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Unmasked: No Makeup for 7 Days

I miss the days of childhood when insecurities were not physical. I was probably twelve when my mom let me wear lip-gloss. Someone as naturally beautiful as my mother had a hard time understanding my urge to try makeup. She doesn’t believe in chemicals or artificial beauty. She’s a sucker for lipstick, but her poreless skin and defined brow needed nothing more than moisturizer. So when my mother finally barely consented to my full makeup routine, I was thrilled. For me, makeup is fun. I experimented with a lot of different brands, hues, and textures of foundation, concealer, highlighter, blush, bronzer, mascara, and eyeliner. At first, I would wear just cream eyeliner under my top waterline. Very subtle, very tasteful. But it snowballed.

A week ago, I was late to school. It dawned on me that instead of trying to make my breakfast tea, I was using ticking time to perfect the sharpness of my winged eyeliner. It was time to stop. But I couldn’t. I was an addict, gripping onto my liquid eyeliner, unable to leave the mirror. As I shamefully slid into French class at 8:07, I couldn’t help but wonder: was it all worth it?

At a school like CPS, people walk across the campus, back and forth, maybe twenty times a day. Through the course of a normal school day, I’ll probably see and be seen by most of the student and faculty population. Who, other than me, will care if I don’t pluck my eyebrows? Who will judge me? Who will notice if I don’t wear that dab of concealer? But I let the thought float away.

Then, a couple days later, I was with my best friend. We were about to walk down to dinner in downtown Berkeley. “Don’t wear makeup,” she said, dead serious. By now, makeup was not just fun for me; I felt uncomfortable when I wasn’t wearing my standard eyeliner and creamy concealer. “You should look extra pretty when you wear makeup, not less pretty when you don’t,” she said. It was the first time in a year that I had gone without makeup for an entire day. A YEAR. And that night, I lay awake, pondering that old question: was it all worth it?

You should look extra pretty when you wear makeup, not less pretty when you don’t.

Starting January 26, I attempted a week without makeup, and documented every twist and turn of the journey towards this seemingly simple goal. This is my Everest. (All photography credits to my dad.)

DAY 1 (Sunday)

I just got home. It’s been a long day. I didn’t go to school today, so I’m easing into it. To the random strangers, nothing about my clean face is out of the ordinary. From the doubtful look he gave me, my dad thinks I’ll give in by Tuesday. I noticed that I was even embarrassed about him taking my picture, like there shouldn’t be evidence of my face without makeup. I have no acne, but blemishes. My eyebrows are very thin. I have dark circles. But my skin feels really good.


DAY 2 (Monday)

Mondays are rehearsal nights for me. A hundred kids pretend they have no homework and give four hours of their precious time to the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, eating cardboard pizza and secretly snapchatting behind their music stands. Mondays are also my peak days. Mondays, I don’t allow myself to wear elastic pants. Mondays, I’ll take an extra minute to brush through my eyebrows. Mondays are my good days. I guess not this Monday. On the plus side, no one really noticed, except for the people who really knew me well. It was dress rehearsal, and there was a really attractive guest bassoonist. I felt naked. My favorite quote from the day: “did you forget to fill in your eyebrows?”


DAY 3 (Tuesday)

On Tuesdays, I tutor. The girls that I tutor at Westlake for Partners have a sort of obsession with my hair. They touch it. They admire it from afar. After I tell them to stop touching my hair, they respond by asking me if they can braid it. My hair is long and straight, something I take for granted. But today, I decided to style some Kylie Jenner double French braids. After all, Tuesdays were the days when I died a little more inside. I usually wear a uniform of yoga pants, fuzzy socks, high-top white converse, and on a good day, maybe a scarf to accessorize. “You look homeless,” my friends suggest lovingly each week.


DAY 4 (Wednesday)

I’ve finally getting used to the no makeup thing. It’s definitely saved me a lot of time in the morning. This picture was taken in the morning right before I did my braids in the car. I’ve also noticed that my newly found makeup-less empowerment has influenced my taste in music. Some album suggestions: Kauai by Childish Gambino and Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper.


DAY 5 (Thursday)

We have a three-day weekend, so this is the end of the week. It’s been pretty good. I’ve learned that I am either really bad at makeup, to the point where people can’t tell, or that people just don’t give a crap about how I look. Probably both. I wore a weird woven oversized sweater today. “I’ve always wanted one of those,” Chabon mused.


DAY 6 (Friday)

No pic, I slept in all day. Bliss.

DAY 7 (Saturday)

Today was my first performance. I won a competition in December, which qualified me to be featured as one of the soloists for the symphony. I got my dress tailored. I bought uncomfortable black strappy stilettos. I was ready to go. Annnnd, I got my makeup done at M.A.C. True, I looked like a drag queen on painkillers, but it’s important to overdo makeup so people can see me from far away for the concert. I prefer doing my own makeup, but the Saturday concert was just a practice for the big concert on Sunday.


DAY 8 (Sunday)

I did my own makeup today. After a week of no makeup, it felt weird to be back in my normal routine. I’ve decided to stick to just chapstick during the week, only indulging when I know pictures are going to be taken. “You look luminous,” my friends tell me. Keep in mind, these are the same people who tell me I look homeless.


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