How The No-Makeup Makeup Look Really Made Me Feel

As with most things, the no-makeup makeup beauty trend wasn't something I was completely convinced about, but after I tried it I couldn't stop thinking of the lessons I learned. It all started when my friend Tom invited me out to a let’s-be-tourists-in-our-own-city Saturday. He just got a new camera and wanted to spend an afternoon poking around downtown Chicago, sitting on park benches, eating cupcakes at chi-chi bakeries, staring up at 100-year-old buildings and trying to imagine how the busy streets looked in the bustling ‘30s, and stopping at every bridge to look down at the river and watch water taxis float by.

It was going to be one of those perfect spring Saturdays — one that ends with an exhausted plop on a fancy bar stool, drinking a martini that fizzes. But that’s just it: It was going to be a really long day, even if a fun one. And a long day calls for minimal, breathable things on your back. Or else someone’s going to get cranky halfway through and call herself a cab because she can’t deal with this belt digging into her sides any longer.

So while at first I entertained the thought of wearing something legging-esque (I know, revoke my style license right now), I came to a brilliant thought: I’ll try out that no-makeup makeup beauty trend that has been floating around. If you haven’t heard of it yet, just think Alexa Chung without makeup. Which, of course, does not equal me and you without makeup. But you get the idea.

It ties in with the minimalism movement that is quickly starting to become the defining trend of 2015: Less is more, and the less you have the more beautiful and content you’ll feel. Clothing has taken a neutral, unfussy turn, focusing on clean lines and sharp details rather than tumbling patterns and popping colors. It’s all about "loose:" loose culotte pants, loose shift dresses, loose boxy tops. Added to that, people have committed themselves into pairing down their closets, completely convinced of the pros of a capsule wardrobe, and now its beauty's turn, taking a fresh-faced, natural path.

Rather than having your hair in expert curls or pin straight falls, you’re encouraged to have a mussed-up I-woke-up-like-dis look, with air-dried hair and slightly messy bangs. Skin is to look bare with no blush and bronzer, and eyes are just touched up with a few coats of mascara and a tiny flick of eyeliner. Natural. Bare faced. The real you.

And to some, that’s terrifying. Myself included! I know how I look at the end of the day when my makeup starts wearing off. Let’s just say I don’t go out of my way to lock eyes with cute guys passing me on the steps to the train.

But with a long day ahead of me of walking to about every corner of Chicago, I decided to give it a go. And I discovered a few surprising things along the way.

First off, let’s talk about how I usually look and dress. I don’t go out like it’s Prom 2015 every day, but I like to have my hair in flirty curls and I would rather go outside pants-less than without eyeliner. I like to dress in layers and in fussy vintage, and I feel wonderful and on-point when I have a lot going on in my look. Bring on the textures, the colors, and the accessories, I say.

Jumping into the non-beauty look with both feet, I did a complete 180 with my style and went completely bare-faced and simple. A shift polka dot skirt on my hips, a simple black sweater on my back, and hair in natural, loose waves. The only thing I focused on was my foundation, making sure it had a dewy glow to it so I didn't look like I woke up and decided to just head out without a care. I added in a swipe of mascara to make my eyes look awake and a dab of soft rose lipstick for more of the feel of primping than the need for color. And how did I feel?

Well, it varied.

Throughout the day I felt wonderfully... free. When I have a full face on and feel attractive, I feel too aware of the fact. Every woman can relate to this: When you look good, you feel like everyone around you knows it. It seems that my presentation takes up too much space in my mind and I fuss with how my hair falls on my shoulders and straighten a skewed necklace or an uneven sleeve. I notice caught glances and have a tendency to do a quick side eye when I pass windows. It's a healthy dose of vanity, but it's one extra thing to weigh you down during the day.

But with this simple, clean look, I didn't have the urge to do any of that.

I only had three things on: A skirt, a sweater, and shoes. There was nothing to fidget with. With my hair, it was in its natural, wavy state, so I didn't have the urge to fluff it or smooth it down when the wind got its hands into it. And when I was making out with my cupcake later on in the afternoon in the bakery, it was wonderful not worrying if my lip liner was peeking through my lipstick or smudged halfway down my chin. I wasn't bogged down thinking of what I looked like, what others thought of me, and of what tiny mishaps I could fix.

I also really enjoyed how I felt more connected to myself. When I would do a quick stop in a bathroom and glance in the mirror, it was me staring back. 100 percent me. The same me that does finger guns at herself in the morning, before she's put through her own version of Hair and Makeup. It was slightly surprising and completely comforting. It made me notice the real lines of my face — the true curves and colors of everything I had to offer. Nothing was highlighted, contoured, hidden, or darkened. It was just me, in my most honest form. And the kicker?

I didn't look all that different from the primped version of myself.

That was the big takeaway from the experiment. Sure, my eyes look more noticeable with a cat eye, and my hair has a flounce to it when its been sitting in hair curlers. My mouth packs more of a punch in red and my cheeks have a glow to them when they're dusted with a bit of bronzer. We all know that — that's why each of us has an ungodly messy drawer designated for the stuff in our bathroom.

But the cool thing I've discovered while going a full day nearly bare faced and simply dressed is that I still look rather the same without most of it. The eyes are there, brown and smiling. My lips might look more noticeable in red, but would I say they look better? My hair has more bounce to it once it's been hair sprayed into oblivion... but don't the air-dried waves frame my face the same way? The features look different when played with, but would I say they look better when they're painted and underlined? To me, really looking at them now, they looked the same.

Primping and highlighting what we have is fun, and it makes us feel beautiful. But in by trying out the non-beauty trend I learned that that's not the only kind of beautiful I can be. The absence of makeup and a look-at-me-dress is not the opposite of beautiful. It's also not a quieter version of beautiful. It's not more subdued or hushed. It's just a completely different kind, standing on its own level. Which is not something I thought previously.

If you need a reason to try it, try it to see what I found: That the lipstick-wearing, eyeliner-flicked, sun-kissed version of yourself isn't all that different from the bare faced version. The beauty is the same — the colors are the only things that are different.

Images: Author's Own; Giphy