Taking Off Your Makeup

Sharon Beauty, Body Image, Self-esteem 5 Comments

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When it comes to makeup, I’m the kind of girl who has managed to get by with the most meager knowledge of how to wear it. I know the basics, but anything venturing near the realm of real makeup competence is beyond my skill level. I wear just enough to cover up the circles under my eyes without flirting with the risk of “clown face.”

Even so, I was incredibly convicted by something I discovered in my research last week. I’ve been studying the work of Maria Harris, a Catholic professor of religious education who wrote a lot about female spirituality. In her book Dance of the Spirit, she challenges women with the following words:

“Possibly the suggestion that we take off our makeup, or go outside without it, creates a feeling close to panic. (“Oh God, no”) If we react that way, it may be we are shocked by the suggestion that we allow someone else to see us as we actually are.”

Harris then adds,

“I know. I wear makeup. But I marvel at women who go without it, and I notice how comfortable men are in public without it. And I wonder what our doing away with it, not all the time but on occasion, as an experiment, might do in awakening our spirituality. After all, in West Side Story, Maria didn’t sing, ‘I look pretty.’ She sang, ‘I feel pretty.'”

Harris then goes on to describe other forms of makeup that we wear to hide ourselves, such as the facial expressions we don to mask what we’re truly feeling. Those of us who are driven by the need to people please are prone to behave as expected, even if our hearts and minds would have us do otherwise.

But no matter what kind of makeup you use to hide who you really are, I am inspired by Harris’ charge to occasionally step out from behind those veils. I also appreciate her balanced approach–rather than condemning all makeup as an evil itself, she encourages women to keep it in check. From time to time, take off your makeup and go out in public–it is a quick indicator of where your confidence lies!

In fact, I decided to make an experiment out of this idea. A couple days ago Ike and his family had planned to spend the day Christmas shopping, so I made the decision to leave the house without an ounce of makeup on my face. I valiantly descended the stairs as I announced, “Today I am going out without makeup on as an act of Christian discipleship!” (My husband understandably rolled his eyes. It was the appropriate response.)

However, my confidence faltered as soon as I walked in the first store. I kept wanting to tell the sales people, “I don’t normally look like this.” As if they even cared! Goodness, what an eye-opening experience it was! Eventually I adjusted to the change, but the whole time I kept asking myself, “Why do I feel so naked without makeup?”

As I pondered my makeup crutch, I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says,

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

True beauty, as God defines it here, takes a lot of work. Worldly beauty does not. And yet, I spend most of my time cultivating worldly beauty instead of godly beauty. Which is why I feel so naked when my worldly beauty is taken away–I am not confident in my spiritual beauty because I haven’t invested the same amount of time into it.

For another clue as to why I feel so naked without makeup, I need only look to my ancestral sister, Eve. When sin entered the world she immediately felt naked and ashamed, so she tried to cover herself. Thousands of years later I continue to feel that shame about who God created me to be, focusing on my faults instead of rejoicing in the divine image written into my being. As Harris said above, I am afraid for people to see me as I really am, even though God Himself created me this way.

So I challenge you to try this experiment yourself. For some of you this isn’t much of a challenge because you’re one of the glorious few who can leave the house without a shred of eye-liner or mascara and feel totally beautiful. I admire you! But for the rest of you who draw confidence from your makeup, pick a day to shed your makeup and then study your heart in the process. See what you discover and even report back here. I would love to hear what you learn!

Comments 5

  1. Katie

    I had a friend in college who would skip make-up for a day whenever she felt herself getting too dependent on her externals, just as a reminder that it didn’t really matter. I learned to do the same from her. It can be refreshing once you get used to it.

    At the same time I know some women who swing in the opposite direction. Not wearing make-up, not doing their hair, not something becomes the means by which these women make everything all about externals. Whether they choose to go without to save the environment, be consciously less into western culture, protest the objectification of women, or try to exercise a spiritual discipline, their minds are focused on the fact that they aren’t wearing make-up (because they are better than you, you make-up wearing, selfish woman).

    A woman whose heart is focused on God can be godly in her make-up, feeling pretty, and without it, because her focus is more on her heavenly Father than on her appearance or heart motives.

  2. Tammy

    I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, I was blessed in that I did not lose my home, but we were without all the conveniences of modern life, including running water. The only water we had available was bottled (in very limited supply for the first few days), or outside in swimming pools or in water puddles.
    Not only was recovery the most important thing on people’s minds, the last thing I wanted to do was sacrifice precious water to remove makeup, which seemed a silly luxury. A coworker and I went on TV without makeup and with greasy hair the day after the storm. I began saving my mascara (I have very pale lashes) and blush for “fancy” times, such as Sunday.
    Eventually things began coming back to “normal,” but the experience made me think about what was really important. I went back to wearing makeup once we had safe running water, but it didn’t have to be the “best” (expensive). I started paring back, being selective, not hopping on what was trendy, but what suited me best.
    Those days into weeks of little or no makeup made me more confident about appearing in public without it. Putting forth a “made” face is optional. Letting the beautiful light that God has put within us shine for others is not.

  3. Nicole Rosell

    I don’t wear much make up at all, maybe just eyeliner, but I needed that to feel good about myself. A couple of years ago I felt led to do 30 days without make up. It was hard at first, but I noticed all the pictures I took of myself during that time…I Looked free. How crazy is that. Now there are plenty of days I go without make up. I still feel prettier with it, but I’m comfortable without it.

  4. Emily Gidcumb

    I am one of the few that never wear makeup, actually I usually feel weird when I do wear it because I get more attention from people. But, is there an element that women of a certain age are just expected to wear makeup, like to be professional? I always told myself when I get a real job I am going to have to start wearing it.

  5. Jennifer Hanson

    “Which is why I feel so naked when my worldly beauty is taken away–I am not confident in my spiritual beauty because I haven’t invested the same amount of time into it.”

    Yikes – how convicting that is to my vain little heart!

    I was home with my family over Christmas and my little sister (9) loved to watch me put on my makeup each morning. I try to look natural when I apply makeup, but even so, having my sister’s adoring eyes watching me (and asking question about each type of makeup I put on) made me feel embarrassed as HOW MUCH makeup I use to look “natural” – foundation, cover-up for my eyes, some for my acne, two eye shadows, two types of eye liner, mascara… etc. Yikes! I felt like such a hypocrite as I tried to tell my little sister that when she is old enough to wear makeup, she shouldn’t wear very much. I faltered with the “excuse” that because she’s so pretty and has such clear skin, she won’t need to wear much makeup. But my goodness what a terrible lesson in inner beauty I was showing her.

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m interested to take your challenge…

    (I have to agree a little with Emily’s comment on wearing make-up when you have a “professional” job. I work at an ad agency and there is definitely job-related pressure to look a certain way. Not sure how to get around that one…)

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