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Minimalist Make-up and Beauty

In my former life, I was a make-up queen. I was also very insecure and constantly worried about how I “should” look. Thinking back, this mind set was a waste of time, energy and money. Don’t get me wrong, I like looking good. But looking presentable doesn’t have to cost a lot of cash or damage one’s self-esteem.

Below are 3 strategies that helped me take my make-up off for good.

1. Buy less and love yourself.

Advertising promotes the idea that women “need” make-up, and anti-aging creams, to fit into a “conventional image”. Don’t believe this message. Instead, start buying and using less make-up.

At one time, I thought I needed make-up to look good. I finally realized I was slowly killing myself with negative thoughts. Living a simpler lifestyle has taught me to consider the impact of my choices. Rather than spending $50 (or more) every month on make-up, I’m putting that money in my savings account. It took me years to realize I don’t need to “look” a certain way. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.

2. Be aware of chemical additives in your products.

If you wear make-up be aware of the chemicals and additives in your products. Do some background research and question the products you apply to your body. Some questions to consider asking yourself include: Has your product been assessed for safety? Does your make-up contain carcinogens? Is your body absorbing make-up through the skin? The Good Guide posted an informative article on this topic:

Check the ingredient list for most makeup, from blush to lip plumper, and you’ll find “fragrance”, a trade-secret blend of chemical ingredients that often conceals strong toxins like phthalates and is often associated with allergies and immune system toxicity. You’ll also sometimes find the immune and organ system toxin, wildlife toxin, and possible carcinogen BHA, a masking agent found in lipstick, lip gloss, eye shadows and eyeliners. (BHA is banned for cosmetics use in the European Union due to health concerns.)

Foundations, concealers, mascara and other eye makeup often contain micronized titanium dioxide, a colorant, sunscreen agent, and possible carcinogen that opens up your skin to allow other chemicals to get in better and, because of its small size, is an inhalation risk.

Continue reading here.

3. Use a tiny make-up bag.

I use a very small personal care bag. Before I discovered small living, I carried around a small suit case that contained my make-up and hair products. Yikes! By purchasing a small personal care bag, I slowly limited the amount of personal care products I bough and carried with me on trips and to the gym.

A few thoughts…

These strategies worked really well for me. But in the end you have to decide what makes you happy and brings balance to your life. Wearing make-up isn’t a bad thing. If it adds joy to your life, apply away, but don’t buy additional products because you feel like you should “look” a certain way or have to conform to societal pressures.

Do you have anything to add?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Trish February 4, 2010, 7:20 am

    I agree with you, and I have recently done the same thing. Leaving a job in corporate America helped, too! However, I found that spending money buying clean, safe, natural makeup products that I *DO* still use works for me, so that when I do wear more makeup, I am not damaging my skin as much as I used to do. You made the most important point, though, be comfortable in your own skin!

  • Tina Smith February 4, 2010, 8:14 am

    I really like this article!! Huge fan of no make-up my whole life. I decided if I cant make it in my own kitchen with simple ingredients for pennies then I don’t need it. Same goes for most hair products, except I have a weakness for shampoo and conditioner (hard habit to break!!) but I promised myself when I run out of the huge overstock I have then I am going to go chemical free and as cheap as I can (I am betting my worst fears that it will look bad will actually turn out to just fear after all and I will be happier in the long run 🙂

  • Alejandro Reyes February 4, 2010, 8:29 am

    I’m happy I don’t have the need for makeup. I think sometimes girls look even better without it, or that they spend a lot of time, money and effort on it. Still to each their own. I guess the most valuable lesson is to learn how to love yourself. Make up won’t help it will just be an extra thing that can do good or bat to your own self-stem.

