By Corinne Louie – This past weekend was BeautyCon NYC and it was a blast! Playing with makeup is comparable to playing with finger paint…it’s messy and fun, and when you’re done you’ve created some kind of art. Before I start posting videos and makeup tutorials/reviews/photos, I wanted to share my experience with makeup and how wearing it, and not wearing it, has impacted my life. You need to know my story before I delve into the beauty realm. This narrative is extremely personal and a topic with which very few people, even those closest to me, know I’ve struggled. Hey, I am only human and maybe my story will help other people who have similar struggles.

Makeup and I Have a Long History, But We’re Cool Now, Right?

My mother will attest, I practically came out of the womb wearing makeup.

Any makeup I could get my tiny hands on, I would go to town with. If there was no makeup within reach, I would walk around pretending I had some on… I looked super silly and completely adorable at the same time with my eyes half shut because I thought it meant I was wearing eye-shadow. There was a very big imagination in my little head.

In elementary school, GLITTER entered the picture. One of the biggest 90’s makeup trends. Glitter shadow, glitter hair mascara, glitter lotion, glitter spray, glitter rollers. Glitter was the first beauty trend my parents let me experiment with on my own and I went NUTS. There was glitter in every crevasse of our family home. I am truly sorry to my brother who had to deal with the shiny little specks, and who loathed them with all his being.


Starting at age 7, I was in full-face makeup a lot of the time working as a child model. It was part of the job. I was cute and worked often. On the job I learned from countless professionals how to apply makeup, how to create looks, different tools, the best brands and brushes… everything girls at that age (7-14) would flip through magazines trying to figure out. I loved every second of it. I loved the way makeup made me look and feel. Shy and nervous as I was, makeup would transform my personality. As soon as the makeup artists were done and would send me to set, I was ON. Cool and confident Corinne.

Through middle school when my parents started letting me wear real makeup on the regular, I used it mostly to hide my pubescent acne each day. Makeup, particularly a heavy smudge of dark eye liner on the water line, was the cool thing. In high-school, besides hiding the ever present acne, makeup became a habitual part of the morning routine. I remember very few times I went without it.

In college, makeup became a mask. A mask I wore every day. A mask I would hide all my insecurities behind; not just the blemishes, but every inner insecurity. I never left my dorm or apartment without concealer and blush at least. Freshman year, I would try to compensate for the 15+ lbs I gained by loading on more blush and mascara. I thought, if I can distract everyone with my face, they surely wouldn’t notice the change in my weight, right?

Makeup helped me hide. It was what I put on every morning to make it appear like I had it all together. Like I wasn’t tired. Like I was prepared. It was my security.

I was unaware that I had developed Graves’ Disease my 1st year of college, an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to over-produce hormone and subsequently increase my appetite, anxiety attacks, paranoia and break-downs. My disease got worse through the years as it went untreated. I didn’t realize or understand what was happening to me. I thought I was just going through it. My breakdowns came frequently, the anxiety built up, and I couldn’t stop eating which accounted for more weight gain. I actively exercised, mostly in the middle of the night and until all hours of the morning, to compensate for the amount of food I was taking in. Looking back, I now know I had an eating disorder. My body was working overtime…doing way too much at once. Basically, I was a mess. A big ol’ mess. And I hid it from everyone.

Makeup helped me hide. It was what I put on every morning to make it appear like I had it all together. Like I wasn’t tired. Like I was prepared. It was my security.

And to be honest, I did not think I was beautiful without it. I did not like the pale, uneven skin tones I saw in the mirror every morning and as quickly as I could, I would lather on the concealer, foundation, bronzer, blush, liner, shadow, mascara. I sought confidence and thought makeup would give it to me.

After graduating college, seeking medical help and having my thyroid surgically removed, changing career paths, and finding the love of my life, I went on quite the soul search towards a healthier me (there are multiple stories here, but we’ll stick with the makeup one and leave them for another time). The road was rocky at first. My body and mind had to heal after years of self abuse. Kudos to my best friend (and roommate at the time) who lived through the transition with me. I wasn’t overly dramatic or anything and I probably appeared pretty calm to most people but, I wasn’t calm. I was stuck in life limbo, barely leaving the apartment except for work. I was stubborn and self-sabotaging. My best friend handled me with grace.

I eventually realized that if I wanted to shed myself of the insecurities and anxiety I developed through my college years, I would need to start with the shield that was keeping it all in and hiding everything. It was time to wipe it all away. Cold turkey, one day, I decided I would go a month without my security blanket. One month: no makeup.

The first week was extremely uncomfortable. I felt ugly. I felt like everyone was staring at me. Of course they weren’t, but my inner voices said otherwise. It was winter in NYC and I would attempt to hide behind my scarves and hats. Please don’t look at me. When I went out with friends, I would point out flaws, and say things like, “ugh, I have a pimple on my cheek” and “I’m not wearing makeup” (I truly thought of myself sans makeup as flawed).

It was the first time I realized that it wasn’t makeup that made me beautiful. It wasn’t makeup that gave me confidence. It’s me!

At some point in the remainder of the month, I was sitting on the subway feeling vulnerable with my exposed and blemished bare face. I remember thinking it had to be one of my most unattractive days. Ever.

There were two high school-aged girls next to me on the train. One sitting and the other standing. The train was loud enough that conversations were blending with each other and through the blend, I heard the standing girl whisper to the sitting, “The woman next to you is beautiful.” The girl sitting next to me tried to inconspicuously look in my direction and then turned back to her friend. “Yeah.

Were they really talking about me? At first I thought they MUST have been talking about someone else on the train. But I was the only woman in the immediate area. It was one of the first times I was referred to as a woman by someone other than my boyfriend (now fiancé!). And a beautiful woman. What?! When I exited the train to walk home, I cried. They unknowingly triggered the one breakdown I so desperately needed to start my healing process.

It was the first time I realized that it wasn’t makeup that made me beautiful. It wasn’t makeup that gave me confidence. It’s me!

One month of no makeup turned to two, and two months became two years. There were a few select occasions makeup came out to play, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times. On the rare occasions I would wear or attempt to wear makeup, most of those times I would immediately wash it off. It would make me feel so self-conscious and almost clown-like. Wearing makeup was like wearing all of my old insecurities on my face. Like putting them on display for the world to see.

I’ve found a nice balance now. Makeup and I are in a good place. Like, we’re cool.

It’s been about two and a half years since that day on the subway and today, I love the face I see in the mirror every morning. It’s my face. A face uniquely made for me. A face I can paint and draw on if I want to. I’m still a perfectionist and have a mini-breakdown when there’s a breakout (they happen more often than not), but I can deal now. The world doesn’t crumble and makeup is not the first thing I reach for (fyi, it’s water, tea, and greens).

Today, I appreciate the artistry and self expression of makeup. I appreciate color palettes and the clean, eye-popping aesthetic of a well placed liquid liner line. I still love glitter with every fiber of my being. Though, I am fully aware of the impact plastic glitter has on the environment and have switched to eco-friendly shimmer. I can honestly and confidently say, I wear makeup now only when I am feeling a bit sassy or want to stand out, and it makes me happy!

We’ll see where it takes me in the future, but for now, makeup is no longer my enemy. It’s my friend. And makeup is not what makes me beautiful. 

heart Corinne

About the contributor

Corinne Louie is a photographer and artist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Doing her best to love life each day. Corinne blogs at She’s Human, a place where she collects the little things that “make me happy and a place where we will remind ourselves we’re human.”

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