How I Reclaimed Face Makeup After Swearing It Off

For most of my life, I've staunchly rejected face makeup for a number of reasons, ranging from body image to sensitive skin conditions. In the spring, I denounced it entirely, promising never to use foundation again. But it's recently come to my attention that while my sensitive skin reasoning was valid, my motives concerning body positivity were not.

Formerly, I thought skin makeup like highlighter, foundation, and concealer blocked me from truly feeling good about myself, allowing my mind and visage to give in to an inherent urge to erase the alleged flaws on my skin. But thanks to a recent crash course I was given in contouring, I learned that avoiding it was the very thing that was keeping me from a more body positive approach to my beauty routine. And suddenly, I was on the road to reclaiming face makeup altogether.

This summer, my younger sister visited me for a couple of days with some new beauty products she had scored in tow. She presented one product in the collection to me with beaming pride: A contouring kit from a drugstore brand that she promised was as high-quality as the goods at any department store counter. She eagerly suggested I try it on with her guidance. She had flawlessly executed a subtle contour earlier that week while trying out different looks for prom, after all. But despite my love for trying new beauty trends and for makeup in general, I hesitated.

My previous stance on face makeup in mind, I realized that it was fear holding me back in those moments, and not my commitment to body positivity. I mean, how could sharing a fun makeover session with my sister (who I consider to be my best friend) be body negative at all? There was nothing about allowing my sis to teach me to contour that would ruin my body pos journey or commit me to a lifetime of applying pore-clogging and irritating foundation on my precious skin.

I hesitated, in all honesty, because I genuinely thought I wouldn't look good with the contouring makeup on. It was ingrained body negativity that was holding me back from enjoying myself by letting my sister go to town on my face.

So I threw caution to the wind and gave in, letting her take me through the process step by step as we both contoured our faces in my dirty dorm room mirror. Quite frankIy, I loved the results. For the first time ever, I was looking at my reflection — a reflection rocking face makeup — and not thinking about how my acne, eczema, or enlarged pores took away from how I looked. Instead, I admired my handiwork, and realized that I deserve to experiment with a myriad of looks despite my skin's "imperfections."

Ever since then, I've been allowing myself to branch out and explore the many skin-transforming possibilities that face makeup can offer, much in the same way that I do with my precious lipsticks. I started investing in some magical products from brands such as Milk Makeup, Glossier, and Benefit.

On one particularly emotional day, I actually used my expanding palette of products to conceal my swollen and gray face in an attempt to uplift my mood. I created a rosy and glowing complexion with the help of my new contouring palette, concealer, highlighting powder, and a touch of Milk Makeup's Face Gloss on my cheeks.

Milk Makeup Face Gloss, $20, Sephora

I wasn't trying to hide my acne or dark circles, though. I was just having fun. As a result of applying makeup for the joy of it, and not in an attempt to conceal aspects of my body I'd learned to consider "blemishes," I didn't feel that I was betraying my body positivity, nor was I enabling any insecurities about my skin. Instead, I was furthering my quest in beauty experimentation, and expressing myself through the ever-grounding practice of engaging in new rituals.

With a whole new world of beauty opened up to me, I've been experimenting with contouring, highlighting, and even using liquid shadow and lipstick as blush (I can't help but add a queer flair to everything I do). I even indulged in purchasing Pat McGrath's Skin Fetish, an alien beauty lover's dream come true, what with its otherworldly highlighter and purple-tinged powder.

I don't wear my new obsessions too often, keeping in mind the sensitivity of my skin and always treating myself to a face mask after a day of rocking concealer and highlighter-infused masterpieces. When I do wear these things, however — all the while knowing what I know about many people's opinions of my oily and breakout-prone skin — I feel rebellious. I deserve to indulge in all the highlighter and bronzer I want regardless of the quality of my skin.

My relationship with face makeup has transformed drastically. Covering my visage in sparkly and pigmented powders has become a truly body positive act. Beauty is not reserved for people with ~flawless~ skin, and indulging in makeup doesn't have to be about hiding "imperfections." In fact, I often use beauty to embrace these imperfections.

At the end of the day, beauty is for anyone and everyone who feels empowered by utilizing it.

Images: Meg Zulch