A year-plus of pandemic lifestyle definitely took its toll on me, tanking years of good diet and exercise habits in the matter of weeks. Fritos and martinis became a perfectly acceptable dinner, and why the hell not when the world was so obviously on fire? My sex drive was crushed (the Fritos weren’t helping), and I was generally in a state of introspective melancholy, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my teen years.
My days were spent endlessly cooking, cleaning, and entertaining my suddenly ever-present children, husband, and dog (the only family member who seemed thrilled with our new circumstances) while wearing a uniform of workout clothes by day and sweat suits by night. Lunches with girlfriends, dinner dates with my husband, weekend parties with friends, and all the other soul-satiating parts of my life were out. Staying in was, well, “in,” and consequently, my makeup bag sat undisturbed for months.
With plenty of time to stare into my lighted magnifying mirror but no reason to use it for glam, I instead turned to the one beauty routine that still seemed to make sense: skin care. I wasn’t spending money on clothing, cocktails, or cosmetics, but serums, oils, and masks (mostly from my favorite clean beauty brand Biossance)? Those were no longer luxury items; they were necessities giving me some sort of a schedule and keeping me sane.
My skin and I have a tumultuous relationship. On the positive side, it has remained relatively unwrinkled throughout my 30s and early 40s, thanks in equal parts to genetics (thanks, mom!) and the Botox I inject into my forehead twice a year. But it consistently pisses me off by breaking out with cystic acne at a dumbfounding pace. I never had acne as an adolescent, but as a mother of two, I became spottier than my daughter’s favorite cheetah-print leggings.
My problem skin was both frustrating and embarrassing, and no amount of zit patches, creams, oils, or drying lotions seemed to change the situation. I know because I tried them all. What finally did cure my acne? A year of pandemic-fueled makeup-free living. Within a couple of months, I noticed that my ever-present pimples were all but gone. Since my stress levels certainly hadn’t dropped, the only reason I could come up with for this miraculous occurrence was that I’d replaced my concealers, powders, cheek tints, and everything else in my makeup bag with a clean, well-moisturized, naked face.
By the time I was fully vaccinated and ready to attend all those lunches, dinners, and parties I’d missed, my skin was clearer than it had been in years, motivating me to live a mostly makeup-free post-pandemic life. In truth, my made-up face now looked completely foreign and slightly cringe-y. Why try that hard?
So I replaced all my old, now-expired cosmetics with a few essentials: Glossier’s Brow Flick and Boy Brow (if you didn’t use the pandemic as an opportunity to grow out your brows as much as possible, you missed out), Merit’s Minimalist complexion stick and Flush Balm cheek color, Benefit’s Benetint lip stain, an eyelash curler for my stick-straight lashes, and a touch of Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir mascara for those times when I’m feeling extra fancy.
I pull my new, much smaller cosmetics bag out a couple times a week, but most days, my face stays as bare as it was all of 2020. Sure, makeup is great, but having skin that looks just as good without it? So much better.