lived in

I hate foundation. I hate powder. I hate how every time I scratch my itchy face while wearing foundation and powder I end up with it caked under my nails. Little half-moons the color of my skin.

I hate how I only ever put it on when I’m feeling like I’m looking my worst.

I hate  how every time women post pictures of themselves on the internet, they have to make squeaky noises about how sorry they are for how awful they look. A picture of a woman’s face, for example, is unfailingly prefaced with OMG please ignore all the crow’s feet and those dark circles and don’t even think about looking at the state of my brows!!!

I see my face a lot, because it’s always there in the mirror. I’ve learned a lot of things about it over the years. My eyes are a good feature. My nose looks better at some angles than it does others. I have a weak chin and a square face. My right eyebrow is still truncated from that day I got overzealous with the tweezers almost a decade ago. My eyelashes are still sparse from when I picked at them as a kid. My upper lip has lost a little definition from this habit I have of tugging on it.

I lean in closer to the mirror for a better look at my skin. I have a slightly oily forehead, slightly dry chin. A smattering of visible pores. The hint of a varicose vein alongside my nose. Scars from long-healed acne. Spots from a little too much sun.

I understand I’m meant to have smooth, perfectly even skin. This is important, because people spend most of their time looking at your face. I know flawlessness is the ultimate goal. But I can’t fathom how flawlessness is remotely feasible, unless you pack your face on ice every day and slather it with cream every night and never frown, smile, break out, or go outside.

Some days are better than others, of course. Some days I’m driven to pick up a brush and try to paint over all of my face’s mistakes. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Some days I’m an active voice in the chorus of physical flaws that seems to rise when women gather. My complexion! It’s awful! Oh no, honey, I would KILL to look that smooth! Me, on the other hand….

I try really hard not to succumb to this flagellation anymore, even on those days it feels disgusting to wear my own skin. I don’t expect perfection from friends, music, or the characters in my favorite novels. Why would I expect it from my body?

I rarely use powder and foundation these days. I want people to get used to it. I want to show them what a lived-in face looks like.

It’s not great.

But increasingly, I don’t believe I need to apologize for it.

16 Responses to “lived in”

  1. No apologies needed! None at all. (and also? I’ve seen this face of yours, though not in person..and I think it deserves a *lot* more credit!)

    I believe makeup should only exist to make you feel awesome or giddy about yourself. If it does anything else (especially that under-the-nail bit), it should be abandoned or at least seriously reconsidered. This coming from someone who worships her foundation.

    Also, I think they should require a prescription or something to purchase tweezers – I overtweezed in high school when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and have been regretting it every day since. Grumble.

  2. I never wear makeup. I used to wear it on special occasions or when I would be meeting a client or going to court. I don’t even wear it for court anymore. Makeup clogs my pores and makes me break out. Sure, it temporarily reduces the dark circles under my eyes, the freckles and the acne scars on my chin. BUT. You know what? I don’t care. That’s not what I look like. So, these days, I will put on lip balm if my lips are dry, and I’m good with that.

    Maybe when my daughter is make-up aged, I might make a little more effort to do it right. Or maybe I’ll tell her how beautiful she is and how she doesn’t need anything covering her face to make her so.

  3. Every once in a while I consider starting to wear foundation. I don’t wear any makeup on a daily basis, and I wonder if it would make me look my age, look professional, cover up the horrors of my perpetually-in-puberty acne. I’d sort’ve feel edited, I think. In a bad way. And also, I’m way too lazy, and I like other people’s lived-in faces, so I don’t.

    I have TERRIBLE terrible skin. My dermatologist was literally all, “I would recommend Accutane, but I don’t think it will help.”


    So I wear cakey makeup everyday. All I can do is try to learn the best makeup tricks I can to make it look as natural as I can. I’m constantly assessing my jawline, gasping at photos of me on the web that I didn’t take and freaking out.

    I think that having skin you’re semi-proud of is the key to feeling confident about your lived-in face, though. Because there’s no way I step outside with no makeup on. F’REALZ.

    • I get that, Lizzie, and I thought about that while writing this post. I cling — CLING — to my eye makeup. I truly believe I look better with it, so I don’t leave the house without it. A little eye liner makes me feel better, more confident. The strange thing is that I DON’T feel the same way about my skin. My skin is… not its best, especially since I gave up using Proactiv a year ago. I’ve always got a mild to medium breakout going on on my face. I’ve had some some weird cystic acne cluster on my neck, now, too. I guess I’m not even semi-proud of it. I don’t feel confident about my skin, but I’m trying to because I just finally got angry at the continuous message that we all need to appear perfectly smooth and blemish-free, when NO ONE actually looks like that, EVER.

  5. I rarely (rarely rarely) wear makeup. Part of this is admittedly because I am lazy. Part of it is because my skin is super sensitive and has never met a foundation it didn’t react to. And part of it is because my mom never wore makeup growing up, and I find her exceptionally beautiful. Not in spite of never wearing makeup, but because of it. There’s a story in her face, and I love it. Carson calls it “patina” about hardwood floors and stainless steel, and I have adopted that about my face and body.

  6. I wear blush in the winter because it makes me look a little more awake, and god knows I’m not in the mornings. I also wear eye makeup – I have heavy black glasses and lenses that shrink my eyes, so the eye makeup helps me look more awake. (See a trend?) But beyond that? I am so totally lazy. I hate mornings, I hate itchy foundation, I hate the effort and I don’t care about the results. I’m lucky that my skin is decent enough that I don’t worry about hiding the large pores and smattering of acne scars, and also lucky in that I know work in an office of engineers where no one particularly dresses up. (Unlike a job I had once where my boss kept trying to get me to wear lipstick to look more ‘professional’.)