    Glad to hear your thoughts on this one, even when I’m not a real part of the debate. =)

  • Carrie February 4, 2010, 8:58 am

    hi! This was totally me many ears ago – when I was in college I couldn’t even leave my bedroom to go to any communal areas in the residence without putting on a full face of makeup first…I could always hear my mother in the back of my head saying “oh my God, you can’t go out looking like that (meaning makeup-free)”. I don’t think she even realized the message that we both internalized for years. As I got older, I realized “hey, this is what I look like and I’m completely OK with that”. I’m down to mascara and lipbalm/lipstick. I don’t worry about making the mailman scream-other than my hair sticking up a bit more than usual he’s just seeing what I usually look like! I’m not against enhancing what you have, but for me it seemed it was more about hiding who you were (grew up in a very disfunctional family that was all about hiding its secrets, and having to always wear makeup made me feel like I had to always hide who I was. To me, going without made me feel more honest/comfortable. My cousin feels the same way, though she was shamed for being vain/superficial for even wanting to wear makeup as a teen, but as an adult feels more comfortable/honest celebrating her beauty with some gorgeous cosmetics.) LOL – who thought that a minimalist approach could be found just by dropping the mental baggage attached to such small, pretty containers!

    • Sue June 3, 2010, 7:39 am

      I’m 50 and want to lesson the amazing amount of products I use daily. Eventually I hope to get down to some concealer and lip gloss. 🙂 I, too, heard the “You can’t go out like THAT!” comments from a long line of women overly concerned with their appearance. I love this website!!

  • Merry February 4, 2010, 9:14 am

    Thanks for this. I’m in the process of simplifying in preparation to moving to a smaller space. I’m trying out Everett Bogue’s idea of living with 100 things, and I am having trouble deciding what to do with my makeup. The bit about the chemical additives just made it much easier to let go of my conventional drugstore makeup. 🙂

  • Tabatha February 4, 2010, 9:14 am

    Wow, i was always way to lazy to use make up, and the few times i did try it i didn’t like it and it ended up being this huge hassle that was never worth it.

  • Lisa February 4, 2010, 10:20 am

    As a teenager I relied on makeup to make me beautiful and even won several beauty pageants. I think this made it even more difficult to give up because after all, who would I be without my mask? My low self image hid behind it. Through the years I’ve learned that my own opinion of myself is more important than what others might think of me. I’ve learned to love myself- warts and all! Today, I’m 51 and feel more beautiful than I ever did as a young woman. I seldom wear makeup because I don’t need it. Ditto for the shampoo and hair care stuff. About a year ago I decided to jump on the no (sham)poo bandwagon. Occasionally, I’ll use vinegar and/or baking soda but usually wash using plain water. After a couple of weeks, my hair’s pH balanced out. Now it’s in the best condition it’s ever been in my entire life. Ditch the chemicals, people!

  • Michelle Cross February 4, 2010, 12:03 pm

    I actually love the no-makeup look on other people, but I just wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around without it. I have a lot of redness on my cheeks and people always comment on it when I am not wearing makeup. The only good thing is that I will never need blush 🙂 I basically stick with my Colorescience all-in-one refillable powder that serves as my spf (I’m very pale, except in my cheeks) my foundation, and blemish cover-up, and my Lancome definicils mascara. I know I need to switch to a more natural brand of mascara, but I haven’t had good luck finding anything that looks as good, or stays on as well. Does anyone have any recommendations?
    Basically, I still feel that I am a minimalist with my products, but if the redness ever goes away I will have to try the bare skin thing again 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Rachel July 2, 2010, 2:39 pm

      Perhaps the redness in your cheeks is rosacea. Many dermatologists prescribe medicine to make it go away. It’s a bit of a hassle, but can be worth it if it means going without another routine.

      • Michelle July 3, 2010, 8:11 am

        Thanks for the suggestion Rachel! My mom has rosacea so I had it looked at as a teen and it turns out that I have something called keratosis pilaris which frequently gets misdiagnosed as rosacea, but is different. I am lucky that I have a super mild case where my skin is smooth, but I have a constant flushed-look in the cheeks, and tiny reddish dots on my upper arms.
        I am glad to hear that you found a prescription to help you with the rosacea! I know from watching my mom go through it that it can take a while to find something that works.
        Have a happy holiday!

