The Makeup Conundrum

I started wearing makeup on my 13th birthday. My parents were hesitant, I was insistent. I've written before about my body image issues as a pre-teen and young adult, and so have a million other people written about theirs. It's still important though. Until I was 16 I described wearing makeup as wearing a mask, or a disguise. A few years ago I flippantly told my mom that I wore makeup so that people I didn't know could not know the real me at first sight. See, I couldn't get past my face reflecting everything that made me.

I wore makeup because I never felt beautiful. I wore makeup because I didn't fit in with a standard of beauty that wasn't me. I wore makeup because I was the fat kid who's grandparents made sure I knew I should be dieting. I wore makeup because everyone else did and that's what growing looked like, I thought.

Oh yeah, I was also the kid with social anxiety and what I recognize now as depression and self destructive thoughts.

Growing up is a really hard thing. You spend time with people while you're a little kid and you think "these are my best friends." But the thing about childhood friends is no one knows how to keep them and everyone has different priorities. Add that to leaving your home church, moving a town away and having family sickness in your home and you get a mess. My childhood was a mix of two extremes internally, and just thinking myself ugly. I struggled with early development as a young girl, being bigger than every kid my age and a way crooked smile that was just the icing on the cake. I didn't like being me at all. I wanted to be everyone else but me.

I look at the pictures of me at 10-13 years old and I just see a gorgeous little girl with bright eyes and a bright future who wants to be everything at once. Even though I was her, I can't see the nights I spent crying into my pillow, or the times I cried in the dressing room at department stores because nothing fit right hidden behind that smile.

My mom held me and kissed me and told me I was beautiful and I was loved. She knew the struggles of growing up. Here's the thing though: even if your parents and family are loving and kind and affirm in you the beauty they see, it only takes a few words to bring you down. I wrote about some of those words in Dear Stranger... I'm Beautiful last year. Children are so vulnerable to the strangers words. I remember thinking "mom, you HAVE to tell me that you love me. You HAVE to tell me that I'm beautiful. It's part of your job."

When someone who doesn't know you echoes the thoughts already stirring in your head, it's devastating. No amount of affirmation from others can help, you only listen to what you already believe. So I started wearing makeup at 13. I wore it too much, I wore it too often, and I wore it wrong.

But that's okay. Makeup isn't evil. Makeup is weird and bizarre if you start to think about it. But it's not the cause of problems. I wore makeup because I felt beautiful wearing it. Without it, I saw a chubby faced, rosy cheeked, crooked-toothed teen with pimples. With it I saw a chubby faced, rosy cheeked, crooked-toothed teen with pimples but with the addition of sparkly lip gloss, too much mascara and constant smoky eyes.

I felt pretty though, and that was a big thing for me. My parents told me I looked beautiful without or with the makeup on. My mom encouraged me to experiment and try new things, but remember that God made me in a beautiful way and I don't need to cover that up.

And I think this is the important factor here, they gave me room to figure things out for myself. So I did. I experimented with lots of different styles and looks until one day I looked in the mirror and realized that I was trying to perfect a 'natural' look which didn't look anything like me. In 2013 I took a portrait every single day (well, I missed a few because I was also really sick at the time.) and I started to realize how difficult it was for me to just take the portrait without changing how I looked. I'd set my camera to capture some small part of my day or the end of it, and I'd want to touch up how I looked. It was a struggle to just take it truthfully. And by the end, I realized.... I just like myself. It didn't matter if I had terrible acne that day, or if I had spent a few minutes in front of the mirror applying paint to make me look like someone else. I just liked who I was.

These days, it's actually the rare moment when I do wear makeup. I realized that most of the attention we spend covering up our "imperfections" is just drawing the attention of others. Heck, I don't even wear makeup on dates anymore. Yeah, dates with a boy. But isn't makeup all for boys so they don't know we're not flawless? Turns out, he likes it when I don't wear makeup, and when I do, and when I've been working all day and I'm covered in dirt and sweat. Makeup isn't such a big deal as I once thought it was.

Self-expression is one thing and I can totally get behind its usage. If my little girls someday ask me to let them wear makeup when they turn 13, I'll give them a big hug, and kiss them on both cheeks and say "Baby, you're so beautiful. Just look at yourself. You have a perfect nose for kissing-" and I'll kiss the tip of it, "-You have lovely eyelashes, and warm cheeks. You don't need anything to make you look prettier. But if you really want to try it, let's do it together so we can be pretty and silly at the same time."

What about you? What's your experience with makeup or the lack thereof? I want to hear your stories.

