Scared of being seen without makeup: My experience & tips

Do you have a fear of being seen without makeup? Wondering how to feel confident without makeup? After having cystic acne for 10 years, I felt exactly the same way for a very long time. Today I share my tips and advice for loving yourself, exactly the way you are, with and without makeup.


Before I started writing this blog, I did some research on the subject of makeup and confidence. I can’t tell you how much it upset me to see Google recommending the following searches to me. FYI, that means these phrases are searched for in the UK
a lot.

With the perfection presented to us on social media (hello, Instagram anxiety) combined with the crazy beauty standards placed upon girls from a young age, there’s no wonder we feel the need to look perfect all the time. These days, it’s a little too easy for makeup to become a necessity rather than a choice.

So I want to start by saying three key things.

Scared of being seen without makeup: My story

I started wearing makeup when I was around 14—it started as an innocent dab of concealer here and there, but it quickly spiralled out of control. As my acne worsened (which happened quickly—read my acne story), so did my compulsive need to cover it up. By the age of 16, makeup was an everyday obsession. I didn’t feel complete without it.

I’d be late to school, as it’d take me so long to get ready. I’d avoid sleepovers or, if I did go to them, I’d sleep in my makeup so none of my friends could see me without it. I’d wear makeup to sweaty hockey and netball matches. I’d sneak away at my boyfriend’s house to reapply makeup before he woke up. And when I was in University, I didn’t let my housemates see me without makeup—even though we shared a bathroom. I’d apply makeup to walk to the bathroom, have a shower and then reapply concealer to walk back to my room in case I bumped into someone.

Honestly, the thought of showing friends and boyfriend my real skin made me feel physically sick—I’m not even exaggerating. I assumed they’d immediately think I was gross, or a liar, or a total catfish. Being seen without layers of concealer and powder on literally became my biggest fear. I learned to love the Alice with a flawless base, long eyelashes and perfectly preened eyebrows—the Alice that took 1.5 hours every morning to create. The problem was that I didn’t love the real me underneath it all.

All this sounds intense, I know. But the beauty industry has us all fucked up thinking our actual, real-life, natural appearance isn’t valid or normal. It’s not our fault.

How I’m doing now

Even though I’m still not 100% confident going out without makeup—especially when my acne has flared up—I feel that I’m making progress. Back in the day, I kept this problem to myself entirely and wouldn’t dare speak to my friends or family about it. Now, I’m not ashamed of talking about it and, to me, that’s huge progress in itself.

Although I still don’t go 100% make-up free all the time, I don’t feel the need to apply quite so much make-up to leave the house. Make-up is gradually becoming less of a burden, and although it’s a really slow process, I’m proud of where I’m at. I’ve posted make-up free photos of myself all over Instagram and on my blog for the world to see (which, for some reason, feels easier than doing it in person), so I at least feel like I’m not hiding my real appearance anymore.

And although my insecurities still affect my daily life, I do know my worth. I know that under-eye bags are normal, that blemishes are normal and that acne is common and nothing to be ashamed of. I know that my natural, blemished face—complete with under eye shadows and acne scars—doesn’t need to be hidden. I’ve been fighting against incredibly unattainable standards for the last decade of my life and I’m so done with it!

Now it’s just about putting all of that into practice into the day-to-day, but I’m getting there. You can find out more in my low self-esteem story.

How to feel confident without makeup: 5 tips

Okay, so I know I’m not totally there yet either, but I do feel like I’ve got some tips to help. And as you can probably tell by now, I know exactly how you feel—so these tips really do come from the heart! Plus, they’ve helped me come a really long way.

1. Talk about it

I went from telling no one about my feelings, to opening up, writing blogs about my acne journey and posting makeup-less photos all over social media. And guess what? Although it was hard to do, I felt 100x better as soon as everything was out in the open. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and, although I still felt insecure in my own skin, the fact that my acne wasn’t a huge secret anymore was a gamechanger.

I also started speaking to my friends about my feelings—which really helped when it came to girl’s holidays or staying over at their houses. Now that I know that they understand and know that they won’t judge me (they’ve made that clear), it’s not so much much a struggle to take my makeup off in front of them.

Remember that your friends aren’t your friends because of how you look. They’re your friends because they like you as a person and enjoy spending time with you! I’m definitely not saying you have to plaster your story on the internet as I did—just try to open to your closest friends and family about how you’re feeling. I promise you’ll feel so much better and that everyone will be far more understanding than you could have ever expected.

And if you all else fails, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram. I’ll help you in any way I can, even if it’s just a bit of a pep talk.

2. Stop judging yourself so harshly

Ever heard the saying “you are your own worst critic”? I’m 100% certain that it applies to you right now. The thing is, you might think you look horrible without makeup—you judge and analyse every single mark, blemish, spot and scar on your skin with a fine-tooth comb. But in reality, other people do not notice these things anywhere near as much as you do.

