Rejecting the Makeup Free Selfie


I nearly decided not to go outside of my apartment today.

A beautiful day, on my way to a child’s birthday party, and I realize this is a selfish thing to do. I suck it up and grab a stipple brush to go to town on my face with more foundation than I’d ever like to wear.

Selfies are not a new thing, as demonstrated by old photos, like this one of George Harrison. The act of taking a photo of one’s self is nothing amazing, but is, of course, more popular now with social media and smartphones. Let’s be real, though. The majority of selfies can be assigned captions like Look Where I Am, Look What I’m Eating, Look Who I’m With, Look How Cute I Am, and so on. They’re humble-bragging without words, and kind of a way to be self absorbed without getting too much flack for it.

I understand the appeal of the selfie, and especially the appeal of the makeup free selfie. When most photos of women are highly made up and edited, the trend of celebrities, or anyone, to post a photo of themselves bare faced is a way to show solidarity, and a way to say ‘this is my natural self, so deal with it’.

A day like today, however, reminded me of how this trend could actually make some girls feel worse about themselves. Years ago, I told my dermatologist that I was so happy to have cut my morning routine down so much, because I didn’t need to wear foundation anymore. The problems I’d had with cysts and allergies had been greatly helped by my doctor’s work and treatment. It was liberating. Realizing I’d been ashamed of my skin since high school made me feel like I’d lost a lot of the enjoyment of being young, and I was eager to shed that shame.

Over the past year I started having some problems again. I’ve been telling myself, too bad, if someone thinks I look weird, that is their problem. If someone is judging me because my face is red and bumpy, then I don’t want to talk to someone that judgmental. 

True. And yet today, as I looked up at my red and splotchy face, I knew that I was horribly embarrassed by my appearance, as shallow as that is. I know my friends and family don’t care. But it’s that fear of judgement that clouded my mind. I assume people will think I’m not clean, or healthy, when I keep everything very clean and don’t eat junk food. Today I looked like the stereotype of a pizza face. My skin, as explained by my doctor, can have an autoimmune response to something as plain as an eyebrow hair growing in. Boom, my face is swollen.

Maybe this is considered over-sharing, but feeling so embarrassed to even go to the coffee shop next door without hiding behind my hair…made me think of all the women who proudly post photos of themselves without makeup in order to encourage other women to feel comfortable in their own skin (or at least I hope that is what they’re doing, though I suspect some are doing it to show off their perfect skin). I’m glad their doing that, because we shouldn’t need to paint our faces to feel pretty.

But to those other girls who can’t feel comfortable with that yet, I understand, and I hear you loud and clear. We all have bad days. Unfortunately some topical steroids or some Benadryl are what is in store for me until this goes away. Seeing all those natural selfies and clear faces can make your self esteem plummet when your face has more patterns going around it than a Betsey Johnson dress.

However, I can tell you that I do hope to return to that feeling I told my dermatologist about: comfort. Comfortable without makeup. Comfortable as in my face doesn’t hurt. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s actually great. But nobody should be pushed out of their comfort zone before they’re ready. I can’t wait to put that stipple brush away soon, but in the meantime I will not be walking out of my door without doing some paint by number.

I’d say ‘sorry, ladies’, but I’m not sorry. And that should be okay!


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