Bare-faced beauty: meet the women who go make-up free every day

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Anna Brech
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Imagine getting up in the morning but instead of spending 20 minutes putting your make-up on, you walk straight out the door. You don't stop to check your reflection on the way to work because there's no mascara to smudge. Your handbag and bathroom sides are a clutter-free zone as you don't own any cosmetics. And when you're gearing up for a big night out, lipstick and eyeliner don't even feature. There's no need to reach for the cleansing wipes come 2am or risk a mascara-flecked pillow.

Make-up is a social norm for many women and such an intrinsic part of our lives that we tend to forget quite how much time and effort we take to put it on, top it up and take it off, day after day. It's somehow accepted that putting on make-up (for women, at least) is just part of Making An Effort - indeed, the idea of going without is considered so controversial that it formed the basis of the #nomakeupselfie campaign on social media earlier this year.

We meet six women who have chosen to shrug off these unwritten rules by going without make-up on a regular basis. Some of these ladies have never worn make-up in their lives, others made a conscious decision to stop using it and still more found their need for it gradually eroding in the face of time constraints and lifestyle changes (for example, becoming a mum).

They speak to us about the challenges of not wearing make-up, and the benefits. Everyone agrees that going without make-up saves time and money, and many report having better skin as a result. But it seems to run deeper than that.

These women aren't anti make-up (they still use it now and again) but many of them regard it as a mask we use. And to take off that mask is a liberating and eye-opening event. As one says, "I have nothing to hide behind - I neither conceal nor enhance anything on my face."

Come read about their experiences:

"I hope my daughter will see that you can be happy and successful without make-up"

Bethany minus make-up, with her daughter

Bethany Wheatley, 31, is a digital strategy consultant and mum from Surrey. She stopped wearing make-up four years ago.

It wasn't initially a conscious decision not to wear make-up. I left a job in PR to do some renovation work on our house, so wearing make-up every day just wasn't something that made sense.

Once I stopped wearing it daily, I noticed that my skin improved and I stopped caring so much whether I had foundation on when I left the house. When I started a new office job, I did make the conscious decision to not wear foundation, concealer or powder and ended up just using mascara and, occasionally, some blush. Now, I have a two-year-old and work from home, so make-up is definitely not part of my daily ritual.

When I do put on make-up, even a basic routine ends up feeling like it takes forever. For me, the main benefit of going without is that my skin is clear. Another very nice side effect is that I can be ready to leave the house in under 10 minutes from the time that I wake up.

Not wearing make-up has saved me at least 15-20 minutes a morning. When I was working in an office, I used the time to sleep a bit longer. Now, I use it to have a quiet cup of coffee before my daughter wakes up.

My hero products are definitely the Eve Lom cleanser and Eve Lom tlc radiance cream. Having tried dozens of different face washes and moisturisers, these are definitely the best ones for keeping my skin fresh, glowing and feeling clean. I also always keep a tube of Max Factor False Lash Effect black mascara on hand in case I want a little boost.

Bethany with full make-up

In a professional sense, me not wearing make-up has never come up. My field is very male-dominated, and everyone I've worked with has been focused on results and not whether your face is made up. Personally, it's never been an issue and if anyone has noticed, in a positive or negative sense, they haven't mentioned it!

It's very liberating to walk out of the house without thinking about make-up. I'd definitely say that other women should give it a try if they're interested. I'm not anti-make-up at all, but since having my daughter I've become more aware of the pressures we put on girls and women to conform to society's standards of beauty, so I love the fact that she won't see me putting it on every day. I hope she'll see (in addition to me telling her!) that you can be happy, confident and successful without it.

I can't imagine going back to wearing a full face of it every day. But I'm not anti-make-up. I wear it when I get dressed up to go on dates with my husband and to parties, as well events like weddings.

"I am confident with the way I look because I have nothing to hide behind"

Roshni without make-up

Roshni Radia is a 26-year-old rights assistant for BBC Worldwide and lives in London. She has never worn make-up.

I never decided to wear make-up. It wasn't a conscious decision I made on a certain date. I just saw all these people (mainly women) wearing make-up and understood that I didn't want to do that.

I am trying to embrace unruly eyebrows! I am growing my eyebrows and they aren't growing at the same rate at the same time. I want to invest in an eyebrow pencil and get colouring on my face but at the same time, I am trying to just let them be unruly.

I also have a very shiny forehead. In all photos it glows as if wanting to get the attention of other life forms from space. Letting it glow is sometimes very hard.

I have never felt so pressured to wear a full face of make-up everyday as when I used to work for a fashion magazine. Though no one said anything I knew they were judging me by my face - if anything that was character-building but incredibly annoying.

I am very confident with the way I look because I have nothing to hide behind. This is not to say that wearing make-up decreases self-confidence - not at all. Just that if there is a spot, there is a spot. If there are dark circles then there are dark circles; I had a great time last night/no sleep. I neither hide nor enhance anything on my face and am even starting to accept my glowing forehead. Not wearing make-up also saves money!

Lipbalm is the one thing I can't be without. I like to try new ones and currently am using Burt's Bees lip balm with pomegranate oil. Not only does it taste amazing but it also lasts for ages.