    • nikki August 9, 2010, 11:21 pm

      try the 100% pure brand of mascara…I love it! It smells like blackberries and doesn’t bother my extremely sensitive eyes.

      • kim August 16, 2010, 12:25 am

        nikki – i’m glad you suggested the 100% pure brand of cosmetics. i’ve been looking for natural, vegan cosmetics for awhile and i hadn’t heard of this one!

  • Marie February 4, 2010, 12:13 pm

    Wish I could go completely without! I do when home, but use eyeliner & mascara at work to give my blonde eyelashes some color. On special occasions I use something to conceal my rosacea. I really hate having a red face in photos.
    Skin Deep is another good website that provides cosmetic safety information.

  • Lelly February 4, 2010, 3:42 pm

    Hey Tammy! I love the post! I’ve said for a long time that makeup only promotes self loathing. So I wear the least amount I can possibly get away with: mascara and MAYBE some eyeshadow. Plus I’m lazy.

    It’s nice to see that there are other ladies out there who are putting the warpaint down and learning to love themselves and their flaws. 🙂

    • Tammy February 4, 2010, 6:15 pm

      Thanks to all for leaving comments! It’s nice to know other ladies have given up make-up or wear it sparingly. At least I’m not alone. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading the blog!

  • Dyana Valentine February 4, 2010, 6:24 pm

    thank you SO much, Tammy–this is great–I’ve been on camera much more in the last year and have had all manner of “it’s time to wear makeup” advice–and lots of comments on my age! yikes. I have become committed to sunscreen, and am moving into understanding that HD video does require some tools of the trade (hoping for some basic advice on that, if you have it). Do you have a healthy sunscreen advisory up somewhere? Thanks so much for helping me Think Simple.

    • Tammy February 5, 2010, 8:18 am

      Hey Dyana – thanks for leaving a comment. It’s exciting that you’re had camera time. Very cool! Unfortunately, I don’t know much about HD video and make-up tricks. ):

      Sunscreen is really important. Although the good stuff is hard to find. I highly recommend checking out the Good Guide and their product recommendations.

      I’m glad I can help. 🙂 And thank you for reading!

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell February 5, 2010, 5:02 am

    Tammy, Your mind and mine think a lot alike. I have a post coming up on this very topic! When I worked in the corporate world, I felt I needed to wear a lot of makeup, but I started ditching it by ditching the eye makeup first (which began irritating my eyes). However, now that I’m in my mind 40s, I have rosacia (SP?) and feel more comfortable with it again. I use minimal, though, Bare Essentuals, it is natural, looks natural and also helps my blemishes.

  • Dawn February 5, 2010, 5:05 am

    Great post and thanks for writing it! I have always worn very little makeup-mostly just mascara and I have really good skin for my age (44). About 6 months ago I was suckered into purchasing a pallette of Chanel eyeshadow that cost a small fortune and took a lot of time every day to apply. I did get a lot of compliments at how good my eyes looked-but the cost and time did not make it worth it.
    I am back to mascara, lipgloss and blush. I save the Chanel if I have a date!

    • Tammy February 5, 2010, 8:13 am

      Nice! I love Chanel products. I’ve never purchased any because of the cost. But they are always fun to look at. 🙂

      Speaking of Chanel – have you read: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel? It’s really good. 🙂

