I love makeup. I love wearing it, talking about it and writing about it. I enjoy discovering new products and figuring new ways to wear old ones. I mean, that’s why I’m a Beauty Editor.

So it’s no surprise that I come to work every day with at least some makeup on. Other than at home, the gym and right after a facial, I wear makeup pretty much everywhere—even to eat lunch at the kopitiam on the weekend. It makes me feel good and confident to face the world. It’s also an extra layer of defence, after sunscreen, against environmental aggressors. So when my colleagues challenged me to go a week without any makeup—even brow pencils and tinted lip balm were off-limits—I knew life would be hard.

Going Bare Face

I was so ready to cheat on the first day. Do my brows, at least. But I didn’t because that would defeat the purpose of this exercise.

I came in to work grumpy AF without any makeup—pretty much the same mood as someone who had just given up sugar. And I didn’t even realise it till a colleague pointed out that the reason could be because I wasn’t wearing any makeup.

Makeup is almost like candy for me. When I’m stressed or feeling low, I reach for makeup to make me feel better. Struggling to write an article? Put on some lipstick, and bam, the words begin to flow. Feeling a bit low? Put on my sparkly eyeshadow and I’d be in a better mood immediately.

I have always enjoyed wearing makeup, but I hadn’t realised how much I had come to depend on it.

Skincare routine, day.

You might think that not having to apply makeup would save me time in the morning. But in the absence of foundation or even a CC cream, I had to up my skincare game.

First, I included vitamin C—a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals caused by sun damage or pollution—in my skincare routine. Free radicals are rogue, unstable molecules that attach themselves to healthy cells in order to stabilise themselves, creating another unstable molecule in the process. It’s this domino effect that destroys collagen and elastin, and results in dull skin and fine lines. Antioxidants are able to donate electrons to stabilise free radicals while remaining stable themselves, thus stopping the damage.

Skincare routine, night.

I also ensured there were enough hydrating products so my skin’s natural defences were functioning optimally. I also included glycolic acid to ensure that every bit of dirt, gunk and dead skin was removed at the end of each day. That’s three more products on top of my usual skincare regime.

Day Three, basking in the glory of my PIH and spotty eyebrows.

By Day Two, which was a Saturday, I experienced some serious withdrawals symptoms. I decided to stay in because this bare face challenge thing had sucked any enthusiasm to head out—something I normally do on weekends. And not only was not wearing makeup cramping my social life, it was also affecting my social media posts. Since I wasn’t wearing any makeup, I didn’t have any content to put up. I was so grumpy that I didn’t even document the first two days of this challenge.

Makeup, Not Mask

The following week, I realised this was the worst time to do this bare face challenge. I had four client meetings to go to—all with makeup or skincare brands. I was also wearing marks from a recent breakout. But I could hide those with a clever side-part.

It was my spotty eyebrows that really bothered me. Having tweezed them within a line of their existence, a la Posh Spice in the early aughts, they’re spotty and patchy. Front and centre. There’s was no way of hiding them, and I was very conscious of that.

On Day Four, I spent the first 10 minutes of the meeting explaining why I wasn’t wearing any makeup, because I was greeted with quizzical looks.

Day 4, not happy at not being allowed to wear makeup.

And while I don’t think it should be mandatory to wear makeup to meetings of any kind, for me, it’s a sign of respect for the other person. In the same way you wouldn’t go to a meeting in pyjamas. On one occasion a colleague even wondered out loud as to why I wasn’t wearing makeup to one of the meetings.

The heartening part was that some of the clients thought I didn’t look bad at all. And more than a few people replied to my Intsa stories saying the same thing.

The thing is, I don’t wear makeup to hide behind it. My base makeup always provides medium coverage, and I’m OK when a bit of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation shows through. The reason why I wear makeup is simply because I enjoy the process of putting it on. For those 10 to 15 minutes, the world is shut out and I’m one with the colours and pigments. It’s a form of self-care for me.

Day Five, with some concealer. Because it’s also part of my job to try things.

By Day Five, I was over how my brows looked or the fact that there is a bit of redness on my nose, and decided that I was going to go on with my normal life and made plans to go to my favourite bar. I was secretly pleased that the lighting was low and moody. And maybe I was a bit emboldended because that was also the day I had to get shade matched for a review of a concealer, and had some under my eyes.

How it helped my skin

I was also curious to see if my skin condition would improve if I didn’t wear any makeup. People have this notion that wearing makeup will clog your pores and possibly cause you to break you out.

Unless a certain ingredient doesn’t agree with your skin, my belief is that cleansing is what matters. Since I no longer had to be wary about smudging my makeup, I found myself more prone to touching my face—another major cause for breakouts because your fingers touch everything and transfer the germs to your skin. Yikes!

Day Six, and still surviving the bare face challenge.

By Days Six and Seven, my skin was no better after a week of not using any makeup. In fact, my pores looked a bit bigger from the stress of being exposed to pollution and visible light for long hours.

Day Seven, happy that it was the last day of not wearing makeup.

And because I was layering so much skincare to compensate for not wearing makeup, my skin seemed more congested. I was still double-cleansing, since I wore a layer of sunscreen every single day of the bare face challenge.

And on the 8th day, I wore makeup.

When the Eighth Day came, I woke up and exclaimed, “I have to go do my makeup!” And just saying those words brought me so much joy.