photo: Ymijan Baftijari, Vivala

It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I was allowed to start wearing makeup — my mom begged me to put a little bit on and my dad was completely against it. I was only allowed to use black eyeliner and I was thrilled with that. I was going through my “emo” phase so I piled on the off-brand dollar store black pencil liner as if there was no tomorrow. I didn’t go beyond black eyeliner until my junior year in high school — the combination of my skin breaking out and learning about makeup came at the best and worst time.

As my skin became more irritated — it was oily, acne-prone, and scarred from said acne — I began to pile on makeup in order to hide my facial flaws. My mom had always ingrained in me to, “put a little bit of mascara and lipstick on” before I left the house to look presentable, and she definitely stressed this even more when my skin was acting up. She was known for always wearing makeup no matter where she went — from the grocery store to dinners, she always had her "face on.” Of course I listened to her and went all out with my makeup routine. Pretty soon I became obsessed with how I looked with makeup on and I would get  upset anytime my face was bare.

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Anytime I’d go out, I’d make sure to bake in an extra half hour to make sure I could doll myself up with layers and layers of foundation, concealer, powder — the works. It made me feel better because my flaws were camouflaged, it made my mom happy, and I even got compliments from strangers sometimes. I never got the same positive response when going sans makeup, which took my obsession to the next level.

It was only a matter of time before I realized my skin problems were only getting worse by piling on product. I knew I had to let my skin breathe. It was difficult to walk out into the public without anything on, but I had to do it and I did. And guess what? My skin started clearing up and I was starting to feel happy again. Even though I was so self-conscious, I needed to face my demons in order to get my skin right.

photo: Ymijan Baftijari, Vivala

My mom wasn’t a fan of my new approach to skin-care and was not shy about letting me know how much better I would look if I had a little bit of blush on or some lipstick on. I didn’t know it then, but she was teaching me that the only way to look pretty and presentable was if I had makeup on. As I grew up, I realized that I was hiding underneath all the makeup and using it as a crutch. So I kept my natural look for a while, and when my skin cleared up completely, I could experiment with makeup once again. I was finally appreciating makeup as a way to express myself and highlight my features instead of putting on a mask to hide behind. It made my mom smile to see me get back into makeup, but I made a conscious effort to go bare-faced when I visited her. We weren’t seeing eye-to-eye, but I refused to think that in order to look presentable, I needed a full face of makeup.

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Even though I know in my heart she was coming from a good place, I couldn’t give in to her mentality and views on makeup. She was raised a certain way and wanted my sister and I to follow suit. Constantly feeling the pressure to look good by covering myself in makeup was something I learned — but it wasn’t what I wanted to keep doing. I grew to love the art form of applying different makeup looks and being able to transform myself with simple cosmetics — but I stopped letting it control my life.  

Makeup is a powerful set of tools that can empower you or leave you defeated. There are days — even weeks — where I’ll wear a full face because I simply feel like it. It comes down to me doing this because I want to, and not because I feel the pressure from my mom — or anyone else.  As years have passed on, she gets where I’m coming from but still sneaks in a comment here and there — it doesn’t bother me anymore because I’m finally confident in the skin I’m in. I feel like I’ll always be in a love/hate relationship with makeup because of my history with it, but that’s okay too.

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