup, but I learned makeup strategies from Seventeen Magazine, which

I think is where I got the blue eyeshadow idea. Makeup to me is like a layer of armor that I haven’t really learned to wear.

The closest I can usually come to explaining why I don’t use it is to say, “If people think I’m ugly, at least I can say that I haven’t tried.” This is also a kind of armor. I’ve had acne all over my face since I was 12 or 13, and the makeup I tried then to cover it up didn’t really hide it that well. After a while I quit wearing it and I never tried again. I think this suggests to people that I am not interested in being sexualized, but I am not making a political statement any more than anyone else is. I don’t really know how to put makeup on, but if I did, I probably would. Women wear makeup for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is attracting a man, but that doesn’t have to be the only reason. I like to think I will be able to attract another person even if I don’t put powders and pigment on my face, but so far no luck.

Someone once told me that I am “very brave” for not wearing makeup. I don’t think this is especially true. I think all women have to be very brave to go out in the mornings and show their face to their world, a world where people feel like it’s their job to comment on how other people’s faces look. About a year ago an especially blunt friend looked over at me in the car and said, “I’ve never really noticed this before, but you have pretty bad acne.” I laughed. I did read in a maga- zine the other day that women who don’t normally wear makeup should put some on for work and especially job interviews so that they look professional. I also read that a woman got fired from her job for being “too attractive.” Too much and your mom tells you to wash your face, too little and your friend tells you you have a lot of acne. I think the lesson is we should all do whatever we want because there’s no way to win.

– By Frances Beroset