Would You Wear No Makeup On the First Date?


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Look at Instagram and you’d think everyone woke up perfectly imperfect. Fashion, beauty, social media, pop culture, all cultivate a myth of effortlessness. In this package, ELLE.com acknowledges, dissects, and celebrates the effort. Because effortlessness is a privilege that not everyone can afford. And there’s no shame in admitting you actually love putting in the work.

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It was my first date after having recently broken off a four-year relationship. Aside from the usual things to get nervous about—looking good, bad small talk, and in the case of dating apps, whether or not I was getting Catfished—I was extra jittery because I decided to meet this new guy with zero makeup on my face. As much as I’ve gotten more comfortable with wearing less, I wasn’t quite ready to pull an Alicia Keys.

Throughout the night I felt really naked. I wondered whether the dark acne scars on my cheek were visible in the bar light, if I looked like I hadn’t slept in two days without concealer and blush, if I didn’t look as attractive as my profile photos without my usual winged liner. It was distracting. And frustrating. Even if the date ultimately ended up going well enough that it stretched over five hours and three locations, initially sitting in that insecurity was a little uncomfortable.

The pressure to go makeup-free comes from all directions: Memes of women’s faces before and after makeup with captions like “Take her swimming on the first date,” or “This is why I have trust issues.” Drake raps that he thinks a girl is prettiest “hair tied chillin’ with no makeup on” in “Best I Ever Had,” while John Mayer croons a girl with “no makeup” is “so perfect” in “Comfortable.” From women, see: Alicia Keys’ manifesto on ditching makeup, or every time women’s publications have called a celebrity “brave,” “inspiring,” or “fearless” (sigh) for deigning to post a bare-faced selfie. All of the above seems to suggest that wearing makeup is, at best, constricting and, at worst, deceptive. As aware of this tension as I am, it still instills guilt in me—preferring makeup on myself (especially when it comes to how I want to present myself to a romantic interest) can make me feel like I’m failing at self-love.

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My full face and my bare face.

Kristina Rodulfo

But back to my first date. For this one, I wanted to try…not trying. However foreign, that nonchalant, take-me-as-I-am attitude has always been an aspiration. Would I really feel more authentic, or like I truly owned who I am, as pop culture and women’s empowerment-marketing would have me believe?

Before going, I took a casual poll on my Instagram stories. Of 205 respondents, 69 percent said no, they have not gone on a first date without makeup. 31 percent said yes, they had. Next, I asked those who said yes to explore the many tricky layers of beauty’s role in those all-too-precious first impressions. Read on for a few of those responses.

@kristinarodulfo


Kate, 25

I’ve been on a few dates without makeup, but this one was special because it was a first date barefaced..and it was completely by mistake. I packed my makeup bag with the intent to show up fresh-faced—but with makeup. Instead I was held up by a work emergency so had no time to do anything before I ran out of the office. I was so flustered about being late that I didn’t even realize I was barefaced until I reached the bar.

When I arrived I seriously considered bee-lining for the bathroom even though it was directly behind him. Then I thought to myself, “Ah screw it” and proceeded to wager completely on my personality (and outfit). Not once did he bring up my naked face—and it was a marathon of a first date. We had so much fun we went from a drink or two to an entire evening talking and barhopping (both dim and brightly lit places, I might add).

It’s important to not idealize effortless beauty because it doesn’t exist.

I like [a natural beauty look] especially for the early stages of dating because it helps reiterate to myself that there isn’t a need to put a best foot forward when you’re romantically interested in someone. In fact, it’s more important to remember to be your natural self. And my natural self just so happens to not use a lot of makeup.

Domenika, 28

I wear makeup almost everyday. I didn’t know him well, we’d been exchanging texts for a while and decided to just get together. We had mutual friends and knew of each other but hadn’t actually met in person. It was summertime and I was tan and felt like I had a natural glow, plus it was hot and I didn’t feel the need to wear makeup. Maybe I was having a lazy day. I remember thinking, “If things go well, then he is eventually going to see me without it regardless.”

I was just being myself, which he says it made him try harder. Fast forward two years later—we ended up getting married.

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I actually felt good. We had a great connection and were lost in conversation so I didn’t even remember or notice that he was looking at my plain face. That day he didn’t seem to notice, or at least I didn’t think he cared or noticed, but when we talk about it he always says how he was surprised that I didn’t wear makeup on the date with him. It made him think that I wasn’t trying to impress him. I was just being myself, which he says it made him try harder. Fast forward two years later—we ended up getting married in April.

Sara, 24

I wear less and less makeup as time goes on. I used to do a full face every day, but for the last few years, [I’ve worn] hardly any. My mascaras dry up before I can use them up. I didn’t know my date at all. We had met once at a bar—I also wasn’t wearing makeup then—and then our first date was at a dive bar one night after work.

I just wanted to be comfortable. I was wearing workout leggings even though I hadn’t exercised. I guess I was feeling really confident and like I had nothing to prove. He definitely noticed, and later commented on, my overall casual look. I think it was a little disarming. I would totally do it again. It’s nice to feel confident with or without makeup and to have the option to not wear it. After doing a full face every day for years, I didn’t find it fun anymore so I just stopped. Now I play with makeup whenever I feel like it and it’s fun again.

I was feeling really confident and like I had nothing to prove.

Julia, 25

We messaged each other for two weeks through Tinder. He messaged me saying he was leaving the next day for vacation and it was the last night he’d be free. I was already at work and didn’t feel like freeloading off Sephora.

I was anxious and annoyed the rest of the day. Every time I looked in the mirror, I kept wishing I was one of those girls who carried their makeup bags with them! But, 100 percent yes I’d wear no makeup on a date again. If he did notice I wasn’t wearing any makeup, he didn’t make any comments about it.

Mary Kay, 24

I regularly wear little to no makeup. On a daily basis, I have a bare face. It’s a bit of a special occasion for me to have any on, though I’ll take the time to put lipstick and eyeliner on. I barely knew the people I went on dates with. Most of them I met online and had only talked to for a short period of time. The less I knew them, the less motivated I was to put on any makeup.

It’s also my natural state, so if that wasn’t appealing for them, then they weren’t appealing to me. I feel comfortable wearing no makeup. My face feels more free and I spend less time thinking about whether or not part of my face is smudged or distorted due to unruly makeup.

The less I knew them, the less motivated I was to put on any makeup.

I don’t think a guy has ever really brought up the absence of makeup on my face. In fact, they don’t really bring up anything when I do have makeup on my face unless I bring it up first.I don’t care to put the extra effort into putting on makeup for a date that may not matter.

Noelle, 30

I’ve never been a makeup type of girl because I haven’t quite mastered how to do it. I’ve also never felt insecure about it, so it didn’t even occur to me to wear any for the date.

I, of course, was nervous from “first date” jitters, but that was completely unrelated to my lack of makeup. Now, we’re married and have been together for 10 years.

He said that transparency was actually refreshing and was a turn-on for him

He actually did notice but didn’t bring it up until we were further into our relationship. He said that the transparency was actually refreshing and a turn-on for him. He’d thought, “Wow she’s not like most girls; she’s pretty without makeup.”

At the end of the day, it all comes off anyway!



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