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Makeup Free for 40 Days: 5 Things I Learned

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent

It was late February and Lent was quickly approaching. 

Lent is a season of fasting and deep reflection that mirrors Jesus' 40 days spent fasting in the desert in anticipation of the hardest test of his time on earth: his radical, self-sacrificial death on the cross. For many Christians, the practice of giving something up is meant both to remind us of the immensity of Christ's sacrifice and to keep us rooted in spiritual disciplines that help us let go of material things and focus on what matters.

I had been feeling guilty about a few recent expensive makeup purchases and had some eye irritation as the result of a new eyeshadow, so makeup was on my mind. It seemed like the natural thing to give up. I've never worn a lot of makeup, not because of any moral stance but more out of a sense of lazy-ness. I also have easily irritated eyes, so heavy eye makeup is out of the question. When I told a few friends I had given up makeup for Lent, the response was mostly: "Do you even wear makeup?"

But see, this test wasn't about others' perceptions of me. It was about my perception of myself, right down to the core of my identity.

What I Learned When I Gave Up Makeup for Lent

1. Makeup is a security blanket

One of my friends, an older woman named Mary, passed away a few weeks ago. When I got the phone call, the first thing I thought was "I wish I was wearing makeup." The shock of grief hit me square in the face and I just wanted to wrap myself up in something and feel safe. Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that makeup was about security, but I guess I felt like, if everything else was going to be wrong in the world, at least my pores would look small. It sounds trivial, but I can see how it's mixed up in lots of legitimate emotions.

2. People don't notice your flaws the way you do

Aside from one rather observant - and absurdly critical - volunteer, no one commented on my face at all. If I mentioned to a friend that I had gone makeup-free, they would universally tell me that they hadn't noticed a change. Of course, I could see the minor differences, but that eventually stopped bothering me as time wore on.

3. Flaws are human, and I shouldn't have to apologize for them

When I was a teenager, I remember reading an article in a fashion magazine on the topic of the best concealers. The author measured the efficacy of the product by how "awake" she looked in meetings after a long night of work the day before. It occurred to me then that the burden shouldn't fall on her to look perfect if she was being overworked. If you're tired, why aren't you allowed to look tired?

Seeing my skin without makeup made me acutely aware of the way my skin reddens when I'm nervous, the largeness of the pores around my nose, and the dark circles I get when I haven't slept well. It was oddly freeing to accept my skin in that state, to call it good.

4. My body tells me what it needs

On a related note, being able to see the sunburns and pimples and dark circles made me want to do right by my skin by treating my whole body better. I focused on getting rest, drinking water, and using nourishing skincare products to improve my skin rather than covering up the issues. I also tackled some recurring health concerns by making sure I was getting enough protein and taking probiotics. I feel much better because I learned to pay attention.

5. It's ok to have rituals

One of the things I missed the most about my daily makeup application was the ritual. I liked being able to focus in on my skin, paying attention to the nooks and crannies of my face as I applied powder and blush, carefully curling my lashes before applying mascara, and tracing my lips with tinted balm. But I got my tattoo about a week into Lent, so the process of caring for it became a new ritual.

Framing my routine as a ritual made me more observant of the other little things that help me start and end my days, like boiling water for pour-overs and herbal tea, applying lotion, even shaving my legs. These tactile things we do add a great deal of meaning even when they mostly go unnoticed.

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent

So what's the game plan now?

I wore makeup on Easter morning and it felt weird. I had expected to love the return to normalcy, but I actually felt less like myself with makeup on after all of those days without it. For now, I've eliminated tinted moisturizer, powder, and eyeshadow completely. I've reintegrated light blush and my beloved Glossier Boy Brow. I've found that my lashes stay curled all day if I don't add any mascara, so I've said goodbye to mascara, as well.

It's really satisfying to have arrived at this place of confidence and renewed self awareness. Until the last week of Lent, I was still complaining about going makeup-free, but now I feel good in my own skin. And, though I know it shouldn't be about others, it's satisfying to know that people who care about you really don't care if you're wearing makeup or not.



