“Naked” face

I used to wear makeup every day–eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, primer, concealer. Before I went to work out or to sweaty hot yoga class, I would remove my makeup, using both ends on 3 Q-tips that would each become blackened.

During one particularly hot day in the third week of August 2014, I walked out of hot yoga class with slightly red eyelids. I thought it was a minor irritation and that it would go away in due time. It wasn’t particularly painful; just a little bit red and could easily be covered up using eye shadow. I continued to wear makeup and returned to hot yoga a few days later. This time, when I left, not only were my eyelids pink and puffy, but also the skin under my eyes and the eyebrow area. This time, it stung and burned.

Over the course of 2.5 months, each week, I would have a “flare-up.” The first month and a half was the worse. The skin around my eyes would become inflamed. It stretched tightly and burned. I couldn’t put in contact lenses because my eyes had swollen shut. I looked like a panda except instead of cute black rings around my eyes, I had painful swelling skin that would peel off after 4 days when the swelling started to subside, only to flare-up again the next week, in a tormenting and cynical cycle.

I had stopped going to hot yoga after the second intense “flare-up” and went to 2 different doctors and 1 dermatologist. Nobody could definitively diagnose me and each medical professional plus my parents and friends recommended a different remedy. I was toting around every kind of oral allergy pill and 4 kinds of different anti-inflammatory topical creams by the end of September.

Never did I want to simply be healthy again. Nothing else was important at all. I had completely let go of wearing any makeup and I didn’t care what my clothes looked like. I hid in frumpy sweats and fleeces. I didn’t want to hang out with my friends because I was embarrassed by my red puffy face. On really bad days, I couldn’t go outside because it was so painful. I missed 2 days of work as I stayed at home to ice my face.

Negative thoughts ran through my mind. Would this be my life? Would I be ugly forever? Would my skin peel off so many times that it would permanently scar my face? Will I ever step foot in a heated yoga room ever again?

It is unclear whether the drugs that I was prescribed helped. In October, the “flare-ups” started to become more mild–just little patches instead of a whole panda face transformation. However, I kept taking Claritin and Allegra, one in the morning, and one in the evening, just in case. I threw away all my makeup and opened an eBay account to find second homes for my expensive Sigma and Chanel brushes.

After 3 weeks of being “flare-up” free, I decided the first thing I had to do was return to Be Luminous Yoga studio. I never stopped practicing yoga (it’s the one thing that is guaranteed to make you feel better, regardless of how terrible your day is.) Instead, I was visiting studios across the city and found a couple non-heated studios in Capitol Hill with instructors that I liked. So it wasn’t the yoga I missed. It was the network of girls that I had befriended at Be Luminous that I missed the most.

My first foray back into hot yoga after a 3 month hiatus in November was successful. I knew whatever my body had been reacting to had disappeared and I was “cured.” But not only was I cured from this unknown, awful auto-immune disease, I was cured from my insecurity of what my naked face looks like. I was so happy that my face didn’t look diseased that I loved what my makeup-less, naked face looked like.

Most women never leave the house without a coat of mascara, eyeliner, and concealer. Makeup gives the illusion of wider, more alert eyes, and a fresher, younger face. I always thought the prettiest girls were the ones that didn’t wear makeup, but I couldn’t be one of those girls because my natural lashes are too short and sparse, and my skin, too blemished.

Makeup has always been an illusion for yourself. When Adriana Lima looks at you from the television screen with her enchanting and seductive eyes surrounded by a forest of thick Maybelline lashes, you feel that you can be as beautiful as Adriana if only you also use the same catwalk mascara. When you actually look at women wearing lots of makeup close up (such as at Disney princesses on our most recent trip to Walt Disney World this Christmas,) they hardly look beautiful. The lashes are often stuck together and the foundation is thick, cakey, uneven or rubbing off somewhere. The beautiful people that men and women notice in real life are the ones who have beaming smiles, take care of their bodies, and wear no makeup to hide their face.

I wish I could have loved my naked face years ago, starting from when I was a teenager, first playing with lip gloss. It would have saved me a lot of time and money and preserved my skin from unnecessary chemicals, tugging, and abrasion, that surely aged it faster. If you are a woman reading this, try going to the supermarket without any makeup on and smile at strangers. I guarantee you will feel free and happy.