I Took The 'Do Nothing' Beauty Challenge To See If It Would Help My Skin And Confidence, And Here's What Happened
I am rarely, if ever, caught without makeup. On an average day, I can easily spend 45 minutes getting ready. If I want to flat-iron or curl my hair, that's an additional 20.
I cleanse my face using a gentle wash, toner, and lotion. Next, I use Urban Decay's B6 Vitamin-Infused Complexion Prep Spray, Brightening and Tightening Complexion Primer, Ozone Lip Primer Pencil, and Anti-Aging Eyeshadow Primer Potion. For my face I use liquid foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, and highlighter. On my eyes I use eyeshadow, liquid liner, and mascara. Lips are usually just the primer plus a lipstick or gloss.
But lately, it seems that everywhere I look, there’s a new trick or beauty challenge promising to work wonders, from the Kylie Jenner lip challenge to the Lemon Water trend. All these experiments got me thinking: What if the best beauty routine has been under my nose all along? What if doing absolutely nothing to your face for a week is the biggest hack of all?
The more I thought about the idea, the whole “do nothing” concept was really beginning to grow on me. How many years did I try to drive with my knees so I could hurriedly apply mascara on my way to work? How many functions had I been late to because I needed to get my winged eyeliner even? The answer: too many.
I chose to take the plunge and take it all off. The rules were simple: I would only use gentle toner to cleanse my face (once in the morning, once before bed), wear no makeup of any kind, and most importantly, never use a filter on my pictures here. The stakes were high, but I was actually kind of excited to see what was in store.
How I Felt: It was quite strange seeing myself without makeup. Whenever I caught my reflection, I felt slightly taken aback. It had been years since I let my skin breathe for more than a day. So I wasn't surprised that my skin was oily and uneven from years of accidentally falling asleep with pounds of makeup on. The biggest shock was how I couldn't get over how naked and tired my eyes looked.
There was definitely a moment, when I was getting ready for work, that I contemplated not going through with the challenge. I work with children who are developmentally challenged, and I was anxious to see what their reaction would be. These children, much like most other kids, don't mince words. If you have a zit, they're gonna tell you.
How Other People Responded: On the first day, my husband said he couldn't really tell a difference, but I just figured he was just being a guy. Deep down, I was still nervous if he would begin to notice all the flaws that I was noticing.
Alas, I smushed my insecurities down and went to work. Surprisingly, none of my students said much about my appearance. The only comment I got was that one girl thought my blue eyes looked like "marbles".
How I Felt: As you can you see, I woke up with a lovely little blemish on the bottom of my chin. “That’s okay,” I told myself, “This is just making the challenge authentic!” Then after a few hours of seeing the zit, I truly debated ending the challenge early. But for you, dear readers, I persevered!
How Other People Responded: I clenched my teeth and smiled when a student asked, "WHAT'S THAT ON YOUR FACE??"quite loudly. Even when I tried to brush it off as nothing, the student was insistent. "NO! RIGHT THERE! WHAT IS THAT?" Feeling my face flush with embarrassment, I mumbled that it was a boo-boo.
Indeed, every time I discovered a new flaw, zit, or wrinkle in the mirror, it felt like a boo-boo. It hurt. The years of effort I had poured into perfecting my style easily disintegrated when I felt that same middle-school vulnerability creeping back in. "You're almost 30. Suck it up," I told myself.
How I Felt: The blemish was still there, but a little less noticeable. I was curious, though — was it less noticeable because I didn't care as much? Or was it healing faster because I wasn't doing anything to my face? Either way, it was the little boost of self-esteem that I needed to get me past the halfway mark of the challenge.
How Other People Responded: My husband commented that he thought I looked happier. He didn't say, "Your skin tone looks even," or, "Your lashes are so long." In fact, he didn't say anything about my appearance at all. He simply noticed that the changes occurring were on the inside.
How I Felt: Did my eyes deceive me, or did I actually have a little glow action going on? I had clearer, less oily skin. Maybe getting a little sweaty outside was the real reason I had the dewy look down. But I really did start to feel more confident sans makeup.
In fact, I no longer had my husband going to the store or running errands for me, as I had before in the first few days of the challenge because I was so self-conscious. I was going out, nary a drop of foundation in sight, and I couldn't care less.
How Other People Responded: On a trip to the grocery store with my son, the cashier said that we both had "such bright, blue eyes!" I had a little bounce in my step as we left and I gazed into my son's eyes. I truly saw myself in them.
How I Felt: Day five is when I really hit my stride. I stopped obsessively consulting the mirror and began to just go about my business — most of the time forgetting I was even taking a “do nothing” challenge. It was freeing. It saved me plenty of time when getting ready in the morning and I wasn't constantly having to retouch throughout the day.
Liberating is an understatement. I honestly felt like I wasn't counting down the days til the end of the challenge like I had been. With my looks occupying less space in my thoughts, I stopped noticing my flaws as much.
How Other People Responded: I can't remember.
How I Felt: Sure, I had another blemish forming, but who cares? Not me! My husband even noticed that I was carrying myself with more confidence — and he was right.
How Other People Responded: I had been so nervous at the beginning of the week about what comments I was going to receive about my look, but surprisingly, people rarely said anything. And on the occasion they did, it was actually positive.
For instance, I had to meet with my boss for a student's upcoming graduation, and she asked if I had done anything different to my hair. I said that I hadn't but was trying out a more natural style and she said, "Well whatever you're doing, it's working!" Even my sister, who'd be the first to give the harsh truth, thought my skin looked clearer!
How I Felt: I did it! I made it seven days without any makeup or zit cream! This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it had a HUGE impact on the way I perceived myself. For years, I had viewed makeup as a necessary tool to hide or correct whatever I felt was a flaw. Now I feel like makeup is a fun accessory that I can take or leave. I don't need it anymore.
How Other People Responded: Who cares?
So, was it worth it to go a whole week without doing anything to my face? Absolutely. Have I sworn off makeup or cleansers? No. I am, however, realizing that the only time I’m wearing makeup now is when I actually want to do it. I don’t feel the same pressure to “put on my face” before I walk out the door.
In the time since I finished the challenge, I've opted for lightweight powder foundation in lieu of the heavier feel of liquid, and I've noticed my skin doesn't break out as often as it did. Even the texture of my skin feels smoother now, too.
Perhaps the hugest impact this experiment has had on me was that it made me take a step back and look at my son. When that cashier said our eyes looked similar on Day 4, I couldn't help but see his big blue eyes look up at me. He's only a toddler, but I don't want him to grow up and let my superficial insecurities affect how he sees beauty in others. And so I will keep challenging myself — for both of us.
Images: Sarah Bunton