Also, thinking about moving this blog over to www.johanna-grace.com/bonfirehearts but I can't decide. What's your vote, stay here or go there?

xoxo Johanna Grace
ps. Forgot to add this earlier, Meg at shake, rattle, and ramble wrote an excellent post about this a few weeks ago. Here


  1. This is beautiful Johanna. Truly.
    When I was little I always wanted to wear make-up because I wanted to look like a teenager. My parents told me to wait (I was only about seven or eight at the time). But then, as I grew older and a smidge wiser, I forgot all about make-up. When I looked in the mirror I began to see a beautiful girl who was growing up when I used to see an awkward girl who had short hair and braces and was abnormally tall. Even though my parents are fine with me wearing make-up now, I usually don't put a bit on. As I've gotten older (I'm sixteen now) I've realized that I'm comfortable in my own skin. I know I don't look perfect-probably far from it but God made me. And he loves and accepts me for who I am. And he thinks I'm perfect. That we're all perfect in his eyes. <3

    By the way, I checked out "the portrait everyday" link and goodness. You are so gorgeous, Johanna!
    Beautiful post. <3


    1. Beautiful girl, thank you for commenting! I'm so proud of you, for seeing yourself as beautiful and choosing to embrace that. It's wonderful to me that you've reached that point at your age.

      Many hugs <3

  2. i have such a connection with this post. i feel like maybe we were the same kid growing up, except i wasn't allowed to wear makeup until 15. it was something i opposed just to be anti. i wear a little now to conceal acne, but due to lack of time i wish i didn't 'have' to wear it at all. posts like this just really inspire me.

    1. There's a lot to be said about putting your, to borrow and mix a metaphor, "best face forward". A lot of times people can't get past seeing acne, even if it is a natural part of growing up. But if you're comfortable in not wearing makeup at all, I say go for it!

  3. "I wanted to be everyone else but me." Amen. I love those pictures of you, so beautiful and honest. And I love your grounded mind. The world needs more people like you in it and I mean that.

    1. I feel the same way about you, Meg. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. I went through a phase where I wanted to wear it and be creative; I was fascinated with being able to try new things (like art or painting, but on your face!). Now I don't really have time & money for it and I really truly like myself better without it. Either way though, I went through the same kinda thing you did with worrying so much and too much about my appearance. I'm still working on that though it's much better than it was. Thank you for writing this post!

    1. Sounds like we've been through the very same phases. Hugs xox

  5. I love this and I love you.
    Make up has been a struggle for me. I started wearing it two years ago, and last year I started feeling ugly without it, that I needed it in order to look beautiful. The past few months have been a learning experience for me, and I'm finally realizing that I am beautiful with or without make up. Now I don't wear it because I need it, but because I enjoy wearing make up. I've learned to realize that God created me to be beautiful, and in His sight I always will be.
    Thank you!

  6. this is so so beautiful. i haven't been 'allowed' to wear makeup, but i've always really wanted to. i know i don't need it, but i am pretty sure i would feel better about myself if i wore it (i've sort of experimented).

    the rule is age 20 you can start wearing really any of it. i've never thought this a fair rule, but i've followed it so far.
    but i will admit, i do get jealous when other people i know wear it, and i know its bad, but it's the truth.

    this post really got me though.

    xx, rn

  7. Thank you so much for posting this :)

  8. You are beautiful! I looked at the link to your self portraits and they are amazing; truly inspiring!

  9. I have come to realize in the passing year...that make up isn't everything. and when it's used in a way to "cover up", it is abused in a way. and I have to also say, in the past several months I have also come to see that some of the best dates are when I wear it naturally or barely any at all. ;) thank you for your story, thoughts, and encouragement beautiful girl! x

  10. I loved your thoughts on this!
    Even though I never wore makeup growing up, I absolutely hated my face! I had terrible acne, but my mother never encouraged makeup, so I never wore any. I didn't want to change my natural face, I just wanted to cover up a few blemishes that made me super self-conscious. I still have "ugly" days where the hormones go whacko. I wish I could say I'm one of those super confident people who cares-not what others think (p.s. I'm not.) But honestly, I enjoy the liberty of covering up blemishes (which aren't a permanent fixture on my face) if it means giving me confidence for the day.
    That's probably a lame thing to say when it comes to loving-the-skin-your-in. But I think makeup can be helpful for the teenage-hormone-disasters. Ultimately, I'm fine going makeup-less (seriously, who's going to care?) or using it. I just don't want to feel pressured to wear or not to wear makeup. So, I think as long as you feel comfortable with your makeup routine (or lack thereof), make your own decision and just go for it!
    / Bethany

    1. I totally agree with you actually! Makeup helped me in my self esteem problems a lot growing up. A blogger I read a long time ago wrote something that always made me think. She said "What do you want people to remember, your acne or your personality? You are in charge of what people see in you."

      Thanks for the comment!


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