The Moral Wardrobe: Put a Scarf on It

ethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarf
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted (similar); Sandals - Betula (similar); Scarf - thrifted; Watch - c/o The Fourth Gentlemen

I'm so glad the adorable, 1950s scarf thing is back in, because it makes every outfit look just a little more elegant. And it means that I can make an outfit I've worn in some form or the other for 2+ years look current with minimal effort.

We've had several large donations come in at the thrift shop due to the passing of a few stylish ladies. I was close to one of them, Mary, and I enjoyed feeling close with her again through the process of sorting her clothes. I never met the other woman, but she had very good taste in scarves, so I purchased three of them. Some people are turned off by the idea that they're wearing things that belonged to dead people, but I like to think a part of them can live on through the thoughtful re-wearing of their belongings. Material goods meant something to the people who collected them, and there's no reason to discount that. I honor those passed by mingling my own sense of style with theirs.

Sometimes it feels like they aren't even gone, just away for a little while.

A Watch for the Ages: The Fourth Gentlemen Uses Sustainable Bamboo + Cork

The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review
This post was sponsored by The Fourth Gentleman and I received an item for review.

There are very few low impact, low maintenance raw materials in this world. 

Plants like wood and cotton will regenerate by themselves to a point, but it can take years of proper nourishment and appropriate weather conditions to create a thriving plant, not to mention tons of water and vigorous pest control. So, while it's undoubtedly true that planting trees and tending to organic cotton are good, necessary things for the health of the fashion industry and the planet, it's even better to seek out ecologically sound alternatives that require fewer resources during their cultivation.

That's why I'm really excited about The Fourth Gentlemen's line of bamboo and cork accessories. 

The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review

Bamboo, classified as a grass, is a great replacement for wood because it regenerates quickly, which means far less human intervention and natural resources are needed to sustain it. In fact, it can grow at a rate of up to 4 feet every 24 hours and can regenerate to its full height in 6 months, versus 30 to 50 years for a tree. It doesn't require large swaths of land to grow well, and continuous harvesting has been shown to improve, rather than degrade, the quality of the plant over time. Additionally, since bamboo stalks don't have to be uprooted during harvesting, cultivating bamboo can help prevent erosion.

Similarly, cork can be harvested without uprooting the tree it comes from, providing a stable and protected forest for native plants and animals, an essential refuge in a world that is suffering from increasingly dire deforestation and habitat loss.

Found primarily in the Mediterranean Basin of Europe and Africa, Cork Oak Forests are carefully managed to ensure long term sustainability. The first harvest is taken only after the tree reaches maturity at 25 to 30 years of age and each subsequent harvest occurs every 9 to 13 years to ensure that the tree isn't damaged from over-stripping. As a material, cork is both elastic and water tight, making it suitable for all sorts of heavy duty uses, from flooring to shoes to insulation to wine corks.
  The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review

Accessories company, The Fourth Gentlemen, works exclusively with cork and bamboo because they believe that conscious consumer models should be true to their thoughtful premise through both the products they create and in their broader outlook, i.e. to be conscientious, you have to expand your intentional thinking to lots of different areas, not just your purchases.

To this end, The Fourth Gentlemen, in addition to using sustainable cork and bamboo in all of their products, plants 2 trees in deforested areas with each purchase, works with a well-regulated factory in China, and donates 10% of proceeds to the Himalayan Cataract Project to ensure that they can make the greatest impact, and hopefully encourage their customer base to live into their values in more abundant ways.

The Fourth Gentlemen sent me the Women's Bamboo Watch (retail price: $90) to review, and I'm really happy with it. I'm not one for bulky bracelets because they get in the way of writing blog posts and doing other computer work, but the soft, lightweight cork strap makes this easy to wear. The bamboo face is also understatedly beautiful and, though it doesn't have numbers, I haven't lost track of time yet while wearing it. The other important thing to mention is that this watch fits! I have very small (like child-small) wrists, but this watch has 7 notches on it, which is quite generous. The watch comes packaged in a little box, as shown in the site images, so it's ready to go as a gift, as well.

I'm glad to own a watch made out of sustainable materials, not just because I anticipate that it will help me keep time for years to come, but because it ensures that, in a small way, the world is left better off than before. And that gives me some measure of hope.


Shop The Fourth Gentlemen here. 

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