The Naked Face Project: Lessons Learned From Relinquishing My Eyeliner & Going Makeup-Free

08/17/2012 07:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When I suggested The Naked Face Project to Anya (she may claim to have cooked up the idea, but I beg to differ [Anya's note: You're right! This warrants a correction notice.]), I was thinking small: no makeup for a few hours, after which you could reapply to your heart's desire and discuss how you felt.

But other folks thought it would be more rewarding if we extended the challenge over several days, allowing us to experience our mornings without our time-eating beauty routine and our evenings, whether they included dates or important appointments, without our cosmetic armor. Cue my complaining -- I had created a pale-faced beast.

However I plunged in, going Monday and Tuesday (and the Sunday before, by default) sans makeup. I don't typically wear too much: some loose powder to tone down the shine, a bit of blush on the apples of my cheeks to look alive, some shimmery nude shadow to brighten my eyes, some eyeliner to look awake and mascara to top it off. Occasionally I throw some orangey-red lipstick on there, if the moment calls for it.

On second thought, that does sound like a lot of makeup.

So as I went about my day without the aforementioned beauty products, I felt torn: on the one hand, my morning went quicker and I felt fresh-faced, like a Neutrogena campaign girl. I could splash water on my face and nothing would run! I could show the world the beautiful skin behind all the shimmer and powder! I was so clean and natural and pretty and carefree...

Until I would catch sight of my reflection in a bathroom mirror or a store window. Damn, I thought, I look exhausted. The more visual reminders I had of my makeup-free face, the less pretty I felt. I looked OK, I realized, but not my best. My eyes weren't as bright, my cheeks not as rosy, my eyes a little droopy and my whole visage a tad shiny.

I was conflicted. I loved the idea of going barefaced in theory... and yet I know, objectively, that I put my best face forward with a touch of maquillage. After all, isn't that why cosmetics exist? To make us look better?

Yes... and no. If I learned anything from The Naked Face Project, it's that makeup is there to make us look better and feel better. I know I looked OK without my trusty eyeliner and blush. (Proof: when I mentioned the "no makeup" challenge to a guy friend, he asked "Wait... so the other day when I saw you, you weren't wearing any makeup?" Yup, I replied. "Wow," he said. Phew.)

But somehow, knowing I looked approximately the same to most people (and men, in particular) didn't matter. I feel good with brighter eyes, rosier cheeks, elegant lashes and a matte forehead. I like my touch of shimmer, my slight faux glow. And I'm willing to take the 7 minutes in the morning to make that happen. I'll leave the Neutrogena commercials to someone else.

With makeup:

the naked face project

...and without:

the naked face project

Stars Without Makeup