  • Bonnie February 5, 2010, 4:05 pm

    Great post! And, I’m so happy to read the comments others are leaving!
    I hate wearing makeup, but I recently have begun wearing more (I’ve added eyeshadow to my mineral foundation and mascara) because I noticed that the women in my office who wear makeup are treated better, all other things being equal.
    For those of you who have commented about skin conditions like rosacea, you may want to take the time to do some serious investigation into your diet by getting food sensitivity tests (not food allergy tests, those are different). Lots of things can be triggers; animal products, wheat, caffeine, soy, sugar, etc. I found out that I’m sensitive to wheat, chili peppers, peanuts, and a few other things. Turns out, wheat (and spelt) is the big trigger for acne for me. I never would have guessed as it has no other effect on me (I don’t have celiac’s). My skin is finally starting to clear after 20+ years of acne, all due to wheat! (I already use super pure, and minimal, skin care products, absolutely no chemicals.)
    You can investigate skin/body care products at Skin Deep. Great resource on exactly what is in your products. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php

  • The Everyday Minimalist February 10, 2010, 6:06 pm

    I am doing something similar — wearing as little as possible but mostly focusing on making sure an SPF is on my face as the main part.. the rest is just to keep the shine off and stop people from asking me if I am sleepy 😛

    I used to have very bad acne when I first started on the pill, and now it’s practically cleared up for good by eating better food, taking supplements and learning what NOT to put on my face

  • Mneiae February 19, 2010, 5:20 pm

    I hit rowdykittens again after I read Everett Bogue’s newest post and he recommended you as a female minimalist. I just started using makeup and quite frankly I think it does matter in the corporate world. If I didn’t have to be a business professional, I would be less worried about going bareskinned. Alas…

    @Marie Just get a regular lash and brow dye to cut those from your workday regimen; that way, you never have to worry about it.

    • Tammy February 19, 2010, 6:35 pm

      @Mneiae – I think doing what’s right for your personal situation is always best. I do agree to some extent about make-up and corporate America. When I worked for a large investment firm, I felt a lot of extra pressure to wear the “right” clothes and make sure I always had my “face-on.” ):

      Woman have to deal with a lot of extra pressure to look a certain way in our culture. Jean Kilbourne has written some amazing books and articles on this topic. If you have a chance, check out her stuff. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and checking out the blog. I really appreciate it!

  • Melissa Gorzelanczyk April 2, 2010, 9:51 am

    I have been trying to become less “high-maintenance” … I’m curious, what products do you use and why?

    • Tammy April 2, 2010, 12:31 pm

      @Melissa – Right now I’m using baking soda to wash my hair and sea salt soap for body/face wash. I don’t wear any make-up. Currently, I’m searching for sunscreen that doesn’t have a crazy amount of toxins in it. 🙂

      • Bonnie April 2, 2010, 1:24 pm

        I also use baking soda to wash my hair. I love it as my hair is less fly away, needs less washing, and doesn’t need conditioner. I use dr. bronner’s soap for all other washing, and I use a locally made mineral makeup (alima) for makeup.

        as to sunscreen, don’t go crazy on it, I would suggest, unless you live very close to the equator. More and more studies show how terribly deficient people are in vitamin D who live more than 10 degrees from the equator. I am very fair, but have stopped wearing sunscreen unless I’m going to be outside well past my burn threshold (which varies from 15 min to 1 hour, depending on season and time of day). I do cover up, a lot, with long sleeves, long pants, and a wide brimmed hat, just like my grandmother did. When I do wear sunscreen, I check Skin Deep for the latest information and go with the couple of sunscreens that have a 0-2 rating. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php They are expensive, but very worth it. Remember to eat a ton of antioxidant foods, too!

        • Tammy April 3, 2010, 7:15 pm

          @Bonnie – thank you for your comment. I’ve been stressing about finding a good sunblock, especially since summer is approaching.

          Now I feel silly! I didn’t even think of wearing longer sleeves and a hat. Plus, Portland is a lot cooler in the summer. I won’t miss the Sacramento heat. 🙂

      • sue June 3, 2010, 7:46 am

        @ Melissa and Tammy-I’m also trying to be less “high maintenance.” I’m looking for a great facial sunscreen or tinted moisturizer in addition to other multi-tasking products. Can you help?

