Losing the Lipstick


By Sheba Siddiqui Family Writer @shebasid blogging at shebasiddiqui.com
A  couple of years ago, I took a three week break from technology. Well almost all technology. No computer, TV, PS2 (I’m a big gamer), cell phone, etc. Granted, I continued to use a washing machine, microwave, TTC bus and shower, but I’m referring to all forms of media or entertainment technology. I felt I was getting too dependent. During my three weeks off, I would describe myself as actually having a life.

A real life. I wouldn’t even carry my cell phone around with me. If I needed to make a call, I would use a payphone (kinda gross, I know). If I needed to meet a friend, I would do like in the olden days and decide on a time and location beforehand and simply wait when I got there. I noticed everything and everyone around me.

It was incredibly refreshing. And sadly, quite new for me as I had always been engrossed in a phone, television or musical device of some kind.


I also noticed that I had a lot of time on my hands. Time that I filled up in ways I hadn’t thought to before. Meeting up with friends for dinner who I hadn’t seen in a long time because I was too busy watching whatever was on TV that night that I absolutely could not miss (this was before PVR) or learning a new recipe because a friend would be coming over for dinner instead of spending the evening talking to her via technology. Not to mention the amount of great books I was able to read.  But I digress.

I wear makeup to hide my flaws. At least, I thought that was the only reason. I want to hide my tired eyes, to enhance my short lashes, to make my skin look healthy and glowing all the time and my lips glossy with a hue of pink. Blush to emphasize my cheekbones so they appear more chiseled and lean, etc. So I decided to scrap it all. I think I got annoyed with myself. I felt like I was being deceitful in how I present myself. But more importantly, I felt like I wasn’t comfortable showing the world who I really am and what I genuinely look like. That bothered me more than anything else.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone wears makeup to hide their flaws. In fact, I would think it’s the opposite, that people actually like to wear makeup because…well they just LIKE to wear makeup! And through this process, I’ve realized that it’s not all about hiding flaws for me. Like many others, I also actually enjoy wearing makeup. It’s just as fun to dress up now as when I was five years old.

Ironically this abstention wasn’t planned. I came up with the idea after an evening of celebration. I flew to Calgary to attend one of my bff’s weddings. I was feeling fat from baby weight, could not find anything flattering to wear and was stressed from life with two babies and no sleep. So I found the only outfit I could that I thought was somewhat appealing that I could fit into, did my hair, put on a lot of makeup and then looked at my reflection in the mirror. I really didn’t like what I saw. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I suffer from a low self esteem. In fact, I’m normally a pretty confident person. I just didn’t like what was looking back at me.

I’m not much of a makeup person to begin with, maybe some mascara, some powder if it’s hot out and occasionally eyeliner when it’s a special celebration. My lip gloss of choice has not changed since I was 15 years old: Vaseline. It’s probably the one thing I can’t live without. So looking at my reflection, I felt like I needed a confidence builder. In the past, I’ve often tried to do things to build my confidence…things that scare me (learning to ride a motorcycle), things that force me to become more comfortable with myself (going out to dinner or a movie alone) and lately, learning to love what my mama gave me; my all-natural face.

So I spent the rest of our vacation in Banff not wearing an ounce of makeup. Through the swanky restaurants, the site seeing, high tea at Lake Louise and visiting TripAdvisor’s #1 restaurant in Banff, I was makeup-less. And I loved it. I loved waking up, taking a shower and going out for the day. I was incredibly low maintenance. It was such a good, fresh, clean and natural feeling. So that week, I decided to see how long I could last without wearing any makeup.

110 days. That’s how long I lasted.

Through all the birthdays, BBQ’s, weddings and dinner parties I attended during this time, I did not wear any makeup. I often got people telling me how tired I looked. My reply to them was that I am in fact feeling tired. I take care of a baby and a toddler all day long. Of course I’m tired. I take 20 minutes to get ready for a wedding. It’s great on one end…until I see the pictures afterward and inwardly cringe that my eyes look so washed out. I look back on celebration pictures with my kids and wonder if they will think their mother was pretty 20 years from now. But this is what I set out to do. To love those washed out eyes and that tired face.

