Looking Better Without Makeup - Skin Quality
February 15, 2015 4:50 PM   Subscribe

I used to look perfectly fine without make up - barely an under-eye circle to be seen. Since I turned 20 two years ago, my face looks more haggard, my eyes look more puffy and my under-eyes look dark and gross. I've resolved to drink more water, eat more green fruits and veggies...and..what? What else do I do to get rid of my under-eye circles and my haggard-ish, puffy face? I just don't want to reply on makeup anymore to look nice. Pics below the fold : (


This is me, miserable at the office, after skipping my makeup for once. EVERYONE basically said I look tired, haggard, sick, etc. So many people commented on how different I look without it.

I can't believe how different I look without it now, and how awful I feel. I'm 22. My under eye bags are so dark and noticeable, my skin is splotchy and uneven and I just look so...not good without makeup. My current routine is that I use Aveeno face wash with salicylic acid and the daily brightening face scrub at night. I moisturize with whatever I've got - I really like Skin Drink by Lush, but willing to try something brightening. Any mask recommendations? Any recommendations and tips at all? It's depressing how bad I look without my mask, so some anecdotal "this is how I improved my skin and face when I was looking tired and blah without it!" - especially the dark under eyes!!!

Any advice appreciated. Thanks!
posted by rhythm_queen to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (45 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You say you feel awful - what do you mean?
posted by bunderful at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2015

Response by poster: Sorry, I guess I mean - I feel awful about how I look - but honestly I feel a weird burning, tired sensation behind my eyes, too, like my eyes are forever tired.
posted by rhythm_queen at 4:59 PM on February 15, 2015

Undereye circles are a common symptom of allergies. Have you thought about trying an antihistamine like Claritin?
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh, and your update makes me think that's what it is. You can get hay fever even in the wintertime. It might be from dust or chemicals used at your work.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 5:01 PM on February 15, 2015

How much sleep do you get?

(I know this isn't answering the question, but I just have to say I think your skin is beautiful. I do see the dark circles, but overall your skin looks wonderful (and your eyebrows are truly on fleek))

For me, sleep is really the lifestyle key to improving the undereye circles. I usually sleep 8-9 hours and I can tell on my face if I even get only 7.
posted by telegraph at 5:02 PM on February 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Daily Claritin helped lighten my dark eye circles. YMMV.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:02 PM on February 15, 2015

Your previous questions have talked a lot about job and social stress. Those can really show on your face.
posted by rtha at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

For uneven skin colour or to brighten you might want to look into AHA's. Face washes with anything in don't really stay on the face long enough to do too much good, you may want to look into a leave on cream. Also if you are exposing your skin to anything with AHA/BHA's in you will want to be slathering on the sunscreen as they will make your skin more sensitive to sun damage & you can end up looking worse than when you started. I've had really good results with the Paulas Choice range, but there are many other good brands out there including the Olay Regenerist range. Dark under eye is usually partly genetic and can be caused by environmental factors like allergies etc as others have said.
posted by wwax at 5:08 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know it's not the answer you want to hear, but I suspect a large part of this is just that you (and your coworkers) have gotten used to you wearing a lot of makeup. When you don't, the difference is noticeable--but if you weren't used to wearing makeup, you might be completely happy with your appearance. I know that's hard to believe when other people have also commented, but the combination of being used to a more heavily-made-up look and your own reduced self-confidence can actually account for that.

I honestly think you look really pretty and I can't detect the things you're concerned about--I (mid-20s, female) would be glad to look like that without makeup!

Sometimes the easiest, most efficient way to fix the problem "I don't like how this part of my body looks" is via the "I don't like" part rather than the "my body" part. That doesn't mean there aren't also tractable solutions to undereye circles, but it might be worth trying, say, a few weeks with no makeup in conjunction with other things--just to recalibrate!

Also: for dark circles, sleep (as other people have mentioned) and hydration can help a lot. Keep a water bottle with you at work if you can, drink enough at breakfast, etc.
posted by cogitron at 5:11 PM on February 15, 2015 [24 favorites]

It sounds like you may have sensitive skin. Could you cut out using the salicylic acid wash on your face, or are you using that to control acne? FWIW, I have super sensitive skin and found that Aveeno was too harsh, so I stick with sensitive skin products from Neutrogena, Olay, and Avon.

Also, try facial massage. It's really soothing and it helps to make sure your moisturizer is getting in. I think it helps control puffiness. It seems a little weird at first and you definitely don't have to do it as long as they do in the videos, but it's now a part of my routine.
posted by topophilia at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2015

I just wanted to say holy shit, you are gorgeous, first of all.

