Let’s Break Up, Makeup

Once upon a time, going out into the world without makeup was unthinkable.

It was perhaps a Wednesday or Thursday evening, I don’t remember if this conversation took place on the phone or via text. What I’m certain is the change in my life onward…

He: Really, you are beautiful without makeup.

Me: Ya ya, of course you’d say that. You don’t know what it’s like without it, the insecurity. I don’t think makeup is bad if it boosts my confidence.

He: Hmm… *thought for a moment* you know, I told you my mom was a makeup artist, right? I think I’m the only person who’s seen her without makeup… everyday she’d wake up 2 hours before to do makeup so by the time I was awake, she would be ready to walk me. Perhaps the divorce made her feel insecure… but she passed away not knowing how beautiful she looked barefaced.

Me: … *vision became blurry*

He: I just remember every morning seeing her sitting in front of the vanity table… her back towards me and her face reflected in the mirror…

Silence fell as he trailed off.

Me: Whatever your intention is for sharing the story, it’s more effective than simply telling me that I’m beautiful without makeup.

Photo by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash


It is not that I have not gone to work without makeup. Once, I woke up late and did not have much choice.

The insecurity I felt the entire day made me vow to set at least two alarms.

I would not leave my desk unless it was absolutely necessary. Watching the clock ticking, I sat in my chair with anxiety praying that no one would approach for conversations.

Murphy’s law. It just so happened that there was an urgent technical difficulty with my project and I had to speak to someone in-person. With lighting speed, I rushed to the other end of the office where the technology team sat.


Me: Hey, I need help with this ticket. I just send the ticket number on chat. Can you take a look? Thank you! *keeping my face down without looking too suspicious*

As I turned and was ready to walk back…

He: Um, hi Iris? Is this how you greet a friend? Or are we just “coworkers” now? *jokingly*

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash


Still thinking about my friend’s mom, I stayed fixed to the chair and carefully examined the bottles of YSL lips stains on my table.

Out of nowhere, a surge of energy coursed through my body, determination perhaps.


As usual, I was the first on my team to be in the office. Without interruption, I find this time to be the most productive…

She: Hey, morning! *dropped her lunchbox on the desk behind me*

Me: Morning! How was your commute? *swivelled my chair around*

She: Snow not plowed but I managed. *paused* You look different today… you seem pale?

Me: Haha, yes, I’m not wearing much makeup other than mascara and eyebrow pencil.

She: Oh wow, you look so much younger like this! Very different from your usual bold lip colours.

Me: Ya I’m still getting used to this look… feeling a bit weird looking at myself in the mirror.

She: Hmm I can see why. The change is pretty dramatic considering you had full makeup just yesterday. What made you change overnight?

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash


Two years had passed.

Now I walk out of the condo elevator without a second glance at the walled mirrors.

From losing the foundation, contouring palette and lip stains to a zero makeup barefaced look, the process had me struggled in front of the table mirror every morning.

I never thought it possible. My self-identity no longer depends on how attractive I appear.


Of course, sometimes, I slip.

From time to time, insecure thoughts would creep into my head when I see beautifully made-up women walking confidently on the streets.

I let the feeling sink in knowing that it would pass.

Photo by Rodan Can on Unsplash


Dear Makeup,

You had empowered me. I’ve felt strong and assertive with your help.

So I’m sorry to have to say this, your service is no longer required.

From now on, I will support my self-esteem with what’s in my head and what I can do with my two hands.

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