That’s it, I’m Going Naked! (I’m Living Make-Up Free, and I’m Here to Tell the Tale)

Naked Nettles

I’m going naked. That’s right, nude. Completely unadorned and unfettered. What I’m talking about isn’t illegal, but it is taboo, at least where I live.

I’m talking about going without make-up.

A few weeks ago I read a rant in my favorite feminist blog about a campaign coordinated by the  BBC’s annual Children In Need, which sponsored models to go without make-up. In public. The horror. It got me to thinking about cosmetics in the context of socially enforced beauty standards.

Many of us are aware of the toxins in our commercialized beauty products. And after recently watching The Story Of Cosmetics by Annie Leonard, I’ve been even further put off by the cosmetics industry.

However, it wasn’t either of these very compelling arguments that prompted my decision to never wear make-up, it was something my five-year-old daughter told me. We were washing the dishes last week and she turned to me out of the blue and said,

“Mama, you’re ugly without make up. Why don’t you ever wear it?”

The emotions and thoughts that raced through me were broad and intense. I was devastated that she thought I was ugly. I was angry at whatever outside source may have penetrated my heavy parental (and feminist) filtration. I felt defensive (hey, I’m not ugly!), and insecure, (am I?)

Her statement also prompted unsettling feelings from  my own childhood and how I had viewed my mother as unattractive. It was all very mixed up and confusing, but I had to act quickly. I could see that she was carefully gauging my reaction and it felt like one of those critical, possibly even defining moments. It turns out that it was, for me anyway.

I took a moment to make sure there was no hurt in my voice and then I told her, “I’m sorry you think that. It wasn’t nice for you to say, but I know you weren’t trying to hurt my feelings. I must say that I completely disagree with you. I am beautiful, inside and out.

She didn’t respond, and to be honest, I don’t think she is convinced. She has her own ideas of beauty separate from mine, and I just don’t measure up. I can’t take it personally. I have to ask myself what is more important: that my daughter sees me as physically beautiful, or that she sees me as confident and comfortable in my own skin?

I realize that despite the television ads, billboards and even peer pressure, I am my daughter’s strongest female role model. She will ultimately look to me for guidance, even when she does not completely agree with me. If I had gone running straight for the eye-shadow and blush, it would have sent a strong message that I define myself by my looks, and that her disapproval of me was serious enough to change my standard practice (I stopped wearing make up regularly a year ago).

Therefore, I have decided to rebel against my daughter. I am going to do the opposite of what she thinks I should do. Not because she pushed my buttons, but because I want her to know that my priority is for me to be happy with the way I look – not for others to be happy with it.

Although I have not worn make-up regularly for over a year, my online images showed me wearing it. I took a new bare-faced photo that looks pleasing enough and I uploaded it my Facebook and Google profiles. I put my few cosmetics in the back of a closet, only to be brought out for super special occasions, like weddings, so that I don’t attract too many stares. I’m making a point here, that I love the way I look even with my wrinkles and spotty skin, not to mention a notable lack of eyebrows and pale eye lashes.

There are other things that I am doing to teach my daughter about the integrity of inner beauty, but I also want to be careful not to undermine her own personal values. I refuse to say negative things about make-up, because I know that she likes it.

The message I want her to learn is to be confident in who she is, and if I put down something that she feels is wonderful, I would be putting her down as well – and that would be an ugly thing to do.


Destany Fenton, Author of They Are All of Me
Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.

Photo Credits

Gaylon Keeling

14 Responses to That’s it, I’m Going Naked! (I’m Living Make-Up Free, and I’m Here to Tell the Tale)

  1. Andrea  

    Great post – I agree with your sentiment. The great thing about raising kids is that we are able to see them develop into their own person and develop their own views on things. Your decision not to show her how hurt you were by her statement, but instead show her that you respect her opinion yet disagree was the right move. Your little one will grow up respecting the fact that she has a mama who is strong, confident and beautiful!

    • Destany Fenton

      Thanks Andrea! It’s amazing how young people are when they begin developing their own ideas and opinions. Letting my kids know that their opinions are valid is sometimes challenging, but I believe it will help them grow in confidence.