I realized I was going to have to make a choice when I decided to go back to work. You see, I work in television. In my industry, when you are on TV, you must wear makeup. And pounds of it. When I get done up for a show, my makeup artist layers the makeup on. This is because everything needs to look enhanced for television, otherwise it will barely be noticeable. You are not only representing yourself, but also the network that you work for. So it has to be as good as it can get. Which I guess is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had my makeup artist come over for a test run shortly before the season started. And she did what she does best, layer the makeup on. When she was finished, I didn’t even recognize myself. I hadn’t seen those extra long lashes, those shimmery eyelids, rosy cheeks and pouty lips in forever.

The fact is, I miss wearing makeup. I miss enhancing the features I like best about myself. Did I achieve part of my goal of becoming more secure with my authentic self? I’m not entirely sure. I know that I am capable of walking into a 500 person wedding without an ounce of makeup and feeling comfortable and confident. I know that most, if not all of my social circle has now seen my face, repeatedly, as God has given it to me. But I also think that it might be nice to occasionally feel more feminine. I know that I’ve achieved being able to go anywhere all-naturally but I think that once in awhile, and only when I am in the mood, I will wear makeup, because I enjoy wearing makeup…regardless of how frustrated my husband gets at how long I am taking to get ready.

This post was originally posted on Sheba’s blog: www.shebasiddiqui.com


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  1. Bewildered Bug

    Wow – you are indeed a spectacularly strong and determined woman to put yourself on these types of constraints. I have yet to be able to go to the movies by myself without running out hiding my face at the end of the movie. And recently I go nowhere without makeup. In fact, I have sort of reached your ‘fed up’ stage and now, you have me contemplating doing a similar experiment on my own. I do not think I am brave enough to go sans makeup for a wedding, but for the everyday, I think you have inspired me!!!! Did you find your skin improved at all sans makeup?

  2. Meera

    You are a gorgeous women without makeup or with it. You don’t need makeup to look stunning, but if it makes you feel even more terrific, why not.

    The tricky part comes for those of us with daughters. How to teach them that it is what is inside that is beautiful, looks don’t matter, and then rush to the powder room to “fix our face” before leaving home.

    • Anjum

      Thanks so much for engaging with us on this conversation Meera! Absolutely good point on raising daughters, there’s a fine balance when conveying the right messages. We think Sheba made a great start!

  3. Sheba S.

    Bewildered Bug,
    Do it! It’s amazing what you learn about yourself and how people treat you, with and without makeup on. Yes, my skin definitely improved during this time. I would only use moisturizer on it and I even had someone ask me if I was pregnant (God no) because my skin was glowing!

  4. Sheba S.

    Thanks for your comment!
    I hope to have a daughter one day and think I will definitely need to set an example. I often catch myself telling my friends’ little girls how pretty they are and need to remind myself to tell them they are smart too. It’s almost like it’s ingrained to comment on their looks first. Great topic for discussion. Thanks for bringing it up!

  5. Veena

    Great topic! I used to wear make up only a few times a year, for those special dressy occasions. But with awful dark circles and blemishes lately, I’ve been putting on make up a lot more. And then I feel so self conscious when I don’t. So this was a timely read for me!

  6. Saima

    It’s very interesting. I am the kind of woman who just Loves to put makeup on…any little excuse would do…Weekends, hubby staying home from work, going out with friends…anything! But then there are all the other days, I wear no makeup at all, and feel as pretty as I would with make up. But here’s the thing, for those of us who actually have the choice of wearing makeup or not, it’s easy to go days, weeks even months without it, and then there are some who actually NEED it. I am being realistic here. Let’s say that I had severe skin issues, like I know some women who do, do I have that choice? Can I go out without covering up my face up with makeup so that people stare at my skin instead of looking in my eyes when they talk to me?
    Meera brought up a good point. It would be tricky to tell your daughters that the real beauty is inside. But it’d be trickier to tell that to a daughter who has acne or some skin problem. Clear skin is what people take for granted. If I had bad skin and my mother told me that I shouldn’t put makeup on because I am beautiful on the inside, that would make me very frustrated and misunderstood! As we all know, it’s easier said than done!

