shine day 18: Shine Your Natural Light

I hear about every insecurity in the courses I teach on Body Image at UNC-Charlotte.  My students marvel at Jennifer Aniston’s perfect skin, reveal that their poor body image keeps them from speaking up, going out, and trying out for things.  If I am not made-up, I can’t go anywhere, several have confessed. Truth be told, my students too often surrender from life because of how they feel they look.

That’s a heartbreaking reality for vibrant college students, yet it echoes a Dove Campaign for Real Beauty finding where 66% of women globally said they had avoided an activity due to feeling badly about the way they looked. Moreover, I’ve seen un-airbrushed pictures of Jennifer Aniston and know that her skin is just like ours, a little bit sun-spotted, a smidge wrinkled and completely reflective of living life with joy, pain, and passion.  While many of us intellectually know that, we don’t always live like we do.  Too often, we live like the only way to go through life is with a literal façade.

So I issued a challenge: let’s go all natural. No enhancements for a day because our skin is neither perfect nor bad, and showing it in its natural form can be refreshing. They stared back as if they’d misheard. I wasn’t sure who’d take the challenge of using no make-up, hair product, or perfume, but come All Natural Day, every student walked into class without enhancements.  They were absolutely breathtaking, and they began to realize it, too.

As we processed the experience, they shared these observations:

I did not feel like myself without make-up. I was really anxious, but I honestly don’t think I look that bad without it.  I don’t always need make-up to feel beautiful.

Everyone is beautiful in his or her own way, and we don’t need materialistic things to be happy or for someone to think we’re beautiful.

I don’t think people really notice make-up or hair products as much as we think they do.

No one really cares if I’m wearing make-up. They have their own problems. My face is fine the way it is, and I’ll save money and time by not trying to “fix” it.

As for me, I don’t believe make-up is bad. I wear it a few days a week. But I worry about using make-up as a crutch or our having a distorted sense of what skin looks like because we are so used to seeing it enhanced. Too many women allow their hair or make-up to inform their choices.  Make-up can be fun, and it can be empowering. But I don’t want people to be paralyzed by feeling they need a certain made-up look in order to enjoy their lives. What we need to enjoy our lives, actually, is the desire to enjoy it and the belief that we deserve to do just that.

Today:  Go all natural.  Do not use anything (hair products, skin brighteners) that are meant to alter you in some way to make you more “beautiful”.  In addition, take the time you would have spent getting ready to check your products for these ingredients.  Here is some wisdom from Jodi Helmer, author of The Green Year: 365 Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference:

You might be surprised to learn that the products you use to keep your hair shiny, your skin soft and your nails polished are often chemical cocktails masquerading in pretty packaging.

By law, all beauty products must list their ingredients. Read the labels and avoid products that contain triclosan, parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate, which have been linked to health issues ranging from breast cancer and fertility issues to thyroid disease. The word ‘fragrance’ on the label is a red flag! A loophole in the law doesn’t require the manufacturers of personal care products to list the chemicals used in fragrances on the label. It’s ok to buy products that have a scent, just be sure that the scent is from a natural source: Vanilla essential oil is fine, vanilla fragrance should be avoided.

Look for beauty products with the USDA Organic seal. In order to be certified, the ingredients must undergo a rigorous approval process, which can minimize your exposure to chemicals. Burt’s Bees and Pangea Organics make great natural beauty products.

 1. What was your reaction when you first heard about this challenge?  Why?  Did you forgo all of your products today? If not, why not? If so, how did you feel going without?

2. How did people react? Were you surprised by that?

3.  What did you learn about the ingredients in your beauty products?  What changes are you willing to make?

4. What have you learned after doing this?

Remember, your comments here about participating will get you entered in the giveaways!

Excited about this journey?  Want more?  Pick up Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance for a year long plan and guidance.

Want to learn more about organic beauty products? I rely on Aleigh of Indigo and Canary, a natural organic beauty blog for awesome suggestions.

Want to give feedback on your shine experience so far?  Take just a few minutes to answer this survey to help me determine how to improve shine and other experiences like this in the future!

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22 responses to “shine day 18: Shine Your Natural Light”

  1. emily strickland

    You’re letting us cheat and do it on a Saturday! That’s every Saturday for me! Well, I usually use hair stuff, but I can lose it for a day!

  2. Jamie

    I do this on occasion and have no problems doing it today. I do know I’ve pared down on beauty products. Not too long ago, I gave up mascara. If anyone has noticed, NO ONE has said anything.

    I’ve been trying to move toward more natural products and avoid chemicals…this is a great challenge!!

  3. Lee McCracken

    I do this 2-3 days a week (OK, I admit, usually on these days I’m just working at home or running a few quick errands.) And these are the days I don’t wash my hair — just pull it back in a ponytail. I tell my hubby, “It’s an ugly day, deal with it.” But today it’s Saturday and we have a lunch and movie date … so gotta shine up a bit. Sorry.

    I’m going to get inspired and experiment with changing the name of my no-fuss days to “beauty days.”

  4. Cecile

    I do this pretty often. I don’t feel “less worthy” when going natural, and it feels like a special treat when I take the time to put some make-up.