        • Tammy June 3, 2010, 12:48 pm

          @Sue – Melissa might have some suggestions. I haven’t found any moisturizer or sunscreen that I like yet. Right now, I’m wearing hats to protect my face. 🙂 Also, check out The Good Guide.

  • [email protected] June 4, 2010, 10:18 am

    I picked up Jane Iredale Pressed Minerals and their Circle Delete concealer. The stuff is amazing-took me all of a couple of minutes to apply and I look great. Very natural. Not inexpensive, however, but the products simplified my life 100 % and I don’t look like I’m wearing makeup…just like me only better! I’m on the road to minimalism… 🙂

    • Tammy June 5, 2010, 8:00 am

      @Suepers129 – awesome! Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out. 🙂

  • Vickie July 25, 2010, 4:02 am

    Hi Ladies,

    Great to see so many of us sharing tips and encouraging ideas for a make-up free, less chemically dependent life! I work on camera sometimes and hide behind my sunglasses to avoid wearing make-up and have a good excuse in that it’s very sunny in the mountains. I also do a lot of customer-facing work so have a no make-up during the day rule, and only small amounts of Dr Hauschka make-up for evening work. I’ve just started making my own skincare (starting with a mix of baking soda, cucumber, yogurt and honey as a face wash with flaxseed oil as a moisturiser) and can’t wait for my shampoo to run-out so I can try some home recipes: http://www.longlocks.com/hair-care-recipes-cookbook.htm. Regarding skin issues, I used to suffer really badly from acne and found the advice in Kathryn Marsden’s book “Superskin” to be a revelation. I gave up cow’s milk and started to look after my liver, the results were obvious in just a few days. I’m so inspired and encouraged by this blog and your comments today, ladies. The life we want is out there for the living!

  • Sue July 29, 2010, 7:30 am

    More great information. I’m going to look for _Superskin_ and see what Marsden has to say. I have uneven skin tone and am always on the lookout for something natural that will alleviate the condition. I’ve found that Weleda products are quite nice. However, they are also quite expensive! I’d love to find a way to recreate them in my own kitchen. Any ideas?/ As always, good skin care, nutrition, and sleep are essential for nice skin. I’m going with very little makeup this summer-concealer, one color of eyeshadow, and a small amount of mascara. This is a BIG departure for me and I feel great. / Perhaps we should begin chatting about the importance of self-esteem and self-care./ I think we need a Rowdy Kittens convention. 🙂 I love this site!

  • Chida August 10, 2010, 9:08 am

    Another great site is http://www.ewg.org. they have a great cosmetic database with evaluation of all kind of makeup ad lots of info on the products. they have recently published something about sunsceen with a guide to the better safer products. you can register to receive their newsletter. they do a lot of lobbying. I haven’t had time to look in the other sections but it is an important organization to support.
    Medias are selling us this idea that we need all these to be happy. Look what this excessive consumerism has brought the world to. when will we stop? how long the resources will last? we are borrowing the earth rom our children but ruining it.

  • Jane August 10, 2010, 1:15 pm

    I love this post. I’m 17, and after watching The Story of Cosmetics I was like, why on earth am I putting all these toxins on my body? I think it’s important that I learn to think of myself as beautiful NOW. Why should I slather myself with toxins just to look like a Barbie? I have nice skin, nice hair, and nice features, so I don’t need to put on tons of makeup or hair products. Yesterday I threw out almost all of my makeup and beauty products. It feels so liberating! I wish other teenagers could think like this, but sadly I think I’m a rarity. I also ordered some toxin-free makeup and bought a toxin-free face powder at the drugstore. My mom is wary about buying Tom’s toothpaste and deodorant for me because it’s more expensive, but I think she’ll save money in they end because I won’t be asking for new makeup all the time.
    I strongly admire all you older ladies who are taking this on. I wish my mom would too!

