This Is My Normal Face

Every morning I try to fix my hair or put on a touch of makeup to pull my overtired face together (I average four hours of sleep a night) before heading out with the kids. Usually only one happens, this morning was washed and styled hair but no time for makeup.

As I was dropping my daughter off at her summer school class, one of her little friends approached me to say hello and get a hug. When she pulled back she said, “You look different today. You don’t look normal.”

I asked her what was different, and she said that I didn’t have any makeup on. I laughed and said that she had seen me without makeup on before. I said that this was my normal face, that I add the makeup but my natural face is normal. I asked her which face she liked better, and she said they were both okay. She wasn’t trying to be rude, she was being honest with her observations in that authentic way only young children can be.

I smiled and told her to go play and have a good day, but her comment made me wonder…..She is right, both my natural face and my face wearing makeup are okay. I like the way I look either way. But how much do our kids, especially our daughters, expect women to cover and alter our natural faces each day?

I like makeup and don’t think it is inherently evil, but do we know and understand why we use it? Do our kids? And can we go out in public without it? If we do go out in public without makeup, is that really being ‘brave’? When we say it is being brave, are we reducing the experience of being a woman to how she does or does not accept society’s expectations of her to be pretty? But maybe in today’s image-obsessed world being authentic with our actual selves/looks is being brave, most especially for women. I welcome your thoughts on this.

Some women never wear makeup, some wear it for fun, some wear it out of habit or ritual, and some wear it as a mask. Whatever our reasons, they seem to come into sharper focus when we have to explain our actions to our inquisitive children. You do not have to defend any of your choices to me, or anyone, but I would love for you to consider the questions above and feel free to share any answers or thoughts!

This is my normal, nothing-on-it-but-a-little-sunburn face.

This is my normal, nothing-on-it-but-a-little-sunburn face.


  1. Cindy Debes says:

    I do not wear makeup. The only time in my entire life that I have worn make up was for my senior pictures when I was 18, and then it was very lightly done (by my best friend). Even though it was just a little touch to highlight my eyes and even my skin tone, I was very self-conscious the entire time of my shoot because I was wearing makeup. In my experience, most women seem to feel the opposite — self-conscious when they are out of the house, let alone professionally photographed — without makeup. I don’t think that my makeup-free life is the result of na all-natural feminist political position; on the contrary, it is more likely from an effort to NOT stand out. If a person applies makeup, it implies the idea that s/he expects to be looked at and/or wants to be looked at and therefore, tries to look good for those who observe. I prefer to go unnoticed, so logic follows then, that I don’t want to draw attention or maintain it if given. This seems to stem from a position of low self-esteem or self-worth that I had growing up (still have?). Now that I’m 35 with a daughter of my own, I’m hoping that I can help my daughter build a strong sense of self that’s the opposite of mine — she likes herself and is proud of who she is. If I’m being fully honest, I do hope that her self-confidence leads to a make-up free life for her, too, but due to a realization that she’s perfect the way she is, and not from any need to hide or fade away.

  2. at one time in my life, I would cringe at the thought of stepping out of my house without make-up. Then, it was ok to be bare-faced when camping, but when I got home, the mask went back on. At that time, I didn’t realize it was a mask or think of it that way, but for me, it was. (I know that isn’t the case for everyone who wears make-up.)
    I stopped wearing make-up when my daughter was 2. She would watch me apply various products and ask me what it was for. I could not come up with answers that I was comfortable with her hearing, learning or repeating for herself: “So I look prettier,” “So I look younger,” “Because my lips aren’t the right colour,” etc.

  3. Long ago, I was the type who couldn’t leave home bare faced. Then one day I asked myself why that was, especially in the light of the fact that makeup feels gross to me.
    So a number of years ago I stopped. It was weird at first, but now I wonder why I listened to all the companies that told me I wasn’t pretty enough without it.
    I hope my children never think that in order for a girl to be pretty she has to first “put on her face”. Sadly some guys believe this too.

