I haven’t “worn makeup” in over ten years. It was something I was so relieved to break free from after college, years of trying to alter my face and cover up horrible acne.
Once I got used to it it became one of those basic identifiers as a woman. There are girls out there who wear make up, and there’s traits that go along with them, then there’s girls who don’t wear makeup, and their traits are all about breaking the rules because they’re soooo fucking nonchalant!!!! Or that’s at least what I started to tell myself when I turned 22 and began my normal faced journey.
I’ve been so happy to not have a beauty routine since I ditched foundation and Los Angeles, and it’s been a such a part of my lifestyle (or lackthereof) since. But something has happened in my 32nd year of life. There are bags under my eyes that I can’t get rid of. I stare at them in the mirror for 10 minutes every morning. It’s the only thing I notice when I facetime someone. Dark, heavy circles that appear to be consuming my eyeballs like a sinkhole in Manhattan. I generally like how I look. I feel confident in my body and my soul which is something I’ve worked years to achieve so I’m finding it terribly rude that my face would go do this to me now! Couldn’t I have a few more years of feeling fulfilled?!
I texted my sister Courtney—who loves makeup and is very good at it and as a matter of fact was so good at it that when I was growing up I was dying to look like her so I copied everything she did in order to feel like a woman, including putting a lot of purple eyeshadow on before begging my mom for designer jeans—I texted her and said “Okay that’s it I’m actually upset about the dark circles under my eyes, what do I do please help me.”
I genuinely thought she would have this great self help life hack, this wise answer that included serums and cucumbers and collagen pills. I’m not in on the beauty industry but those seem like the main products on the gram. To my horrifying surprise, she wrote back, “That’s actually the one thing you can’t do much about. You can sleep more, drink water, and put a little under eye corrector on.” I do sleep. I do drink water. Heck, I even moisturize.
I read the message three times. Was she serious? The only answer was in fact… makeup?
This was devastating news. So much happens in your 30s. Hangovers are much worse, suddenly you have a bad back, your stmoach can barely handle anything out of the ordinary, but I didn’t think I’d actually find myself considering wearing makeup again!
It’s been my proud statement at dinner parties, nail salons, and film panels. I, Hilary Campbell, don’t wear make up. It’s like my whole identity as a feminist! My face is not only OUT THERE, but it’s totally real! Unaltered! RAWWWWWWWW. I AM WOMAN!!!! When someone brings up beauty routines, I can laugh and go “oh ya know, stick my head under the sink?”
And yet there I was, in my bathroom before heading to The New Yorker 98th Anniversary Party, knowing photos would be taken, and I was upset about the circles under my eyes. Couple in any bad lighting and I knew my eyes would disappear. And of course there was going to be very bad lighting.
So I did it. I reached under the counter into the makeup bag that I only own for film shoots and I pulled out the under eye corrector. I can’t lie. I felt better about myself and it felt so friggin sacreligious! Am I fraud? A massive hypocrite? Let it be known I otherwise only had on a little mascara and simple lipstick, but still, I felt myself entering a new era of adulthood. One filled with stress, regret, and again, bad lighting.
I recently figured out the password to my deactivated wordpress blog that I wrote in constantly during my early 20s, and found this essay I wrote that led up to me stopping my relationship with makeup. It’s titled “Are You Tired?” and details the wild drama of me getting a sty in my eye and every one of my employers commenting how tired I looked when the truth was, I just didn’t have any makeup on. Here’s a little excerpt that truly made me LOL by the end…
I called Boss #1, "Do you know any eye doctors?" "Only on the East Side, and you probably couldn't get in today. Go to the hospital." I was raised by doctors so I know better than that. I refuse to wait around in ERs when I can go to a specialist. I called Boss #2, "Do you know any eye doctors?" She did. She gave me a number, but they didn't have any openings! How terrible! They're going to refer me to a doctor in Burbank. Great, wonderful, thank you. Now I'm on the phone with Burbank. Appointment at 1:30.
But it's 11 now. I'm supposed to be at work. Do I have to go? I can't put on any make-up, my eye is swollen! But it's not a serious pain, so I should go to work.
"You look tired." "I know, I don't have any make up on and there is something wrong with my eye." "Why did you come in? Go home." I was trying to be responsible! I came in with an infected eye! And you told me I looked tired.
I waited for what felt like forever in the eye doctor's office without the eye doctor. Was she ever coming in? If I was home my father would have had this taken care of immediately. Again, raised in a medical family means I have no patience. I want help and I want it now. Every time I'm near medical people I feel the need to tell them "My father is a doctor." As if it's going to force them to treat me better than every other patient.
Finally she arrived. "You look very tired." You're the doctor! You of all people should know I'm not tired! I just don't have any make up on, because of this eye, that you need to fix right now.
"You have a stye, they're very common." You want to know what causes styes? You won't believe it. Make-up.
"When you don't properly take off all of your make-up it can clog the ducts along the water line and then this pocket forms underneath your eye..." First of all, I clean off my make-up every night. I promise. Second, you've got to be kidding me. Make-up? Make-up is supposed to help you and now here I am with a stye and getting called "tired" left and right.
I was given strict instructions to wash my eye 2-3 times a day after applying a warm compress. What does this mean for the next week of my life? I cannot wear make-up.
You've got to be kidding me.
I arrive at job #2 for the day. "You look so tired." "I don't have any make up on." Can we all just continue working?
Job #3, I volunteer for the storytelling program The Moth (where I also tell stories), but that night I wasn't picked to tell a story. The producer remarked, "It's better you didn't get picked, you look exhausted."
I KNOW I LOOK TIRED I DON'T HAVE ANY MAKE UP ON THIS IS WHAT I NORMALLY LOOK LIKE.
By the end of that year I abandoned makeup fully and became a woman I thought I never could be. Someone who appreciated my own beauty, simply on its own. I used to see carefree women on the street and would think I could never be like her, I could never be that confident. The irony was that I was someone who struggled with acne for so many years, was on and off Acutane thinking it would save me, and all I needed to do all along was stop wearing makeup. My face cleared right up. I started to get compliments on my great skin. It was wild.
I had a thought just last week as I walked down Greenpoint avenue, in a fun jacket, holding a coffee, headed toward the train, feeling pretty friggin fine with myself… I realized, I have become the woman I used to admire. It felt really nice.
And then it was all taken away from me because these dark circles are driving me insane and I’ve succumbed to the Sephora expenses I’ve avoided for so long. But today I’m still vowing to myself… under eye corrector — and NOTHING MORE!
Thank you for reading! New posts every Friday!
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I so loved reading this. And I snorted into my coffee reading your long-lost WordPress essay, so good! 👏🏼
Yeah the make up thing. But ya know what is also a factor? Routine! Our bodies respond favourably to routines. There times and ways of applying make up and moisturizer that need to be consistent same with hair. I used to follow routine maintainance for face, hair and body all to great effect. When you slack off for whatever reason it shows. If looks are important to you then do the work. Simple As That' 😊 Stick with it cause your body doesn't immediately respond