  7. Sheba S.

    I think that our kids will always love us no matter what we look like. However, how the ‘outside world’ perceives us does make a difference, whether we like to admit it or not. Either way, as long as we can take the steps to learn to love what we’ve got, I think that effort is what matters most. Thanks for your insight!

  8. Sheba S.

    You raise some really great points. I definitely think we need a follow up to this story. Especially with respect to how to handle our daughters on this subject and what to tell them in situations like the ones you’ve described. Keep your eyes open for a follow up from an expert!

  9. Prathna

    My 4 year old daughter always asks me ‘mama, when can I put make-up and look pretty?’ I always tell her that she doesn’t need make-up to be pretty. That she is a strong, smart and caring person and that makes her beautiful. But to be realistic, in a world where young girls wearing make-up and ‘adult’ clothing are constantly in the media, it worries me that saying those things may not be enough when they are going through their adolecent years.

  10. Nisha

    We make a lot of sacrifices when we have kids, but we also sacrifice our bodies.
    Ever since I had kids, I’ve had problems with my skin. I have had mild rosacea on my cheeks, which worsened after my kids. My eyelashes even fell out over the last few years, also, since having kids. I won’t even get into the state of my hair now, and that my feet are not the same size as before and so some of my pre-baby shoes/boots don’t fit anymore!
    I have never worn a lot of make up (in part thanks to my strict mother). Even to this day, I’ve hardly ever used foundation, maybe just a light dusting of powder, and a bit of lipstick. Those were my staples for years. I can always remember saying that as long as my hair was done and I had a bit of lipstick on, I had not another care in the world.
    Now, I am faced with a few issues that make wearing make-up quite double edged for me.
    Firstly, I feel like wearing make up sometimes to hide the ‘imperfections’ that stem from the rosacea and having no eyelashes. Wearing make-up though, is more likely to aggravate these conditions. Some days, it’s a really tough decision which way to go depending on how I’m feeling and the kind of day I’m having. Thankfully though, most days, I’m happy to put on a bit of moisturizer and some Blistex (I’m an addict), and feel good. I reserve the make-up for evenings out with my husband when I want to look extra nice – once in a while.
    The other issue is that I have 2 daughters, and I’m constantly thinking about how to set the best example for them. Little girls are innately drawn to wanting to look and feel pretty at a very young age, and that really worries me in an age where even gorgeous women with model good looks are being airbrushed in magazines to look just a little bit better. Their perception of what is pretty, even at a young age, includes make-up, long hair, and fancy clothes. Even at the age of 5 ½ and nearly 3, my girls are constantly asking me to paint their nails and let them wear just a little bit of lip gloss (neither of which I let them do). Instead, I can fairly, and honestly say to them that that’s not what makes someone beautiful, and that mummy doesn’t wear make up either – but we’re all still beautiful, inside and out. So far, they seem happy with that, but I wonder how that will change in the coming years as they start school. Thanks for the hot topic Sheba! Apparently, I had a lot to say about it. ☺

    • Anjum

      Wow, thanks Nisha for taking the time to engage on this issue. It’s obviously a story that is not going away anytime soon, Anjum Choudhry Nayyar, Editorial Director, masalamommas.com

  11. RSJafri

    I really admire anyone that does what is right for them as opposed to following the status quo.
    I myself don’t wear too much make-up and have found myself walking out the door for work or a grocery run only to realize later that I forgot to put it on! But to consciously do it, would be a great exercise. Don’t know if I could do that!
    Great post Sheba!

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