Roshni after a Selfridges makeover

I have to use face cream because I refuse to have dry skin on my face. For everyday I use Johnson's natural face cream, which is amazing. I am also a huge runner and on days when there is some sun but not much I use Benefit's triple performing facial emulsion with SPF 15. It's really cooling and protects me from burning. On days when I run and the sun is very harsh, I use Lush's Million Dollar Moisturiser with SPF 30.

I once tried to dye my hair using hair chalk and that was a massive failure. My very dark hair had orange tips instead of red. Since then I haven't tried anything else. Because of this experience I've never tried doing anything to my eyelashes either - I don't think they can be any other colour than black.

I have had positive reactions especially in the morning when I look fresh and awake without needing to put any make-up on. Luckily, I have never had anyone say to me "you look tired/run down/terrible today". I would retort with, "that's because I am tired/run down/terrible today".

My advice would be to just try not wearing make-up. I would definitely recommend it! It isn't scary, it isn't daunting and it won't make you stand out like a beacon. So many people don't care if you wear make-up or not and you'll be surprised how many people also choose not to wear make-up.

I can put make up-on but I haven't mastered the art of making it show on photos. I was at a friend's wedding recently and wore eyeliner and eye shadow. I would wear make-up to events like that but even then in the pictures it looks like I have nothing on. Plus at this wedding there was so much dancing that by the end of it there was nothing left anyway; it had all sweated away. In the photos of me dancing my forehead is especially bright.

I was also in Selfridges once killing time before going to the theatre that evening and a woman from the make-up counter asked if she could make up my face. I thought 'why not?' and let her. The amount of product she put on my face to hide the bits of me that I quite like was shocking. When she finished and I left, I could feel the make-up sitting on my face. I was assured that it looked amazing (and it did) but I couldn't wait to get home that evening and take it all off.

"Why waste however many days a year smearing something on and off your skin?"

Gill in her usual mode, free of make-up

Gill Hoffs is a 35-year-old writer and mother from Warrington. It's been about 20 years since she properly wore make-up.

There wasn't a defining moment where I realised I didn't have to wear make-up to still feel like me, it wasn't a single conscious decision or some kind of watershed moment or idealistic awakening. Other people might see me as lazy but I think of myself as differently efficient. Why waste however many days a year smearing something on and off your skin and applying heat to your hair and clothing if you would rather spend that time following your passion or at least having fun? I went through a brief phase of wearing mascara and lilac eyeshadow daily as a teenager, but apart from that it's just never been something I often wear.

There's nothing hard about not wearing make-up - I'd find it way more problematic, a boring and (to me) pointless chore, to have to apply, then later on remove, make-up every day. And make sure I had the 'right' products on if it was hot or it rained. And that my favourites weren't discontinued or changed. And to be careful I didn't absent-mindedly rub my eyes and smear mascara all over my face. None of that appeals to me.

I think my skin is probably better for being exposed to fresh air, my bathroom is less cluttered than it would be with lots of cosmetics lying about (ditto my bag), and it saves a lot of money considering that the eyeshadow I bought when I was about 13, the blusher I purchased in 2001, and the concealer and lipstick I got for an important job interview in 2003 are still on the go.

My daily routine takes a couple of minutes at most. It consists of a pee, washing my hands with soap and my face with water, a squirt of deodorant, and a quick brush of my teeth. I suspect if I were to apply foundation, concealer, blusher, mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and do something with my hair then I'd be spending an additional half hour a day on something I really don't care about. And that's before I even start taking into account shopping for it, removing it, or looking for mirrors or reflective surfaces while I'm out. I cut and dye my own hair, refuse to iron anything, ever, and nothing has ever gone wrong for me because of it.

I'm quite obsessive about using lipbalm. I have at least one chapstick or pot on or with me at all times, but it's not for prettification purposes, it's because my lips crack and bleed without it. If I get dry patches on my face, especially in winter, I find Boots Protect & Perfect Serum really is perfect as it moisturizes my skin without making my skin break out. I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) so I tend to have a couple of spots at any one time and most moisturizers make them worse, but after watching The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, the documentary on the man with EB (Epidermolysis Bullosa) who died of skin cancer, I'm particularly aware of how privileged I am to have healthy, functioning skin.

Gill with make-up on

I'm sometimes given the side-eye by women in stores who are then a bit 'off' with me or overly slow if I ask for assistance with something - I was once ignored for a good five minutes by the counter assistants in an otherwise empty perfume shop when I was standing right in front of them at the till. And I'm sometimes treated as if I'm younger than I am or patronised a bit. Because of my so-fair-they're-invisible eyelashes and freckled skin I doubt very much that anyone could ever mistake my bare face for a made-up one.

But if someone is going to act funny with me because I don't fit with their ideas of what a woman should do with their hair and face then that is very much their problem, and I refuse to make it mine too.

I'm not anti-makeup by any means. Each to their own. Experiment with colours, wear lots, go without, whatever feels right for you. It's just not something that greatly appeals to me for my own face on many occasions.

