I have a confession to make: two years ago, you would have never caught me in public without a full face of makeup. No matter if I was swinging by the grocery store to pick up a few essentials or hitting up the gym, I’d take time to cover up my imperfections. Sadly it was quite a bit of them, from active acne and scars to redness and freckles I didn’t like. My commitment to sporting foundation, blush, mascara and lipstick 24/7 was something my friends teased me about and a sore spot in my self-confidence. I dreamt of having the kind of complexion that called for the hashtag #iwokeuplikethis: flawless, radiant, clear and gorgeous. Instead, what I felt like I had was dull, complicated and porous skin that my husband loved, but only because he loved me.
Then, as the story goes, the pandemic happened. And my once super-busy routine dwindled into endless hours confined to the walls of our apartment. Without happy hours to attend, fitness classes to work up a sweat or anything to do, my makeup gradually became less. And though I had convinced myself that the cause of my breakouts was due to my hormones — and not my makeup — I started noticing a shift in my complexion.
My pores didn’t seem as clogged or inflamed. The texture was smoother, the appearance more vibrant. And with less to cover up, when I did wear makeup, I didn’t apply as much. I also noticed that I broke out if I applied any makeup and then wore my face mask on top. However, if I didn’t, my skin stayed the same.
And thus, with less makeup, my skin was happier, and I gradually worked up the courage to go bare face in public.
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Though it may not seem like a big deal to those who rarely wear more than eyeliner, for me, the mere thought of not having my flaws concealed was anxiety-inducing. But with a glowy complexion, I felt more confident. Also, without layers of foundation, powder and contour, I felt — and looked — younger. The benefits of makeup-free skin are plenty. I’m still a firm believer in doing whatever feels right to you, but should you have the opportunity to wear a little less, give it a chance. You may be surprised and discover your natural pores aren’t so bad after all. And without the caked-on makeup, your skin could become happier, too.
Here, I spoke with skincare experts about the benefits of makeup-free skin:
Your skin can breathe.
Most generally (and most obviously), when you stop wearing makeup, you apply less extraneous product to your skin, thus letting it breathe better, explains Dr. Luigi L. Polla, dermatologist and founder of Forever Institut and Alchimie Forever. “Depending on the skin type, this will result in fewer breakouts, less oiliness, and an overall more healthy complexion”.
Your skin can readjust to its natural balance.
While you may not realize it when you’re going through your routine, makeup disrupts the natural balance of our skin. How so? When makeup sits on the surface of our skin, it changes our skin’s natural algorithm of oil production, pH balance, and its renewal process, explains Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, a board-certified nurse practitioner, aesthetic specialist and the owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa.
“By going makeup-free, we enable more oxygen to be delivered to the skin, helping to boost our skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin and to repair itself naturally,” she explains. Plus, when we eliminate the occlusive barrier that makeup forms on our skin’s surface, Coppola says our skin can regulate its natural rhythm of oil and sebum production, allowing for more balanced and hydrated skin that can become smoother and more supple.
You won’t be adding oxidants to your skin.
Colored makeup (think: foundation with hues that match your skin, lipstick, eyeshadow, etc.) is created from metal oxides. Or, more specifically, iron oxides, which aren’t good news for your pores. As Dr. Polla explains, when using makeup that contains iron oxides, you increase the levels of oxidants in your skin, which accelerates the aging process. However, the opposite is true when you use a toner or a serum with antioxidants, which, as their name suggests, neutralize free radicals — aka, oxidants. Thus, not wearing makeup but having a healthy skincare routine will improve your skin’s overall texture and radiance.
You’ll have fewer breakouts.
Coppola explains that many makeup products — particularly heavier formulations such as creams and emollient-based formulations — form an unnatural barrier on the skin’s surface. “This can cause oil, sebum, dirt and bacteria to become trapped, leading to clogged pores and breakouts,” she continues. “Plus, constantly opening and applying makeup by accessing containers and using makeup brushed daily increases the likelihood for bacteria to grow in these products and become transferred to our skin, increasing the risk for breakouts.”
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