How many times a day do you look in the mirror, including flipping the camera on your phone and peeping at yourself in windows, spoons and other reflective surfaces? Five times a day? More than 10? In many ways, the mirror is the life-saving instrument we use to ensure we're still okay from a superficial perspective. It's what alerts us that we've got lipstick on our teeth or that the part in our hair needs some sprucing. The mirror can highlight everything that's beautiful about our appearance, but it also has a way of magnifying our flaws when we stand in front of it asking questions for too long. Beyond the the question of whether or not you can embrace your flaws, could you live without a mirror? How would we do our makeup? Personally, I wanted to find out what it would be like to go a week without using a mirror to put on my makeup.
This experiment started as a fun way to see what kind of a hot mess I'd look like if I had to put on my makeup everyday without the mirror to guide me, but it turned into a surprisingly eye-opening exercise that made me realize just how much I obsess over the small flaws I notice in my reflection. For seven days sans mirror, I tried seven different makeup looks using different beauty supplies each day. In addition to uncovering a serious eyelash curler phobia I thought I had overcome by now, I realized that the little flaws we nitpick seem a lot less devastating when you take the mirror away.
I wanted to start Day 1 with something easy. Aside from touching up my lip gloss or applying some tinted moisturizer, I've never put on makeup without a mirror in front of me. I'm not that girl who can braid her hair or apply eyeliner without staring at herself in the mirror and neurotically overanalyzing every step. Prior to this experiment, I didn't realize just how many mirrors I have around the house. It felt weird purposely avoiding seeing my reflection to put on my face, and it was actually quite challenging finding somewhere to hide from myself. I ended up setting up my makeshift vanity on an ottoman in my living room.
The process was strange, like I was putting makeup on for the very first time again. It felt a bit like having amnesia; I had to relearn how to correctly use my makeup brushes without the aid of the mirror to guide my hand. Even with all the same tools at my disposal that I've been using for years, applying my makeup completely blind was a lot different without the aid of my compact. Is it bad that I have no idea where my eyelids begin or end? Is that something a normal person should know?
When I finally saw what I looked like, I noticed several imperfections: My eyeshadow hadn't been blended well near the outer corner of my eye, my eyeliner wasn't as close to my lash line as it usually is, and my blush was a bit overdone. Despite those little flaws, I was proud of myself. I applied everything without a mirror, and I didn't look completely terrible.
On Day 2, I still felt like I was getting the hang of mirror-less makeup application, but I wanted to add the challenge of curling my eyelashes. This was probably the scariest part of this experiment, and it would probably crack the top 30 list of my Most Terrifying Things I've Attempted In Life. I think we're all generally prepared for the possibility of pinching when we curl our lashes, but when there's a whole mirror in front of you, you have your entire face to look at to distract you. You also feel like you're in control of those lash pincers of doom. When there's no mirror, all you see is this metal clamp coming straight for your eyeball, and it feels a lot like that sense of impending doom you have at the eye doctor waiting for the dreaded glaucoma test.
Maybe the eyelash curler set a bad precedent, but I was using a thicker mascara brush on Day 2 and felt significantly more intimidated. Having felt its wrath before, I know that mascara can be dangerous, but with that messy, black wand headed for my eyelashes, I was straight up scared. I could go down in history as the first woman to go to the emergency room for taking too much mascara to the eyeball. Perhaps equally mortifying: I could have really bad clumps. To my surprise, I survived it all once again, and with minimal mishaps.
Let's move on to Day 3. My little mirror-less makeup station in the living room was beginning to feel like home. Day 3 was the day I realized I'm not comfortable wielding an eyeliner pencil anywhere near my bottom lashes without some reasonable assurance I'm not going to draw on my eyeball. Okay, that's a lie. I missed the mark. Even though I was well below where I normally apply my eyeliner, it didn't seem like such a big deal. It didn't look bad bad, am I right?
Day 4 shook my confidence. I decided to try applying brow filler powder without a mirror, and I discovered that even though I spend what feels like an eternity plucking my brows every other week, I'm not able to visualize them well enough to fill them in without looking like a third grader who colors outside the lines. Fate did not want me to have perfectly shaped brows on this day. My eyeliner also smeared, and I realized why I never wear that eyeshadow shade (we have since parted ways).
After the challenges of Day 4, I decided on Day 5 that it was time to finally attempt the perfect smokey eye. I used a little too much shadow, and it definitely wasn't blended as expertly as I usually would have in front of the mirror, but I loved how my makeup turned out on this day. This mirror-less smokey eye actually turned out better than smokey eyes I've attempted in front of the mirror. Was it perfect? No. Was I still satisfied with how I looked? Definitely.
My makeup from Day 6 is my second favorite from this week of mirror-less makeup application. I wanted to do a plum-colored eye with shimmery eyeshadow, purple eyeliner, and plum-tinted mascara. Since everything I was using was brightly pigmented, I thought every little mistake was going to seem a lot more obvious than my mishaps on previous days, but everything actually came together really nicely. I found that it was easier to fake a perfect line with the purple eyeliner rather than the dense black. Not too shabby for no mirror!
On Day 7, I knew I had to try my hand at a mirror-less liquid eyeliner application and a bold lip. The liquid eyeliner felt very wet as I aimlessly smeared it on my eyelid, hoping I was somewhere in the neighborhood of my lash line. I wasn't too far off, but I know if I had a mirror in front of me while drawing such a jagged line I would've insisted on removing all my makeup and starting over. My lipstick and eye makeup definitely weren't at the same standard as they would be with a mirror to look at, but I didn't look ridiculous.
So what was the point of risking the safety of my eyeballs? Well, it made me realize that the mirror has a way of making things seem a lot more important than they are. We value the reflection of ourselves more than we value how we feel sometimes. Have you even had a really great time with your friends, gone to check your makeup, realized your mascara was smeared everywhere and hated life for the rest of the night because "who knows how long you looked bad?" I have.
Maybe ignorance really is bliss when it comes to beauty, because reflections have a way changing your perception of yourself. All those horrible beauty mistakes we battle in front of the mirror seemed surprisingly less disastrous when I applied makeup without seeing my reflection until afterward. It made me realize that perhaps I spend too much in front of the mirror trying to appease those reflection gods. Sure, having eyeliner that's equally thick on both eyes is nice, but is it worth spending 15 extra minutes in front of the mirror second guessing myself and finding more and more "imperfections" the longer I stare at myself? Going mirror-less made me appreciate the vulnerable, shaky-handed beauty that we often overlook in the pursuit of perfection.
Images: Author's Own; Giphy