Unfortunately, dark circles are usually hereditary, except for some cases of allergies, not sleeping well, dehydration, that kind of thing. So I would first try and get really solid sleep (maybe exercise or yoga to tire you out, then a solid 8 hours), and make sure you're hydrated (peeing clearish). Try and practice good self-care, take time for beauty routines like cleansing and moisturizing, maybe grab some free samples of undereye cream from Sephora to really hydrate (but really, no creams can lighten or alter dark circles).

If you don't see any change after 4 weeks or so, well, maybe you can be OK with dabbing a little undereye concealer on.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing sleep and claritin in case your circles are coming from exhaustion and/or allergies.

But also seconding that the main problem is, people are used to your made-up face, so of course your bare face looks different. And this includes you! (I am speaking from the perspective of someone who has been wearing makeup for EVER because of acne, and only now in my 30s is my skin calm enough that I can start skipping it. But the transition has been hard, even though my skin looks better than ever!)

I honestly believe that if you gradually wean yourself off of the makeup, and focus on taking really good care of your health and skin, you'll realize that you look just fine without it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

D'oh, forgot to paste in the last part of my comment...

The gradual weaning is important--get used to how you look without foundation, first. Then mascara, eyeliner, blush, whatever. Since you're most self-conscious about your eyes, abandon that last. This way both you and your coworkers will get used to the "new normal" slowly but surely.

Also if your skin is not oily naturally, try reallllllly moisturizing. It's winter, air is dry, offices are dry...I think I spent my 20s undermoisturizing and suffering for it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2015

This is me, miserable at the office, after skipping my makeup for once. EVERYONE basically said I look tired, haggard, sick, etc. So many people commented on how different I look without it.

There are some great suggestions above, but I'll add that not only amount of sleep but quality of sleep is really important. I started using sleep cycle on the iPhone and it really made a difference for me... the nights I drank alcohol right before bed were killing my sleep pattern, and taking some benedryl on days I had allergy symptoms really helped. Sleep Cycle tracks all that and you can see what's affecting your sleep.
posted by Huck500 at 5:40 PM on February 15, 2015

South Asian skin just tends to be extremely prone to undereye circles. I'm South Asian and my entire family on my dad's side has those undereye circles, so I think it's mostly genetic. I wouldn't worry that you're necessarily not hydrating enough (it's a myth that you need all those glasses of water a day anyway -- just drink when you're thirsty), or that you're not getting enough rest (by all means, rest more but that's not necessarily linked to your dark circles). This might just have to be something to live with and if you need a dash of makeup to feel put together, it's really not the end of the world.
posted by peacheater at 5:52 PM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments so far! (AND the compliments, which I feel completely incredulous about...) Just FYI, I have absolutely no allergies as far as I know. : P My under eyes just never used to be so bad, so I'd like to do what I can to improve them.

(PS...Is the water thing REALLY a myth?!)
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:54 PM on February 15, 2015

Consider that your face is just your face. You have dark circles because you're human and we all have those. It's really not fair that any dude can show up with the face he was born with but you have to feel bad about yours. Drinking water, sleeping right, keeping your skin healthy are fine goals, but in addition to that, consider getting used to loving yourself the way God/nature/your parents made you. It kills me that women are made to feel so bad about themselves because of outdated notions of what we're worth.
posted by bleep at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2015 [23 favorites]

(PS...Is the water thing REALLY a myth?!)
Yes it's definitely a myth.
posted by peacheater at 6:02 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my sisters has a similar complexion to you and frankly, as she got older her under eye area darkened. (So did mine but mine is purple-tinted and less noticable because I'm very fair.) Due to the fact that the actual pigment changes as you age, I susoect this is an issue that can't be corrected in any way except over a cosmetics counter. I would visit Sephora for a tinted mositurizer to even you out, or maybe specifically try Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you seen this cartoon? Women get told a lot that they look tired/sick without makeup, just because people are used to what they look like with it on.
posted by noxperpetua at 6:46 PM on February 15, 2015 [12 favorites]

The only real way to fix under eye circles/bags is with a dermal filler (in my opinion). I don't think your circles are nearly bad enough to even consider it. Much better to use a little concealer, although I do understand wanting to not "need' it. An eye cream with light-reflecting pigments and/or some tinted moisturizer may help enough that you feel comfortable without the concealer.
posted by tealcake at 6:52 PM on February 15, 2015

I think you look a bit like Janani from Dark Matter Poetry, who is awesome.