  4. I’m in high school and I don’t wear makeup. When I first started wearing it (middle school), I only did so to fit in with everyone else. But when I took it off, I felt bad about how my “normal face” looked. I realized that if I wore makeup regularly, then on the days when I didn’t wear it I would look in the mirror and feel ugly—and I didn’t want to look in the mirror and feel ugly. So, I decided to stop wearing makeup! Initially I still wore it for special events (dances, first days of school), but then I thought, “If I wear makeup on the first day of school and then never again, what does that say about me?” It felt like lying to the new people I was meeting, so I now haven’t worn makeup in probably about a year. Of course, I don’t have a problem with people who do wear makeup—my mom and most of my friends do, and that’s completely their choice. I think people should critically examine the reasons they choose to wear makeup, and then decide what to do based on what those are. When I did that, I realized that wearing makeup actually made me feel *worse* about myself, and that my only reason to wear it was to fit in. For me, fitting in was not a good enough reason. **Of course, my choice involves a lot of privilege because as a cis woman I can choose to not wear makeup without that choice making me not pass or changing other peoples’ interpretations of my gender, with all the danger that carries**

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I used to wear makeup every day, but got too busy with my actual life to bother, so by the time I finished my bachelor’s degree I was barely wearing any.

    What little make-up I was still putting on regularly got tossed when I got pregnant because I realized I had no idea what was in it and didn’t feel safe using it.

    These days, I make all my own make-up at home and wear it on occasion when I dress up for something. My husband also wears make-up on dressy occasions, so our children just think it’s part of the extra body decoration you can do for special events.

  6. Such an important topic. I recently stopped coloring my gray hair to show my 6 year old little girl that you don’t have to cover up your true appearance to be beautiful. Wow what a stir it is causing 🙂

  7. I’m a working mom who wears makeup about one out of three work days, and probably 1/2 of ‘weekend’ days.

    Recently my 3-year-old has wanted to wear makeup (real and pretend) and while there’s a part of me that wants to tell her no, that she doesn’t need it–but that carries the convex that some people (me) *do* need it (even when I don’t wear it). I thought about telling her that it’s not something people should expect, but that’s introducing an expectation she’s not even aware of yet. And I didn’t want to say anything that would denigrate people who do choose to wear it daily.

    So we’ve discussed how makeup lets us be ‘fancy’ (and that kids are fancy in different ways than adults are) and that no one needs to wear it, but some people like to all the time, like grandma 1, and some people some of the time, like grandma 2 and mom, and some people never, like aunty k–and that aunty k picks different ways to be fancy when she wants to.

    At the moment, I wish I would have taken the time to be ‘fancy’ this morning though–I could use the mask.

  8. I forgot to put on makeup last week. Three days in a row. I mentioned it to my kids and their reaction was decidedly underwhelming.

  9. Darla D. says:

    Raising kids definitely makes people look many years older than they actually are. Partly because of the lack of eight hours of sleep a night to be properly rested. Parenting IS about sacrifice so if it’s not lack of proper rest, it’s lack of finances. If it isn’t lack of finances, it’s lack of time to spend alone with spouse so the relationship doesn’t drift apart because the couple don’t know each other because all they talk about is the kids.

  10. I used to wear make-up on a pretty consistent basis in high school, but quit sometime in college I think. My reasons for not wearing make-up are as follows:

    1. More often than not I forget it’s there and rub my eyes and smear it all over the place.
    2. Takes too much time out of my day to do – time I could be spending either asleep, doing something else productive, or spending time with family.
    3. I’d much rather someone say to me on a random (and very infrequent) make-up day, wow, you look especially nice today. Rather than someone saying on a non-make-up day, “Wow, are you ok? You don’t look so good.”

    Now especially that I have a daughter, I don’t want her growing up to think she has to wear make-up at least from my perspective. I know she will see plenty of peers and others doing so, and she’ll probably want to try it, but at least she’ll have the most important female figure in her life giving her a make-up free role-model.

  11. I’m in college and the only makeup I’ve ever known is a bit of kohl/eye liner. That, too, started as a sort of peer thing but went onto become a part of me(you know, the kohl-ridden eyes thing). So much so that my college friends had never seen me without kohl till a few weeks back. I just decided to go sans kohl and was met with all sorts of questions from “have you been crying?” to “did you not sleep last night?” to “you don’t look like a girl anymore!”.

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