    The revelation about my worth without make-up occured for many years.
    As I was around 18, maybe 20, I went all natural into a shop (it was not planed) and I had questions to the salesman. He was very young, let’s say around 20. We had a nice small-talk. The salesman was obviously not considering me as “unworthy” or bad-looking. My mother was staying at the entrance of said shop, waiting for me. Afterwards, she told me that this young man obviously found me attractive. It was very embarrassing to me that my mother catched that – BUT just because she witnessed it, I really had to accept that yes, obviously he found me attractive, and yes, obviously even all natural I was nice-looking.

  5. Susannah

     1. What was your reaction when you first heard about this challenge?  Why?  Did you forgo all of your products today? If not, why not? If so, how did you feel going without?

    I had to take a rain check on this one, I was going to a course, and had to meet a lot of new people, and I’d rather do that with some war paints on. However, I wore much less than usual and didn’t put any junk in my hair.

    2. How did people react? Were you surprised by that?

    I have done it before though, and people don’t seem to notice. Or at least, not enough to say anything about it. Last time I went make up-less, a friend complimented me on my skin, which was nice, I take care of it, and it was good to see someone notices.

    3.  What did you learn about the ingredients in your beauty products?  What changes are you willing to make?

    I am already very aware of the ingredients of my stuff, so I didn’t learn anything new there. I need a bit of silicone to make my hair soft, but apart from that, I am on the right track.

    4. What have you learned after doing this?

    That I look the same to people, if I’m wearing a lot of make up or just a bit. I’ll go bare tomorrow, but I doubt it will be an issue for anyone,

  6. Jackie

    This was an easy challenge for me, because I don’t wear makeup more often than not. I grew up in an outdoorsy/granola college town where the adult female dress code was jeans and a fleece… but now I live in the South where I sometimes wonder if I’m still on the same planet. When I DO wear makeup, I feel like it confines me, though I’m actually trying to wear it a little more often these days, wondering if taking a little more time with my appearance will help me to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

    And as for the ingredients in beauty products, it’s scary. I do a green living blog and it is so difficult to navigate any conventional products without exposing yourself to who-knows-what. I try to limit my exposure by using little and skipping whole types of things (like nail polish, hair spray, makeup, etc.).

  7. Jenn

    I hardly ever wear make up except mascara, so this was easy for me. 🙂 A challenge would have been to put makeup on. I don’t know what people think of my naked face & it’s really not a concern of mine. Hair products – now that is a different story. My hair is very crazy curly and coarse. I only use 1 styling product and let my hair air dry. But if i didn’t use anything – shooo … scary.

  8. Valerie

    This was probably the easiest day of the challenge for me so far. I’ve gone without any makeup or haircare products for several years now, except for the occasional mascara. Most days I don’t even wear that. Even after all the time of going out “bare” some days I see someone stunning because of all the “fixing up” and feel a touch of jealousy. But in all honesty, I’d rather spend the time doing something else than putting makeup on that I can’t really afford anyway. As for my hair, I used to be the queen of hair products; I wore it an inch long and spikey for many years. Four years ago I decided to let my hair grow out…and it is now past my waist. I love it.

    Most people I know have never seen me with makeup, so that would be the surprise to them. I can remember two of my cousins telling me something interesting at a family reunion about 15 years ago; I sat down to visit with them and they told me I looked so young (we were all the same age)…and they decided that they reason I looked younger than them is that I hadn’t worn heavy makeup for all the years they had worn it. I don’t have any idea if that is true, but I do know I still look younger than them…and at my age I’m not complaining:).

    I still have days I feel very plain and boring when I go to work dressed up but without makeup or a fancy haircut. But I feel these feelings when I begin comparing myself to others, and that is something I’m trying to stop doing.

  9. Cassie Virgin

    I loved this post- I only ever wear mascara and sometimes lip gloss from Burt’s Bees- but the day of the challenge I had to go to a work party (I live on a community land trust and it was time to build the community garden)- …This post reminded me that I needed to protect my skin with sun block. So now I REALLY don’t have to wear any makeup because I didn’t get fried after 5 hours of grueling yard work! Thank you for the constant reminders to care for ourselves. That kindness is everything.

  10. Marissa

    I had no issues with this challenge. I often go makeup free and product free, especially in the summer. I know this will likely change when I am back in school and doing my field placement (and have to look ‘professional’), but regarding the products I use, I am ultra aware of what is in them already. I am vegan and care deeply about animal products and animal testing, so I search PETA’s cruelty database and the EWG’s Skin Deep database. I also just like the feel of no makeup (or little makeup) and fewer products. Plus, I get compliments on the natural texture of my hair, and I feel like I can get more accomplished when I don’t take up the extra 30 minutes prepping my face and hair.

  11. Amy

    This one was easy peasy for me. Growing up my mom never wore up and many of the women I admired frequently wore little or no makeup and I always preferred the way they looked without makeup. As a result I wear makeup very infrequently. I have experimented with makeup over the years and found although I do think it makes me look more put together I have never been very comfortable with it. When I wear makeup it is usually only a little eyeliner and lip gloss.
    I do find that my no-makeup routine and my current unemployment often leads to me not getting dressed until noon and looking sloppy when I do. I find myself wondering if I might want to try wearing just a little makeup again or at least find a way to help my self get put together in the morning, because I find I feel happier and more productive when I look nicer than ratty Pjs or an old t-shirt.

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