How to Go Makeup-Free: Helping Your Skin and the Environment

By Angela Tague in Thinking Sustainably

A few weeks ago, I sent a selfie to a friend. He mentioned he liked my everyday, clean-face look better than photos where I've applied makeup. I was surprised. I paused to see what he saw: my natural beauty. Under my go-to black eyeliner, cherry lipstick, and smokey eyes were cute freckles and the same warm, genuine smile. So, I decided to explore how to go makeup-free on occasion and still feel just as attractive.

3 Personal Reasons to Consider Going Makeup-Free

As I've transitioned to a minimalist, natural approach to what I put in my cosmetics bag, I've noticed some perks.

  1. I'm spending less. I used to think I needed layers of primer, foundation, and concealer before applying a little color to make my eyes and cheeks pop. It's not true. My new, go-to minimalist makeup combo is just eyeliner and lip color. Simple and economical.
  2. My skin is clearer. After wearing less makeup and even going without it some days, I've noticed fewer skin irritations pop up. My T-zone is generally pretty even, neither oily nor dry, but once I layer on foundation, powder, blush, and eye shadow, my pores get clogged and rebel in the form of blackheads and pimples.
  3. My natural glow shines through. Recently, I've decided to forgo any makeup and let the natural sunny days add a little color to my face. I'm noticing the ambient red flushing of my cheeks after a brisk walk. The sparkle in my eyes during a happy moment stands out more when not surrounded by eye shadow. For me, a healthy, happy glow feels prettier than any makeup I could apply.

Angela no makeup

The Environmental Impact of Cosmetics

As it turns out, learning how to go makeup-free isn't just good for my finances, skin care, and mood. Being mindful of the makeup I choose also has an effect on the world around me. My transition to using fewer cosmetics led me to wonder, is makeup bad for the environment?

A study performed by Rutgers University found that key ingredients used to make sunscreens and cosmetics were present in the sludge produced by sewage treatment plants. When wastewater is processed, some of the ingredients create new contaminants that then enter our waterways. This can have a negative impact on human and aquatic life.

Speaking of ingredients, did you know there are plastics added to cosmetics, too? In a report from the IVM Institute for Environmental Studies, I learned that microplastics—tiny particles of plastic, usually smaller than a millimeter in size—are used to regulate the viscosity of cosmetics, condition the skin, and stabilize emulsions in beauty products, among other things. When we wash the products containing them off in the shower or sink, they find their way into our wastewater streams, and eventually the sea. And there they stay. They may take centuries to fully decompose, according to the report. Although we don't know the full impact of microplastics on the environment, we do know they are negatively affecting ocean life, including certain species' filtration systems and immunological processes.

What can we do today? First, step up our recycling. You may diligently put cardboard packaging materials in the recycling bin—but now, I challenge you to look into recycling washed plastic mascara wands, spent plastic makeup brushes, and old cosmetics containers. TerraCycle, an upcycling and recycling company, offers free collection programs via mail with several companies (including a partnership with Tom's of Maine) to make the recycling process easier!

Assortment of makeup

How to Go Makeup-Free with Baby Steps

Does easing up on your makeup routine sound enticing? It's very manageable, especially when you take baby steps. Here's what I've been doing—maybe some of these ideas will work for you, too.

  • Remove one product from your routine. I started with ditching an all-over face foundation or powder. At first, I missed my flawless, smooth complexion. But slowly, I grew to love my natural skin's shading and seasonal freckles. Can you think of a product you might be able to skip next time you reach for the makeup bag?
  • Try earth tones. Next, I started playing with earth tone eye shadows. The array of tans and browns were a seamless touch that made me feel put together without being overdone. Once I got used to the minimalist look, it was easier to go makeup-free occasionally because the shift was so subtle.
  • Evaluate your skin care plan. When your skin is naturally healthy, you'll feel more confident going makeup-free. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says using fewer products can help you avoid skin irritation. The AAD also recommends focusing on the basics: a gentle cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer. And I agree—after cleaning my face in an evening bath, I use jojoba oil to remove cosmetics and lingering sunscreen and gently moisturize my face.
  • Take care of you. I notice fewer under-eye bags, a more even skin tone, less puffiness, and fewer blemishes when I'm being mindful of my personal needs. This includes getting enough sleep, eating fresh produce, meditating, journaling, drinking ample water, and taking other proactive steps to reduce stress in my life. A study published in the journal Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets confirms my findings and even says skin is "an immediate stress perceiver." Stress can prompt various skin conditions, including acne.
  • Reduce blemishes naturally. When I want to reduce the appearance of blemishes without makeup, sometimes I turn to tea tree oil. According to the Mayo Clinic, a gel containing 5 percent or more of tea tree oil may be effective in helping to reduce breakouts and inflammation. And of course, you can still use makeup when needed. A dab of cover-up foundation over a blemish is A-OK!
  • Get positive feedback. As you begin loving your fresh-face look, snap a smiling selfie and post it on social media or text it to a trusted friend. Seeing and hearing positive feedback will help you realize your friends and family appreciate you for you—not for your makeup. Embrace the kindness and realize you are more than your signature look!

You can help the planet and boost your self-confidence simply by leaving your makeup bag tucked away a for a day or a week. Learn more about what's in your favorite products on the @tomsofmaine Ingredients from Nature board on Pinterest.

Image Sources: Pexels | Angela Tague | Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Taking a break from your usual makeup routine can give your skin a breather and lessen your impact on our waterways and landfills. As a bonus, you'll rediscover your natural beauty and smile even wider when you realize the people who love you think you're amazing with or without makeup.