    • sue August 10, 2010, 3:26 pm


      That’s wonderful! You are a very thoughtful and forward thinking young woman!
      You may want to take a hard look at Tom’s products, as they aren’t as ‘clean’ as they seem to be. Plus, they’re owned by Colgate-Palmolive Co, the same company that probably makes a lot of the products you disposed of.

      • Anonymous August 10, 2010, 7:17 pm

        Thank you! 🙂
        Do you have other suggestions for toothpaste?

  • Teresa August 10, 2010, 2:55 pm

    Just skimming around getting to know your site… I’ve been trying for the last year or so to cut down too. I tried no-poo for a while – loved it and used vinegar rinse to condition. Hubby didn’t like it though. Recently found a local lady that makes shampoo bars (soap-lady.com) – works great – good middle ground… I also tried the ‘oil-cleansing method’ on my face – experimented with different kinds of oils – mixes of olive, grapeseed, castor, vit E… alone, olive oil is hard to wash off, grapeseed is quite thin, and castor is quite thick – so you need a good mixture of each, depending on your skin type… loved my skin texture, but definitely seemed to break out more. Currently I’m just using straight vitamin E oil to remove my makeup and some soap-lady oatmeal soap to cleanse. Waiting to use up my current drugstore makeup and will replace with something good. Have heard good things about alima and miessence… still searching for mascara that I like. Thanks for the tips!

  • Teresa August 10, 2010, 3:13 pm

    Oh – and I’ve been using baking soda with peppermint extract as toothpaste for about a year now – nothing but raves from the hygenist… was mixing it with coconut oil to make a paste consistency, but it accumulated in the sink/drain – now just use it as a powder. And deodorant – just baking soda with lavender essential oil – if it’s irritating, just cut it with corn starch… I keep mine in a recycled powder make up case and apply it with the applicator brush/puff – when I get out of the shower I just dust it on. Not an anti-perspirant, but I’ve passed the smell test even after a work out! Easy to reapply through out the day if you want to refresh…

  • Magill September 2, 2010, 8:53 am

    I never was a make-up queen, but skincare is important to me. I have found ways to use natural products: oatmeal as a mask, baking soda, natural soap, and I use aloe vera gel for night time moisturizer. What are your thoughts on day time moisturizer with SPF?

    • MichMich September 2, 2010, 11:58 am

      Dr. Hauschka has something called a “Toned Day Cream” and it is a moisturizer with some sort of natural SPF in it (they don’t advertise it as an SPF but other people have noted an SPF of 8 or so based on the ingredients) with a hint of tint. In the summertime I use it as my 3-in-1 spf, foundation and moisturizer, which is definitely minimalist, and it is all natural, but a tube costs $35 so it isn’t very frugal.

  • Lori January 18, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Hi Tammy. I work outside of the house 5 days a week. I am 43 years old with fairly descent skin. I don’t wear much anymore in the way of cosmetics but feel I need to wear it to work. If I don’t wear blush I look sickly pale as I have very fair skin. I also have barely there eye lashes. I would really like to cut back and wear none but don’t think I can get away with it. How do you wear as little as you do and have such a small personal care bag? I have actually cut back on a lot of things but like I said it is hard not to wear it to work and people always ask me if i am sick when I don’t. My eyes basically disappear into my face with no eyeliner mascara. I also have really greasy skin and need to powder all day. Any suggestions from anyone? Thanks

  • Tammy January 19, 2011, 8:14 am

    Hey Lori – thanks for leaving a comment. I don’t wear any make-up anymore; that’s why my personal care bag is so small. I used to have really greasy skin too and as soon as I stopped wearing so much powder and blush, the grease dissipated. Maybe you could try wearing less powder?

    Have you read through the prior comments? There are some great suggestions. Also, check out Tina’s post: How to Make Your Own Cosmetics – http://rowdykittens.com/2010/07/how-to-make-your-own-cosmetics/

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