    I am happy enough to just wear my face, mostly as is. I also point BLANK refuse to play the ‘I’m so ugly, look at my flaws’ game a couple of my acquaintances like to play. I accept my body and face, imperfect as they both are, and refuse to bitch about them as a bonding point.

  7. I love this. I love that skin, maybe more than any other face-part, tells a story – wrinkles from smiles, spots from sunshine, dark circles from wine-filled late nights. Those aren’t experiences to apologize for, so why all the effort to hide the results? Though, yes, I have certainly smeared the undereye concealer when I preferred not to look quite as hungover as I felt in meetings with the bosses. Sigh.

  8. I wear makeup, including foundation, basically every day. But I like makeup and I like how foundation cleans up my face and makes me a touch happier when I catch myself in a mirror. So that’s cool – makeup and me, we have a pretty healthy relationship.

    What bugs me sometimes is the insinuation that you should not only be perfect, but be so without makeup. It goes with the man fantasy of a skinny girl who gorges on burgers and wings; makeup is like admitting you have to diet. Yeah, well tough shit. Most of us need to watch what we eat and enhance a few parts of our faces to feel our best. I think we have been bombarded with images of perfection for so long that people have forgotten it’s not actually natural to look that way.

  9. I have a friend who won’t leave the house without a full face of makeup (including false lashes). I wonder sometimes if the guys she’s dating gets to see her without them on? Does she wake up extra early to reapply the lashes?

    I’ve always liked the Bobbi Brown philosophy towards makeup (natural is better). When I do wear it (which is rarely) I like liner, mascara, blush and gloss. My skin is too dry for heavy foundation and I don’t really like the look of the cakey stuff anyway, but I’ll use a sheer tinted moisturizer, if I use any at all.

    The thing that I’ve really become obsessed with, as I get older, is general skin care. Give me my creams and potions!

  10. Love this! I’ve rarely worn foundation, just could not be bothered with it. Also, I have always resented the feeling that I “should” wear it to look better and conform to bogus beauty standards. If I think those standards are absurd then it would be a betrayal of my value system to participate in their maintenance. Having said that – I do wear some eye make up on occasion. I guess because I’ve never been into make up much, when I do wear it it’s more about the fun of changing my look a little, rather than covering any perceived flaws.

  11. I rarely wear make-up either. I wear mascara when my hair is greasy (no idea why, but I feel like it draws attention away or something? Weird), and maybe once a month or so if I’m going somewhere nice.
    In my mind, it is managing expectations. If I wore make-up every day it’d be the norm, and then what would I do when I wanted to impress?

    I don’t really get break-outs, but I have allll kinds of redness… it doesn’t confine itself to my cheeks! NO I haven’t been out in the sun today THIS IS JUST MY FACE.

  12. I’m such a flip-flopper when it comes to makeup. I never wore the stuff until college; then I went through a phase where I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without (thank god I got over that). Then came grad school and makeup was just too much effort–I was lucky if I found time to brush my teeth every day. EXCEPT I also took and taught “Makeup for the Stage” and “Advanced Makeup for the Stage.” Now, we did a whole lot more than prettify ourselves: bruises, scars, wounds, monster looks, opera makeup, making myself look like one of the seven deadly sins (my fav. assignment), etc. But we also learned about the principles behind wearing it i.e. how highlight/shading can trick the eye, which was fascinating (our lessons on the history of makeup were both reassuring and highly disturbing). That *does not* mean I’m talented at applying it on myself, however, and during my unemployed stints, I gave up wearing it altogether: too expensive and who cares when I only leave my house to go to the gym or grocery in sweatpants?

    And now that I’m employed again, I’m torn. One on hand, I HATE feeling like my face isn’t “good enough” as is. I resent the fact that B never feels pressured to apply pink powder to his cheeks and black lines around his eyes to make him appear “professional” or “awake.”

    On the other hand, sometimes makeup can be fun. Sometimes lipstick and some blush (and maybe a really bright sweater or my fav. boots) help brighten an otherwise blah morning in which I’d rather stay in bed. And I also resent being made to feel that choosing to wear makeup makes me shallow, vain, or wedged under the patriarchy’s thumb. See? I’m all over the place.

    Nobody at my new workplace wears a bit of makeup, and I’m finding it refreshing–though I still smear on some eyeliner and blush when I’m in the mood.

    And that doesn’t even touch on the chemical-y horrors of makeup… I’ve begun to sort-of give a crap about what nastiness I’m slathering on, and oh man, is it a PITA to sort through (and $$$ to rectify).

  13. This makes me feel guilty about the Botox I’ve had in the past, and hopefully can afford in the future.

  14. I have rosatia, acne scars, depending on what time of the month it is a pimple – or five, some wrinkles and I don’t even own any makeup.

    I actually have stopped washing my face with soap and that has helped a lot with reducing breakouts. I just rince it with water, and apply olive oil or coconut oil to moisturize. I dont’ know why but I never ever really worry about my face, and it’s not because it’s not flawed cause it is, but I suppose when I wanna hate on my body it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

  15. I love makeup, in case you haven’t noticed, but I still want to HELL YES this post because I hate MANDATORY makeup. Or, echoing what Nina said above, the idea that makeup is gross and horrible but not looking perfect without it is even worse. I want makeup to be about fun and not compliance.

    A couple of years ago I made my photographer friend Louis take a bunch of photos of me without any makeup on, a la Elle’s sans fards issue. I encouraged my friends to join me and no one would, which was disappointing at the time, but I think it made me feel even more proud of myself for my “bravery.” As stupid as it might sound, it was a very emotionally rewarding experience; a way to “own” my real face but also my decision to usually wear makeup.

    But enough about me. This post was outstanding. Thank you.

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