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I love make-up. I always have. By fourth grade I was chomping at the bit to cover my lips with shimmering gloss, to color my cheeks; still soft with baby fat, in blush. Then of course – the big one – to line my eyes with beautiful black strokes of eye pencil. I wasn’t allowed to wear it all at once, my Mom let me move in small steps. First a little lip gloss, then blush. A year later some light eye shadow and awhile after that I graduated to the final step – eye liner and mascara. Once you go full face, it seems there is no going back. The next twenty plus years have been dedicated to a beauty regime.

While I love make-up and I feel beautiful when I’m fully painted, the more I think about it, the more I realize there is a side effect to cosmetics. A subtle yet serious effect that scoots in the door unnoticed while we painstakingly apply ten products to our faces. After years of making make-up part of the daily routine, what starts as enhancing our natural beauty, turns in to hiding what we believe to be ugly about ourselves. Before we know it, we dislike our naked faces. We become embarrassed to show our true appearance to the public, sometimes even our own loved ones. We hide from cameras, ducking out of those impromptu photos with our kids. We even refuse to run to the store without fixing ourselves up. We stare into mirrors and deconstruct ourselves feature by feature, like pulling bricks from a building until the whole structure crumbles to the ground.

I haven’t had time to properly make myself up lately. My mornings start early after not enough sleep and there are other people whose readiness comes first. I put coconut oil on my face to prevent the desert air from chapping my cheeks, and I run out the door. When I started back to work, I brought my make-up bag and applied it in the car in the daycare parking lot or in my office before my co-workers and patients came in. My face looked so foreign at first. As I applied each layer, I felt I looked more and more like myself. As the weeks went by, I got tired of doing it all and started putting on less and less. I realized with every layer that I wasn’t looking more like myself, I was looking less like myself. It took time before I could pass a mirror and appreciate what I saw instead of condemning every imperfect feature. Today, I looked in the mirror and (gasp!) actually thought that I looked pretty. My face is naked today.

I get it, who doesn’t look better with more even skin tone, longer lashes and a little color on their cheeks? I am not saying to never wear make-up again, but I am saying not to forget that your face is beautiful without it. Your face is beautiful naked too. Our wrinkles and scars hint at our past. Those laugh lines and crow’s feet show a lifetime of our emotions. The nose you are thinning? The lips you are plumping? The “weak” chin you are drawing attention away from? That’s your Grandma’s nose. Your Mother’s lips. Your Father’s chin. We find men attractive while wearing nothing on their faces besides their own skin; and sometimes a little (or a lot of!) hair. Why not women? Much how the natural sugar of an apple can no longer hold a candle to the intense artificial sweetness of a candy bar, we have redefined beauty to include covering our so called imperfections and creating false features in their absence. It has gotten excessive. It is sending a very clear message to young girls and boys: To be beautiful, you must be altered. It sure makes it hard to be yourself when everywhere you turn, being yourself is not good enough.

So, I propose a challenge. Not for a charity, or to draw attention to anything. Just for us. For the sake of feeling beautiful in our own, unenhanced skin, we need to hit the reset button. Over the weekend strip your face down. Can you go the whole weekend? Maybe just a day? And if you can, when you pass your reflection will you say, “Hello, Beautiful!” or will you wish you could throw on some powder? If you feel beautiful being you, post a picture to my Facebook or Twitter page with #EmbraceYourFace. If you can’t do that yet, do it when ever you can. Embrace your beautiful face!