you & me

Barefaced and Flawless: Embracing the Perfection of Natural Beauty.



Recently, Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup and the world freaked out.

One headline read, “Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup and the world is still having a hard time adjusting.” I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Really?! Why is she getting this kind of reaction? It’s not a big deal! But then I started thinking about it, and to be totally honest with you, makeup is kind of a big deal to me. I love makeup. No, seriously, I love it.

I love buying it, putting it on, reading about it, and watching YouTube videos about application and techniques. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. I. Love. It.

Before I had kids, I wouldn’t leave the house without a completely made-up face. Today, however, things are a little different. I have a five-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year old. I barely have enough time to shower, let alone spend any significant time in front of the mirror with a mascara wand and a tube of lipstick.

So, more and more frequently, I find myself venturing out into the world completely fresh faced, without a trace of makeup. And, truthfully, in those situations, I feel naked. Exposed. Vulnerable. I make less eye contact. I’m less likely to start up a conversation.

But… why?

The more I thought about it, the more defiant I felt. I consider myself to be a feminist, and the fact that I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin bothered me. It bothered me that I felt more confident with eyeliner and lipstick painted on my face than without.

I started to appreciate Alicia Keys’ feelings on the subject when she said, “… I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

So I contacted a bunch of my girlfriends and this is what we did:

We got together, completely barefaced and natural.

And we were photographed.

We were photographed in our true, un-touched-up, imperfect, fresh state.

It was awkward.

And uncomfortable.

But then, we started opening up about how we were feeling and there were comments like, “I wouldn’t even know you weren’t wearing makeup; you’re just naturally beautiful,” and “My husband would prefer all of you just like you are now.” We talked and laughed about how similarly we felt and how we are all so damn critical of ourselves.

We commented on each other’s beauty, both inward and outward. We lifted each other up, and the awkwardness faded into empathy. A kinship formed, and an unspoken message emanated from us and declared, “We are beautiful women who should, who deserve, who need to feel comfortable in our own skin.”

Comfortable when we’re in heels and lipstick and a push-up bra, comfortable when we’re in sweats with our hair tied back, comfortable when the bags under our eyes tell the world we’ve been up all night with a sick baby.

Then we put on makeup and were photographed again.

Some of us breathed a sigh of relief as we expertly applied concealer, and some of us questioned how to put on eyeliner.

At the end of our little experiment, we walked away with this message: Wear makeup or don’t, but whatever you choose, do it with your head held high. See, part of being a feminist is realizing it’s your choice to do whatever it is that makes you You. You don’t have to swear off makeup to be a feminist, just as you don’t have to wear it to be one either.

It’s about being confident and comfortable as You choose to define yourself, whether it’s in pink frilly lace and mile-long lashes, or jeans and a t-shirt and ponytail. That’s the beauty of it. You get to choose who you want to be.

After all, our flaws make us flawless.

Our imperfections make us perfect.

Our truth and vulnerability make us beautiful.

Here we are.


“I can honestly say I didn’t expect to feel as raw and vulnerable as I did in my own skin. Part of my day-to-day ritual is ‘putting my face on, and doing my hair’. It makes me feel confident and put together. The experience of being with this amazing group of women meant more than just not having makeup on. We complimented each other. Saw things in the other that I think when we look at ourselves, we just don’t see. That raw, untouched beauty. A bond was built in that room. I’m beyond grateful for the experience. I know that with or without makeup, I shine bright, from within, first!” ~ Michelle Tomlin


“Dear Lord, I am bigger than I thought. I do not notice a huge difference between them. But what I do see and do remember is what an amazing day I had. Being with some amazing women who do nothing but lift each other up. I look at the pictures and I get the happiest feeling as it is now a memory of a great day.” ~ Keri Guerra


“This photo shoot was fun. I can’t say I have a dramatic reaction to seeing the two photos side by side, other than a bit of a good laugh. I put makeup on all the time, but I also spend most of my days with nothing but a bit of mascara and lip balm. I might be in the minority, but I’m comfortable either way. The only thing I regret somewhat is wearing my glasses for the ‘un-made-up’ photo — or perhaps, not wearing them in the made-up photo. I don’t want to send the message that it’s not worth getting dolled up if you’re wearing glasses, but I guess at the time I wanted to go for as much contrast between the two photos as possible. I also feel like I may have tried too hard just for the purposes of this shoot. I was a bit heavy-handed with my made-up look, although I still like it. Looking at the photo in black and white especially gives me a vintage, old-timey look, which is a bit cool. But it’s not my look most of the time, even when I do makeup. In any event, I like the fact that I’m okay with who I am and what I look like, no matter what I do or don’t do with cosmetics.” ~ Melanie Dunn


“Own that shit.” ~ Lynsey May Propeck Eno


“Some of us preferred a more natural look, while myself and others felt more comfortable dolled up. Either way, everyone was genuinely beautiful. Inside and out. I am honored to have been a part of this inspiring movement fueled by feminism. Thankful to be walking away from this experience with a stronger sense of self and some great new relationships!” ~ Erin Brogan


“I look like me in the ‘un-made-up’ one. It’s what I was expecting. It’s what I look like every day. I was worried about the one with makeup because I don’t know how to apply makeup. I was pleasantly surprised that I looked decent and like an adult!” ~ Katie Rangel


“Great experience. Even though I was the oldest, I just felt like one of the girls.” ~ Carolyn Todd


“Whatever I’m wearing, I am who I am.” ~ Sarah Herrick


“The only lasting beauty is the beauty of the heart.” ~ Rumi

“But thank goodness for makeup.” ~ Jessica Hendrickson


“You don’t have to change a thing; the world could change its heart.” ~ Alessia Cara

Susan Vollano


“Makeup is a mask we wear for ourselves, largely invisible to others. It adds a boost of confidence when needed, or allows us to hide behind a version of ourselves that we most want to be at any given moment. The things I’ll always most remember about someone is their warmth or their sense of humor… long after what my mind even remembers about their physical appearance. I’ve realized that what makes us uniquely beautiful is the truth in our vulnerability. How freeing it is to just come as you are.” ~ Christen LaRochelle

Photography by Ed Rudman.


JessicaHendricksonJessica Hendrickson is a writer for Connecticut Working Moms and makes an effort to live every day by their mantra, “Let’s Love More and Judge Less.”  She believes whole heartedly in teaching kindness through actions and living life with compassion and love.  You can follow her crazy adventures trying to navigate life post-divorce as a mother of two boys at CTWorkingMoms.


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