Many of our habits have changed since the pandemic started. While some were inevitable and necessary, other adjustments were more personal and introspective. For some, it’s learning the true value of physical human connection. For others, it’s closing a chapter of one’s life and opening another. For 27-year-old content creator Bea and 24-year-old freelance writer Roxette, reassessing their makeup habits led them to embrace self-love and self-empowerment.
What started as practicality evolved into a journey filled with overcoming fears and insecurities. Opting not to wear makeup seemed logical because we’re all required to wear masks now. But with a small initiative here and a little push from a K-drama there, their perspectives about makeup — and their own natural beauty — changed for the better.
Makeup routines then and now
Bea had always loved makeup. She was influenced by her mum who “was really good at it.”
She described her old routine as something that “consisted of the basics” a.k.a. “concealer, brow gel, mascara, and lipstick”. If she’s in the mood for a little drama, eyeliners and glitter shadows went into the mix.
“I stopped wearing makeup when I couldn't go out anymore, so I blame the pandemic,” she joked. However, she explained, saying, “[The choice to stop wearing makeup] was more of a gradual process because, before, I was used to wearing makeup all the time for work.”
In a lengthy Instagram post, Bea also shared that the K-drama True Beauty (where the lead girl embraced her natural skin after covering it up for years with makeup) inspired her to make the move.
She’s proud to say that her last makeup purchase was last year. And even if she sees lots of ads promoting makeup on social media, she’s not as tempted to buy as she was before.
“If not my savings, my 'makeup budget' goes to K-pop merch,” said Bea.
For Roxette, the relationship with makeup is a little bit more “on and off”. She said she loves watching people play with it but thinks she lacks the skills to create more complex looks herself.
“My fastest routine is just using an eyebrow pencil on my brows and putting lipstick on my lips, cheeks, and eyelids. If I go a little extra, I'll put on real blush, a matte/shimmery eyeshadow on the lids, wear mascara, powder, and setting spray. I'm obsessed with clear mascara because of the no-makeup effect but it gives my lashes a lift.”
Roxette confessed that even prior to the pandemic, she’s had periods when she’d stopped wearing makeup, only to go back to it after a while. But as of March this year, her commitment to stop wearing makeup hit its peak; she’s cleared out her makeup stash. Aside from having no reason to wear it during the pandemic and choosing to take care of her skin more instead, she said she’s been inspired to keep things natural by celebrities like Alicia Keys.
She still browses makeup catalogues from time to time and watches makeup tutorials for fun. However, the money that used to go to makeup is now allocated to clothes, skincare or to her savings.
Embracing the beauty of a bare face
A long time ago, having a huge scar on her cheek, as well as marks from chickenpox made Roxette insecure. She was worried about what other people would think of her, so aside from wearing makeup, she also covered her face a lot by wearing hoodies.
Despite not being dependent on makeup to make her feel better, it became an outlet for her to feel a little bit better about herself. However, after the switch she made, she realised that there’s so much more to think about than being scared of showing one’s bare face.
“Wearing masks did somewhat affect this decision to purge my makeup, but if we do go back to a world where we can show our entire faces again, makeup isn't really my primary concern but rather my health in and out,” said Roxette. “Makeup, for me, should be optional and a means to show creativity. And just because you choose not to wear it anymore doesn't mean you have to stop appreciating it.”
Bea, on the other hand, shared that she’s been battling acne since she was 18 years old. It caused a strain in her relationship with her own skin; she used to “freeze up” when it came up in a conversation. This is despite her being a generally confident person.
She said that just like True Beauty’s Jugyeong, she’s always been okay showing her natural skin with people in her inner circle. But the fear of judgement from others always looms over, despite most of the worries being admittedly just in her head.
She wrote: “God tried to knock some sense into me through a line in the drama that had me sobbing one night: ‘Why are you scared to live with the face I gave you?’ That message kept me up until 3 in the morning.”
This moved her to grab her camera, take self-portraits, and see herself in a new light.
“I forced myself to confront the features I thought didn't fit our society's definition of beauty and realised, ‘Huh, they're not so bad after all,’" she said.
She added: “Since we're wearing masks all the time, I find it impractical to wear a ton of makeup outside. To be honest, I don't think I've ever felt this comfortable without any makeup if not for the pandemic. That said, yes, I'd still choose to not wear makeup even after all this is over.”
Not there yet, but getting better
One of Bea’s questions when she posted her ‘skin reveal’ photo was “Am I brave for posting this?” She quickly shot down her own question by answering ‘no’ and added that it’s merely taking the first step towards self-acceptance. It’s not something that should be considered extraordinary; it’s her facing her insecurities and loving herself more slowly but surely.
Going bare-faced is an everyday decision for me because I can always choose to cover it up, you know? My insecurities are still pretty much here. The only difference now is that I stopped letting them get to me,” she said.
Meanwhile, Roxette realised that as much as makeup is fun and exciting, it can also be quite restrictive since it requires her to touch up a lot or fuss too much about her appearance.
“It feels a bit narcissistic but now I don't mind going out with a bare face or a ‘woke-up-like-this’ look like I just literally rolled out of bed,” said Roxette.
With this, both of them agree that loving one’s skin — literally and figuratively — is not as easy as binning your old beauty products.
“As of now, I see no reason to wear makeup again,” said Roxette. However, she adds, “In the future, I'm considering getting eyebrow embroidery for a permanent brow makeup look, lash perms, or even a lip tattoo. So I only have to do it once and look like I'm wearing makeup forever.”
Still, she admitted that all of it might just be wishful thinking. “Even with all that said, I’m glad that I'm now comfortable with my current skin. And yes, I can say that now even if I know that it can still do a lot better,” she said.
As for Bea: “I do really love playing with makeup. I actually miss buying new ones. But after everything, I no longer see makeup as a 'crutch' for my flaws. So I figured, whether or not I wear it, I know now that I’d feel great either way.”
Using makeup to feel empowered is nothing to be ashamed of. Embracing one’s bare face is also not the ultimate indicator of confidence in one’s skin. We’re all just going through our own journey of embracing beauty the way we know it.