I was like most girls when I was little (well, almost).
I loved getting into my mom's and sisters' makeup drawers. I loved playing with Barbie. I even wanted to be a fashion designer. Of course, there was the other side of me--the part that came out typically around my brother: We'd make parachutes and throw my Barbie and his G.I. Joe out the windows and play survivor under the bushes....
But my first inkling that I was conflicted about makeup came when I was in my late teens. A friend of mine asked if she could make me up and photograph me for her portfolio (Elaine! Elaine! Where are you? Claude is looking for you!). We were both artists and would often do crazy photo projects together. So she made me up and took a photo, and it was beautiful. I was beautiful. In that late-'70s sort of disco way, but still...I was proud of it and showed it to my Dad, and he said, "Wow! Why can't you look like that all the time?" Ow. Because it took her a half hour to do, and I wasn't that interested? In fact, my greater problem was that boys wouldn't leave me alone. Why would I want to attract even more of them?
As I worked my way up the ladder, I did my part to "put my face on." I experimented with different makeup brands until I found the ones that made me look my best and didn't irritate my skin. But still, I was never a "heavy user." My mother, on the other hand, was. She never went anywhere without her tanning foundation and two "frownie brownie" heavily penciled eyebrows or hot-bright lipstick (often applied at the table). And perfume. Her makeup would stain all her clothes, and I could see the lines where her real skin began and the foundation ended. Once we went to a spa together, and she came down to dinner without any makeup on. And she was beautiful! Her skin was luminous! More than perfect. I asked her, "Why, why, why do you cover up your beautiful skin?" She shrugged as if to say I didn't know what I was talking about.
So gradually, I wore less and less (and I got busier and busier)--unless I was getting a headshot. Then they would bring in the makeup people and the hair people, and I would get all done up. Sure, I looked decent--even though I felt disgusting afterward and couldn't bear to go back to work with that layer of makeup and hair gel on (all those toxic smells and stickiness!). But when I met people in real life, they would invariably say, "Wow, you look so different than your photo." Not really sure if they meant I looked better in real life or worse, but let's just say I wasn't going to ask.
Some of my increasing reluctance to wear makeup was also based on the research I had read on the toxins in facial products. Why would I put things on my skin that I wouldn't put in my mouth? Chemicals that were known carcinogens. As I wrote Organic Manifesto, I couldn't help but see the connection between the chemical industry and the beauty industry.
When I became CEO in 2009, I had both the luxury and the urgency to determine how I was going to step into the role. That's when I made my decision: I was going in barefaced. I would keep my face clean and organic--just like my garden. After all, would a man ever wear makeup as a CEO? (Well, I've met a few who might, but they aren't my role models.)
The time and energy many women use to make up their faces and manage their hair seemed a bit too precious a resource for me to spend. What if all that time those women put into "looking good" was put into their work instead? Or better yet, into having MORE FUN! As a naturally frizzy-haired woman, I'd given up trying to control the mess that is my hair years ago. (I did have ONE good natural hair day in my life: It was the day I swam in the Indian Ocean in Australia, followed by a long swim at the Icebergs pool at Bondi Beach--but those conditions are hard to replicate on a daily basis, and no hair stylist has ever, ever come close! THAT was a fun day.)
I didn't have any trouble with this decision until I had a major makeup moment while dressing up to play Miss Yvonne to my husband's Pee-Wee Herman for Hulaween (Bette Midler's Halloween gala). First of all, with aging eyesight, it was superhard to get right. And as I painted on more and more, I felt less and less myself. We had just seen the Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway, and I had the painful realization that Miss Yvonne (whom my husband and I had placed next to Pee-Wee on our wedding "groom's cake") didn't actually end up with Pee-Wee, but with (spoiler alert!) Cowboy Curtis. That surprise plot twist mirrored my own longing. Later that night, as I washed my face, I vowed that it would be the last time I would dress up and try to be something I am not for any man. Or any woman, for that matter. Separation and divorce eventually followed.
During my latest photo shoot for a new headshot, I wore no makeup and simply twisted my hair into a bun, the way I usually do. Someone said my hair looked so "effortless." And I responded, "That's because there is absolutely no effort put into it."
The bottom line is life is way too precious to try to be someone I am not, to try to fit into a mold that isn't my own, and to cover up my true self. I've had a few women tell me they wish they didn't have to wear makeup, but when they go without, people tell ask if they're feeling all right (meaning they look ill). For me, that's a sign that someone has to work on his or her health and beauty from the inside out, not the outside in. When you go without makeup, your true health does tend to shine through. Or not shine through.
Great beauty comes from taking great care of yourself--eating lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of clean water, sleeping well and long, feeling loved (you have to love yourself first before you can truly feel loved by someone else), great sex and lots of it, healthy doses of real vitamin D (that's sunshine, baby!), heaps of nature and fresh air, and last but not least, a happy and laughing attitude about life. These are things you can't buy at a beauty counter.
I do still use one product on my skin, as it does tend to be dry: Certified-Organic Coconut Oil. Everything smells like the beach every time I put it on. And all that money I save on expensive creams, makeup, and hair dye, I spend at a spa every once in a while. And, OK, I do like lip balm. Just to keep my lips moist. My favorite is also organic and made from coconut oil; it's available on Rodale"s.
Do I wish things were different about my face, my skin, and my hair? Of course! Who doesn't? Curly-haired people always seem to want straight hair, and straight-haired women always seem to want curly. Do I see myself aging? Hell, yes. Do I fight it? No. There's no point in it. I can spot a woman "fighting" her age from a mile away, and it always seems so sad. I've earned these wrinkles and those grey hairs. My sunspots are like souvenirs from amazing trips to sunny places: Anguilla, Bahamas, Byron Bay, and Bondi, Turks and Caicos....
No makeup required. Or desired.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com