  2. Jenny  

    Wow! That is a tough situation to navigate. I’m pretty sure I would have said the wrong thing in the heat of the moment. My relationship with makeup has changed over the years. In high school I always felt naked and embarrassed without at least a little makeup. It was an awful way to feel. Now I go most days without it, but if I’m going out with my husband or to a roller derby event or some other outing, I usually put it on. I was raised in the south where the older women have been known to say “honey, you look so GOOD with makeup and high heels on, why don’t you wear them all the time?” I hate that. I’d like people to regularly see me the way I really am, and then occasionally see me in makeup when I’m feeling fancy. And I want my daughters to know that they don’t have to wear makeup (or anything painful or troublesome) just to be presentable. It’s just for self-expression and fun!

    • Destany Fenton

      Jenny, I too used to never go out without make up and felt embarrassed if I did. I agree, it’s an awful way to feel! You are spot on about make up being best used for self expression. I wish more people viewed it as such instead of mandatory for a woman to look “her best.”

    • Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      I know exactly what you mean! Here’s why I don’t wear makeup. A big part of it is realizing what a bunch of lies I had internalized growing up in a town where a female over age 12 who was seen in public without makeup was gossiped about and considered A FAILURE AS A WOMAN–and that where I am now, hardly anyone feels that way, so there is no need for me to act like my bare face is unacceptable. You’re right, it’s a terrible feeling.

      • Destany Fenton

        Thanks so much for that link, Jenny! It’s a really great read and says a lot about the expectations of women to wear – or not wear make up. I never considered that it would be a regional thing, but now that you mention it! Gender expectations certainly are different from one place to the next. Great article!

  3. Jessica Parsons

    The example you set for your kids is such a strong motivator!

    On the same topic, this is still hanging around as one of my most visited posts…

    • Destany Fenton

      Thank you Jessica! Your post is fantastic, and thanks for reminding me of all of the other good I’m doing footer the planet and animals, besides myself and my daughter.

  4. Momma Jorje  

    Wonderful post! I stopped wearing makeup a few years ago and no longer even own any! My teenager has lots of it and wears it for fun. Sometimes its to look girly, but more often its to dress up like a character.

    I don’t feel the need to wear makeup for even special occasions since giving it up. I don’t miss it. It never occurs to me that I’m lacking makeup. Hm. I never really thought about that.

  5. Amy Phoenix  

    “confident and comfortable in my own skin ” – yes, yes, yes!

    Continue on, Destany. 🙂

  6. mari

    oh, i cried! this is so beautiful. my partner hates my hair, my kids picked up on that and tell me i look weird. it’s so hard to be strong and feel beautiful under scrutiny. i love your verbal response to her, especially considering the range and intensity of emotions you were feeling. thank you so much for this post. we are all beautiful. it is SO hard to keep the mother-filter in place as the kids get older. they are exposed to more when they are not around me, not only to opinions of people they love, but also to more ads and social pressures. this is so well-written. i appreciate your honesty and your decision.

    • Destany Fenton

      Thank you very much Mari, I’m glad to know that others find this helpful. You are so right that it can be difficult to know how to respond appropriately in those moments!

  7. Jennifer Shelby  

    good for you. I’ve only ever worn make-up once, as a bridesmaid, and I wanted to claw it off within a half hour. Now 34, I know a lot of people think I ‘should’ wear make-up, but I really have very little interest in it and, like you said, the toxins alone are nasty. Thing is, the reason I’ve never worn it is because my mom said I had to wait till I was 18. By the time I was 18, I was living on my own for two years, and never had the money to even try it out. It was my normal, and it always has been. Eventually I started realizing more and more that I didn’t like the way people wearing make-up looked, to the point where now I think it’s just gross, all caked on there and looking almost as strange as people with botox. You’re so much more YOU without it, I wish more people stopped hiding their beautiful faces behind masks of make-up; I wish they weren’t afraid to let people see them for who they really are

    • Destany Fenton

      Thank you Jennifer! I agree we should celebrate our own personal beauty more. I know that many women use make up as an art form, a means of expressing themselves, but I had always used to make myself more acceptable looking. The last time I wore it felt very strange. I’m much more comfortable with out it nowadays!