I only mention this because I think there is a social component to this. I felt more secure about my own appearance once I searched for media with people that looked like ME. There's not much of that in Hollywood. Maybe that would help for you as well... be kind to yourself, y'know?

From a practical perspective, you might get fewer comments if you applied less makeup gradually rather than all at once. I'm doing the opposite at work (going from little/no makeup to some makeup) and the gradual approach has worked well.
posted by yaymukund at 6:58 PM on February 15, 2015

You are totally lovely!

I'm south asian and I feel you on the undereye worry (cheers peacheater). For what it's worth, as I got older I started to dab a bit of sheer bb cream under my eyes every morning. I figure that I need to put some kind of sunblock/moisturizer there anyway, so might as well take the edge off the color.

But for non-makeup improvements, my skin goes from "not terrible" to "good-enough-people-say-nice-things" when I'm outdoors a lot (with sunscreen!) and/or exercising regularly.
posted by synapse at 7:10 PM on February 15, 2015

I agree that you (and your coworkers) are just used to seeing you with makeup on, and that's the "normal" right now. If you stopped wearing makeup for a week, I bet everyone would stop commenting and you'd get used to it as well. And, I say this as someone who wears makeup almost daily - if I wear less for a while, that feels normal and more looks overdone. If I wear more for a while, that feels normal and less looks weird to me.

And, you look great to me - you have very good skin! Most people don't have even skin without makeup - I have a lot of redness and hyperpigmentation marks, you don't have either of those but your skin varies a bit in color across your face. Seeing other people wearing foundation (and seeing yourself wearing it) distorts what we think of as normal. Additionally, genetic darker circles under the eyes are fairly common in South Asian women - see, e.g., this before & after photo. Hers are much darker than yours, and she also has uneven skintone without foundation. She looks very different in the before & the after, but she looks great in both!
posted by insectosaurus at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Water intake and moisturization makes a difference for the appearance of my skin. I have to be very diligent about it, though.

Not to be blase, but you don't mention how much sleep you're getting or the quality. I have undereye circles too, and let me tell ya from someone nearly 10 years your senior if you're getting them because you're not sleeping enough they will stay if you keep not sleeping enough.

I have found reddit's SkincareAddiction subreddit to be a fantastic source of informed skincare advice. They address the undereye circles as well as a host of other skin problems.
posted by Anonymous at 7:28 PM on February 15, 2015

Also I have terrible undereye circles and nobody comments on them because I never conceal them. There is something to be said for recalibrating everyone else's standards!
posted by Anonymous at 7:29 PM on February 15, 2015

It's not exactly what you are looking for, however,red lipstick under your eye concealer seems to work wonders.
posted by KathyK at 7:31 PM on February 15, 2015

I have super dark undereye circles (much much darker than yours) that got worse as I grew up, moved around, etc; I always assumed it was just genetics. But finally a few years ago, after a long series of sinus headaches that wouldn't quit, I saw an allergy doctor who was like "yup you're incredibly allergic to dust, it'll do that." I never had sneezing or any of the symptoms I would have expected for allergies; instead, just mild-to-major sinus inflammation (and the dark circles when it was mild, dark circles + headaches when it was bad). I'm on shots now, so hopefully eventually it'll clear up the dark circles as well and I won't need to wear so much concealer to look awake. YMMV, but it's something worth checking into.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:36 PM on February 15, 2015

Honestly, I think you look lovely, especially if this is you at the end of a work day! I think it never hurts to tweak your routine towards healthier habits and dermatologists can be amazing. They would be your best next step, really.

And if I may: I had clicked on that link expecting something totally different. You look like a healthy, naturally pretty young woman to me! I'd wish you could appreciate your outer-beauty more; in fact, it saddens me to hear you describe yourself as "haggard" looking when you look good (and I'm talking conventional beauty standards here.) I'd want you to be kinder to yourself, right now but especially as you get older.

I hope you find a physical step that gives you the results you desire. But please also remember that beauty has many forms and can be at all ages but what a shame to not appreciate -- or at least recognize it -- in yourself!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:38 PM on February 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Chiming in to agree that people just get used to seeing people (well, really, women) with make-up and get weirded out at seeing how someone actually looks. I stopped wearing make-up in college for more or less that reason; I hated that I was self-conscious being in public without it, and I didn't want to rely on it to feel like myself, since it wasn't a natural part of me.