To me the problem occurs if somebody feels they have to wear it, or alternatively they would like to wear it but feel shamed if they do. I love to see some of the effects that can be achieved with cosmetics, but would I want to spend three or four hours a week putting stuff on my face or in my hair then taking it off again at bedtime? I'd much rather be interacting with my little boy, writing, or reading.

I do tend to make-up at events, as a mixture of disguise and decoration. I wear mascara, blusher, concealer on my spots, and occasionally I wear lipstick to talks or book-signings. I want to show the people turning up to hear me talk about the topic of my book, the "Victorian Titanic", who may well be descendants of the people on board, that I take this subject and their time very seriously. And in the UK it's generally accepted that as a woman, covering or accentuating your features (depending on what you want to achieve and how you apply your cosmetics) shows you are Making An Effort.

I'll also be wearing it when I appear on TV and keeping my fingers crossed that it isn't raining when I do! Unfortunately wearing mascara means my eyelashes hit the lenses in my specs, and I feel a bit uncomfortable with the whole shebang, but if it's just for a few hours every once in a while then I don't really mind.

"I used eyeliner for the first time aged 32"

Kate au naturel

Kate Davies is a 34-year-old business manager and mum-of-one. She only ever uses make-up occasionally and go for weeks without wearing it.

I’ve never been a big make-up wearer. Even when I was young I never really learnt how to apply it properly. I only used eyeliner for the first time at 32. So where as some women spend most of their time with make-up on I’m the opposite, I usually spend most of the time without it on. I'm also quite pale so I've always been worried if I put on too much I’d end up looking orange.

You’re made to feel under-dressed without make-up in some situations as it's perceived as a social norm for women. For example, I would never go to an interview without make-up (even though I’m happy not to wear make-up at work) as I think it would affect my chances of getting the job.

It's so much easier as a working mum to get up in the morning, deal with all the baby stuff, have a shower and do my hair without having to do my make-up. The last thing I need to add to my list is a long drawn out make-up routine; I would never make it out of the house.

I always use moisturiser and lipbalm. If you just use those two products, you can build a really clean clear look that actually passes for the "no make-up, make-up" looks you see in magazines. Although with the sleepless nights [after having a baby] I have sometimes succumbed to using a lightening cream or Touche Eclat to hide the dark circles. I also get my eyebrows threaded which adds shape.

I do sometimes feel out of place and less glamorous if I’m in situations with a lot of women I don’t know all wearing make-up. No one ever says anything but sometimes you do get looks.

Kate with make-up on

My friends rarely notice as I been doing it for years and I’ve always looked this way. It's the same with my husband, we met in our teens so he has never really cared about the whole no make-up thing.

I do wear make-up at special events but that would only be tinned moisturiser with blusher, eye shadow and mascara with my lipbalm. I’m no good at eyeliner, lip liner, false eyelashes and bronzer always goes wrong.

Also, there are some days when I just feel like putting it on before I leave the house. Although with the baby, these are even rarer than they used to be.

It's really liberating going without make-up. You don’t have to do it all the time but even a couple times a week. It’s amazing how quickly people get used to see you without it.

"Make-up is a mask we put on to face the world - you have to believe in yourself enough not to wear it"

Sophie without make-up

Sophie Marette, 37, is the French managing director of Voulez-vous parler Ltd. She often goes without make-up for a few days at a time - or builds it up during the day - but hasn't given it up completely.

80% of the time, I will start with no make-up and might add some on in the train in the afternoon or evening on my way to London. Using make-up less often was not so much a decision, it just happened because of time constraints. I just don’t have the time to do the full thing in the morning.

The hardest thing about it is knowing you don’t always look your best and that some people are thinking you’re not making an effort - although nobody has ever said anything.

I save a huge amount of time in the morning and in the evening, as there is a lot less to remove. I also like the fact I don’t have to use as much make-up remover, cotton wool pads, Q-tips and water as I’m very aware of environmental issues and how much waste we create.

I probably save 20 minutes a day on average. In the morning, I sleep more, and this is really important for me as I work till late. In the evening, I can work or read for longer.

Wear colours that flatter you and always look after your teeth. Products I use are the Garnier BB miracle cream perfector in summer and the CC cream 123 Perfect by Bourjois when I have no tan. And to look awake, my Shu Uemura eyelash curlers really make a difference. This was a tip I picked up from Lisa Eldridge. I’m a big fan of beauty vlogs.

Sophie with make-up

I’m sure people notice as I look different without make-up, but nobody says anything. I find men don’t really care and don’t even see a difference. I’ve had so many occasions when I was wearing make-up and boyfriends thought I wasn’t wearing any. I think it’s a confidence thing, it’s a mask we’re putting on to face the world and you have to believe in yourself enough not to wear make-up. Not easy.

Remember that it’s OK to be without make-up. I’d definitely recommend doing it sometimes. Life isn’t going to change, and your friends and family aren’t going to stop loving you.

I’d definitely put make-up on when I do networking or for an important meeting. It’s as important as wearing nice shoes.

What do you think? Would you ever go without make-up? Or do you already rock a natural look? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @Stylistmagazine

Words: Anna Brech

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.