And regardless, everyone has imperfections… and I mean everyone. Even those flawless Instagram influencers you wished you looked like, even supermodels and, yes, even that pretty girl at school you always envied. Every single one of them has imperfections and things they feel insecure about. The concept of having flawless skin is a complete and utter myth and trying to make your skin look airbrushed is not something to strive for. It, plain and simple, just isn’t real. I’d recommend following a few of the acne positivity community and fill your feed with real skin.

Instead of wasting your time trying to eliminate every single mark, line, spot, pore, shadow and freckle, just focus on taking the best care of yourself and your skin that you can—and loving yourself regardless of what it looks like. The most important part of getting over your fear of being seen without makeup is realising that having imperfect skin is normal and, actually, still insanely beautiful.

3. Take baby-steps

Going from a full face of make-up to nothing is intense, I get that. But you don’t need to bear it all instantly—if taking it slow will work better for you, then that’s what you need to do. You absolutely don’t have to go make-up free all at once and, actually, taking it step-by-step is a way less daunting way to do it. I know how hard it is, but small baby steps here and there can lead to a big change in your confidence and mindset over time.

Try to use slightly less foundation or concealer each day, over time, even if it’s only a minuscule difference. Or just wear your base and skip eye makeup for the day; and vice versa. This is the way I did it—and I eventually got so used to my face with less makeup, that it didn’t feel quite as scary showing other people.

Another way to do it is to start going make-up free around the people you feel most comfortable with—when that feels normal, take it to the next step and go make-up free in front of someone you don’t know quite as well. It’s like setting yourself mini goals and challenges—it can really work, trust me!

It’ll start to feel normal and, hopefully, you’ll slowly get to a stage where you feel happy to wear minimal makeup on a daily basis (or none—yep, I said it!).

4. Take it off

I know, I know… this totally contradicts the point above. But everyone’s different and, in front of certain people, simply taking off the damn make-up can help. It’s like ripping off a plaster!

If you haven’t shown your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or best friend your bare face—or anyone you know well and spend a lot of time with—I think this is the best approach. It’s physically and mentally tiring trying to hide your real skin from someone you’re around a lot (I’ve been there!) and, honestly, you don’t need to be putting yourself through that day-in-day-out.

I totally understand that you’re probably sitting there right now thinking “that’s not possible, they’ll think I’m ugly, I can’t do it, I’m not brave enough…” but I felt the exact same way and can tell you from experience that it felt like such a relief as soon as I did it. You can read more about my story in my dating with acne blog.

But summed up, a true friend or partner loves you for who you are and won’t judge you for what your natural skin looks like. I can guarantee that, in 99% of cases, they’ll love you just as much, if not more, than they did before. And in the very rare circumstance that a friend or partner judges you for your bare skin or makes you feel uncomfortable, then please know you’re worthy of so much better. It reflects way more on them than it does on you.

I took this approach with my boyfriend when I first started seeing him. I was petrified that he wouldn’t like me without make-up, but I knew I couldn’t hide away forever. On a whim, I decided to go and see him without makeup, sit in my discomfort and see if the world ended (it didn’t). I hated it, but it also totally worked. I kept doing it and it became a non-issue really quickly.

Oh, and if it’d make it easier for you, have a chat with them about it first over a drink or two. It always helps!

5. Get professional help

I know from experience that the crippling fear of being seen without makeup isn’t just one of those passing insecurities we all have sometimes. It’s not easy to get over such deep-rooted insecurities—so if you feel that you’re not making any progress, don’t beat yourself up.

Equally, you shouldn’t just brush this under the carpet and hope it goes away on its own. You deserve to feel better! So if you’re avoiding experiences and alienating yourself from social situations because you’re scared of being seen without makeup, it’s a good idea to look into professional help. After all, your no makeup fear could be a form of body dysmorphia or social anxiety.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is characterised by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in appearance, which is unnoticeable to others. Sometimes the flaw is noticeable but is a normal variation (e.g. male pattern baldness) or is not as prominent as the sufferer believes.

BDD Foundation

Book an appointment with your GP (or, if you have the means to/would prefer to, reach out to a private therapist), tell them how you feel and ask what help is available. You don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed—it’s their job to help you and they’re not going to judge you. It might feel hard to open up at the time, but it could be truly life-changing to get the professional help you need and deserve, so push through your discomfort. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make just talking to someone who really understands what you are going through on a psychological level. Having a few weeks or months of therapy could help you to get to the root of your feelings and improve your self-confidence without makeup.

Fear of being seen without makeup: The bottom line

The process of getting over your fear of being seen without makeup won’t happen overnight. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other—whether that’s wearing a little less makeup over time, making that first call to make a doctor’s appointment or discussing your feelings with your friends—and do the best you can. Don’t get down if you have setbacks—it’s normal!

If you take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s that you begin to realise that you’re just as worthy with and without makeup, that everyone has flaws and that your skin doesn’t need to be flawless to be seen. You are fine just as you are; even if you don’t feel that way right now.

It’s also entirely possible that you are suffering from a form of anxiety, so do consider seeking help from a trained medical professional. Feeling ashamed of your face without makeup is tough, but you are tough too. You will get through this, I promise!

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