How I Healed My Toxic Relationship With Makeup

Girl holding makeup compact and brush

What does makeup mean to you? What does it mean to your skin? Do you need it to feel confident? Does it empower you? 

I’ve read so much content about different peoples’ personal journeys with makeup. While it's easy to hear empowering posts about embracing your natural skin, when you see acne, discoloration, and eye bags in the mirror, the concealer instantly comes out. For me, learning to prioritize skincare was really important, and was the first step toward becoming comfortable with my natural appearance. Wearing makeup should never be a need. It’s important to develop a healthy relationship with makeup, so you can use it to empower you, rather than to hide behind. 

Over time, my relationship with makeup has evolved so much. I was always insecure about the way I looked, especially my eye shape, my brows, and my lips. I often admired women on Youtube who dawned stunning makeup. 

I started wearing makeup at 15. I used to apply a foundation shade that didn’t match my skin but made me look “prettier,” and shaped my eyebrows to look arched. I tried a lot of different makeup styles, trying to look like different celebrities. While I loved makeup, my skin did not, and it got clogged, leading to acne problems.  Although I thoroughly washed my face every night, nothing could save my skin - besides the obvious. 

I had to lean away from trends that required layers and layers of products, and find my own style. I started using less makeup and showing more of my natural face. Even when I applied foundation, I found one that matched my skin, and used just a little bit to keep it looking fresh. Most importantly, I found makeup inspiration instead of appearance inspiration. I no longer wanted to look like other people, but to replicate their makeup artistry. I began using makeup in a healthy way to embrace my natural features. 

This isn’t to say that wearing heavy makeup isn’t healthy! For some, it is simply a preference, and doesn’t negatively affect their skin. However, for me, it represented my attempt to transform who I was into another person. Through my new approach to makeup, I learned to embrace my natural qualities. 

I was someone who used to think “I’m ugly without makeup,” and it took me so long to accept who I am, and I’m honestly still fighting. Some people have told me I looked “better” with more makeup, which definitely set me back a bit. But I knew what I needed to do to heal my relationship with cosmetics. I put the makeup aside and started to heal my mind. I have to love my skin before anything else. I have to love the way I was born. Makeup is more like a tool for me to enhance the features I like. I learned how to stop depending on makeup to shape my beauty, and allowed my beauty to shape my makeup. At the end of the day, inner beauty is more important than the way we look. One of my favorite quotes perfectly captures this truth:

Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul like you. - Shannon L. Alder

Please learn from my experience, and listen to your skin. Learn to love it before you approach your relationship with makeup. I think the best way to “glow up” is to become more comfortable with yourself. The confidence to be yourself, whether that be bare-faced or glammed up, is the most essential step in your beauty routine. 

Written by: Stefanny Leung Yu

Instagram: @stefflyp



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  • Jennifer

    Lovely article, thank you! I struggle with my relationship with make-up because I resent needing it to be considered “beautiful” and “feminine”. Reframing it as an art to accentuate, not create, beauty seems healthy and realistic.

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