Hi, my name is Kristina and I love a full face of makeup. Give me that heavy coverage foundation. That smoky eye. Those fake eyelashes. At this point, my makeup stash is more robust than my bank account. And, as much as I admire the woke-up-like-this appearance on other people, a Glossier girl I am not.
That is, I wasn’t—until May 19, 2018. Yes, that’s the date of The Royal Wedding, when now-Duchess Meghan Markle walked down the aisle with a naked face that stopped me in my tracks.
In a world of Instagram brows and highlighter detectable from outer space, Markle’s understated, skin-first makeup felt beyond refreshing. Her look, done by celebrity makeup artist and longtime friend Daniel Martin, let her natural beauty shine through—freckles, and all. As Martin told ELLE.com, more makeup would have been “distracting” and “that’s what you don’t want when the dress is the main attraction.” Whatever the motivation, the au naturale look made me want to reconsider my entire approach to makeup. So I decided to experiment with my very own makeunder.
A makeunder, like a makeover, is about a complete transformation. Often done by stars in need of A New Look, it’s about subtraction. Take Christina Aguilera, whose signature red carpet makeup once involved red lips, full lashes, a smoky eye, and contoured cheekbones. To mark a new era (read: her new album Liberation), she’s been going for a no-makeup face:
Lady Gaga also started her career with over the top looks from head to toe. Her makeup leaned on the avant garde side of the spectrum—she’d go so far as covering up her brows to look like she had none or splattering her face with rainbow paint. Over the past two years and through her current Joanne era, Gaga has preferred a more low-key look. Just look at her album cover. Or her Instagram, where she recently posted a series of bare-faced selfies.
You can argue even Markle has had a makeunder of sorts, going from a Hollywood star wearing red lips and a smoky eye for the red carpet to a Duchess with nary a trace of concealer (but all the je ne sais quoi). Granted, her makeunder is not as dramatic as Aguilera’s or Gaga’s, and she has long preferred a more natural look (and been outspoken to press about wanting her freckles to always show), but the change is clear.
While I will never knock a woman for wanting to wear a full face (again, hi, it me) nor think going makeup-free is “brave,” I do admire the undeniable confidence these women project. As they’ve progressed in their lives—they’re all in their 30s—it seems they’ve landed at a place of really knowing themselves and wanting fans, followers, and the rest of the public to know them as they are, too.
I want to go to there.
To start, I limited myself to using no more than five makeup products per day. To give you an idea of how much of a scale-back that is, for an everyday “natural” look I normally use (*takes long breath*): primer, color-corrector, concealer, under-eye concealer, brow pencil, brow gel, pencil liner, liquid liner, mascara, eye shadow, blush, highlighter, lip liner, lipstick, and setting powder. Whew. That’s 15 products. Every day. It takes me about half an hour to do my makeup when I’m taking my time.
For my makeunder, the five products I settled on were: concealer, eyeliner, blush, brow pencil, and a flesh-toned lipstick:
Here are some of my observations about my makeunder experiment.
1. It made me face—and accept—my insecurities. The first day of my makeunder I fully freaked out. I wore my hair down and tried to cover up all the uneven texture from my acne on the left side of my face—there’s only so much concealer can do! But wearing less makeup didn’t let me hide and helped me get over that hump of oh-my-god-people-are-staring-at-my-ACNE-thoughts. I went to work events and dinners, networked, went on-camera, and had meetings with this “natural” face on. Nothing felt different, which makes me wonder why I always try so hard to look photo-ready on a regular work day. Nobody cares!
2. It made my skin clear up! I didn’t change my diet or my skincare routine, so I have a feeling wearing less makeup has something to do with the army of zits dying down. On Monday, they were giant, red and inflamed. On Friday, they’re still present but significantly flattened out. I’m a happy girl.
3. It took zero time to get ready. Five minutes, tops. I am an early riser, but when I finished doing my basic face, I’d literally sit and wonder what else to do with my extra time. Is this when people eat breakfast? Also, I showed up to work early everyday.
4. Lashes make a big difference. I was wearing Lashify (a new system of DIY lash extensions). Is that cheating? Since I make up the rules, no. It takes me literally two minutes to apply both eyes and they stick on for up to a week. They did a lot to make my bare face feel pretty and “done” without as much fuss as curling lashes, wearing liner, mascara, etc.
5. I still love makeup a lot. It was important for me to see that I can still feel beautiful without layers of product—and after getting over that initial fear of stepping out sans maquillage, I eventually did. So, if I’m ever running late or in another situation where I don’t have the time to do a full face, I will no longer feel like a lesser version of myself. But I have a genuine love for makeup artistry, and I have a ton of fun experimenting. This week, I missed the freedom of wearing a bright red lipstick, or putting on purple eyeshadow just because I felt like it. A week with zero color on my face made me better appreciate the beauty of playing with cosmetics. Makeup is a tool of self expression—a way to communicate who you are. Whether I choose to wear barely-there products or a full face, it should be fun, not an obligation. It was nice to be reminded of that.