What Happens When a Non-Makeup Wearer and a Makeup Diva Swap Routines

Two staffers trade faces for a day.


A medley of befores and afters. | Photos by Lauren McGrath.

In our office, there are two sets of women: Those who wear makeup every single day, and those who don’t ever wear a stitch. I happen to fall into the former group – full face, every day – and our copyeditor, Rachel Chernaskey (she of the impossibly high cheekbones and poreless skin), sits strictly in the latter. What would happen, I wondered, if we switched cosmetic routines for a day? Surely, the world would spin off its axis; our coworkers would look at my ruddy chin and un-lined eyelids and I’d immediately be fired; Rachel would be spotted on the street and become the next Kendall Jenner.

After some pleading with Rachel and personal soul-searching (could I really post a makeup-free photo on the blog for all to see?), we shook on it: I’d go sans makeup; Rachel would let our assistant lifestyle editor (and talented makeup artist in her own right) Lauren McGrath apply a full face. We’d wear our new looks around for one full work day and see who noticed, who commented, who turned away in horror, and how it felt to trade faces. Turns out, not at all like we expected.  

Emily: From Full Makeup to Squeaky Clean


With my normal face o’ product, left, and au naturel, right. | Photos by Lauren McGrath.

I’ve worn makeup every single day since the age of 12. It started out simple enough: clear mascara, a dab of blush, a swipe of Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers. But it grew, as most beauty routines eventually do. By the end of high school, I was wearing pretty much every single cosmetic product Clinique produced, with the exception of brow pencil and liquid liner. By college, I’d mastered the smoky eye-pale lip combo, which I still wear nearly every day. By age 25, I’d added a liquid liner cat-eye. Now, at age 33, my makeup routine consists of the following:

  • Foundation
  • Spray-on bronzer
  • Pressed powder (Clinique – yes, still!)
  • Cheek stain
  • Powder bronzer/highlighter
  • Nude-ish eyeshadow base
  • Copper eyeshadow (for the crease)
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Pencil eyeliner (for the bottom inner rim)
  • Mascara
  • Lip “foundation”
  • Lip gloss

Holy crap. Now that I write it all out, it seems like a crap ton of stuff. And it is, I guess. But it doesn’t seem like that much, perhaps because my routine has crept up to this level so incrementally over my lifetime, or maybe because I’m able to apply a full face in under five minutes – on a bumpy train ride, nonetheless. (Those who ride the West Trenton regional rail line can attest to this.)

But I’ve often envied the women who don’t wear makeup. They seem so chic, so stylish, so French. While I strut around like a Real Housewife under a layer of lip gloss and bronzer, they look fresh, unencumbered by stuff like clumpy mascara and spotty concealer. I want to be them. But I can’t. The thought of not wearing makeup – baring my pink chin, my I-swear-they-are-thinning eyelashes – makes me feel vulnerable. My makeup routine, if I am being truly honest, has become a shield. And peeling it off was, well, scary.

I went to work convinced that people would notice immediately. It was all I could think about when I spoke to people, a constant loop playing in my head: “They’re judging my skin. My close-set eyes. They probably think I’ve been crying.” Still, no one said a thing.

By the end of the day, it seemed my Huge Grand Experiment had been a bust. I bared my face, my non-Clinique-covered soul. And no one gave a shit.

I finally turned on my boss, angry that I’d gone without my cat-eye for nothing. “Don’t you notice anything different about me?!?” He looked at me for a moment, wondering, I think, whether or not to bring up the fact that my eyes looked smaller than usual, and my cheekbones less pronounced. “No,” he said. “Should I?”

When I told him, and then three other co-workers – two males, one female – they all shrugged, and said some version of the same thing: They sort of noticed, but thought I was just tired. Or stressed. Or, fine, one guy thought I’d been crying. I saw naked and ugly. They saw tired. One girl complimented my skin; she didn’t believe I wasn’t wearing any cover-up. That made me feel good. I do have nice skin. Another woman noticed the tiny spray of freckles on my nose, which are always covered up by foundation and powder. They are cute. People are now PAYING FOR FRECKLES. AND I HAVE THEM FOR FREE. Suckers.

In the end, the experiment wasn’t a total waste. Sure, I didn’t get the huge reaction I was expecting. Maybe that’s because I don’t look as wildly different sans makeup as I think I do. Or maybe people just don’t care as much as I thought. We think people look at us and judge our wrinkles, our pimples, our weight, our bumps and lumps. Some do, sure, but I’ve found that many – most? – don’t. We are our harshest critics.

So maybe I’ll finally believe my husband when he says he likes me better without makeup. Maybe I’ll try wearing less. And perhaps instead of adding another product by my forties, I’ll take one away. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

Rachel: From Barefaced to a Full Face

Rachel Final B&A

Rachel’s daily barefaced look, left, and with full makeup, right. | Photos by Lauren McGrath.

Makeup has never been my thing. I can appreciate a good face wash, or a mask to make my skin cleaner, but putting on makeup was never easy or enjoyable to me. If I ever did put on something, it either felt thick on my face and bugged the hell out of me, or just looked very over-the-top and unreasonably unnatural. Sometimes I feel slight envy of those who come in, day after day, with their semi-subtle applied looks — they seem to have their lives more together than I do — but for the most part, I’m fine with my routine, or lack thereof.

After my Shoppist co-workers insisted I try wearing full-fledged makeup for a day (and I agreed), I realized a few things. First: It drove me insane that I couldn’t wipe my eyes or rest my face on my hand. I’d been unaware of how much I touch my face every day. I also didn’t love wearing lip gloss. Unlike lipstick, the gloss ended up getting everywhere and semi-ruining the taste of my food (which I really didn’t love). Second: Applied well, makeup can really change the way I look. This may seem sort of obvious, but I really didn’t realize how drastic a difference it could make. And as much as I don’t like to admit it, I did feel more put-together wearing all of this stuff; I maybe sat up a little straighter and felt somewhat better about my appearance.

Still, at first, I definitely felt self-conscious of my new look. My co-worker (and awesome makeup artist in her own right) Lauren, also our assistant lifestyle editor, applied some pretty heavy eye shadow, cat-eye liner, pink lipstick (I think there was even a little ombre-lip thing going on there), foundation and blush. The latter made me the most self-conscious. But the The odd thing was, though, as I walked around all day no one really said anything. One co-worker asked if I had a date that night, and another told me I looked pretty, but that was the extent of it. So I concluded that either no one noticed (which I feel is unlikely), or they don’t care (more likely).

All in all, I think I’ll stick to my non-restrictive-face-touching ways, and leave makeup to the ladies who enjoy and appreciate the process of putting it on because in the end even though I sort of felt a little better, the whole social experiment just reaffirmed my belief that, well, it really doesn’t make much of a difference. – Rachel Chernaskey