In the last almost-two decades I've gone back and forth in being barefaced or with-makeup, mostly barefaced, and I am extremely glad the most of the world knows me with my natural face. I think I probably look "better" with makeup in a lot of ways, but I think of it like formal wear -- fun and glamorous for an evening, but not required for everyday life.
posted by jaguar at 8:51 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

(I should note that I know some industries pretty much require female employees to wear makeup, either explicitly or culturally. If you're in one of those, the criteria for your choices about daily wear may be different. Even in that situation, however, your co-workers are being annoying.)
posted by jaguar at 8:52 PM on February 15, 2015

Here's a video by Lisa Eldridge on eye stuff (which, I'm not 100% sure about her recommendations, but she explains the variations on "under-eye circles" [brownish = pigmentation; blueish = veins; puffiness = other stuff] and will give you stuff to Google).

Anyway - I'm seeing puffiness more than I am dark circles. I think it probably is something like allergies, too much sodium, or lack of sleep, together with maybe something physiometric (just the shape of things there). Do you wear contact lenses? It might be a reaction to the solution, or maybe lenses aren't being cleaned as well as your eyes need (in which case, try a hydrogen peroxide system).

Goss on how to conceal under-eye puffiness.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2015

I will also add in the office lighting is generally really really unflattering. Go easy on yourself!

I've always had dark circles, and don't wear much make up but if I don't any I also immediately get the "up all night?" comments. For as long as I can remember. In my office, I've slowly stopped wearing eye makeup/extras in favor of a very neutral look to hide the circles and combat the office lighting (I also tend to be anemic and pale looking - I may have a tan, but I'm rarely "flushed" in any sense of the word). I use a dab of sunscreen or bbcream and photoready concealer and tinted chapstick. This seems to be enough ward off comments and look reasonably put together. I'm in an industry in a department where I do need to wear some makeup. I'm 32 but this has easily been going on for 10+ years.

What really helped me feel better was working on a farm, where it really didn't matter what I looked like, no one ever commented, and I could go weeks without looking in a mirror. I really appreciated my body for all the work it could do, rather than feeling cranky about what it looked like. Exercise, drink lots of water, and focus on taking care of yourself and feeling good that way.

My asthma acting up can make it worse too; oxygen = good. (If you smoke, stop!) I am intrigued by the allergy thing though!
posted by jrobin276 at 9:08 PM on February 15, 2015

I've never seen you before, obviously, and when I clicked on that link I said immediately - outloud - Oh my god, she is so beautiful! Really. You are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the world is so used to seeing us with makeup on, that our totally normal, natural faces - y'know, our noses, lips, our skin, our sometimes puffy eyes, ourSELVES look "wrong" to people.
To treat your skin well, drink water, get good rest. Make sure you're sleeping well, not just the "right" number of hours. Make a routine that begins with no screens an hour before bedtime, and include something relaxing to you, be it reading, music, mindfulness, a few drops of essential oil, whatever works. Wash your face at night with a simple face wash, and always use a good moisturizer with sunscreen.
If you're in an industry that allows a non-armored face, decide when you wear makeup based on YOUR preference. In the best of moments, wearing make-up is yet another avenue to explore and express your personal preferences, whatever they be that day. Please know, though, that in or out of makeup you are beautiful, and coworkers who tell you that your appearance looks "incorrect" are wrong. Your face is right, no matter what.
posted by missmary6 at 9:23 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

You look great, but are you getting enough sleep?
Your skin looks fabulous. Your expression looks like you aren't sleeping enough.
posted by raw sugar at 9:47 PM on February 15, 2015

I get the "you look so tired" thing too every time I try to go without makeup, too. It probably is just other people being used to seeing you with makeup.

However, if I was as pretty as you, I'd take every opportunity possible to go without makeup! You don't need it and makeup is a big PITA. If your dark circles really bother you, maybe do just concealer (though honestly they don't really look that bad and don't take away from your face at all)? For undereye bags, I find sleeping on two pillows helps me - the fluid doesn't pool under the eyes like it does if your head is lying flatter.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:51 AM on February 16, 2015

My under eye dark circles became more pronounced as I got older.

I like the Garnier rollers. There's one for night, and the one for day with a brightener in it.

It is what it is. I DO have allergies. So I also use eye drops for that. But the puffy, dark circles...yeah.

Also wanted to chime in and say that you're beautiful.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:05 AM on February 16, 2015

Best answer: Personally I think people that wear so much concealer as to not have any shadow or darkness around their eyes look strange. You are very beautiful with no makeup on at all.

I do think drinking water helps with skin stuff, digestion, etc. The specific call for 8 glasses a day may be a myth, but most people ignore their thirst more than they realize. So it's probably good to make sure you always have a water bottle with you at work and just sip whenever you feel the least bit thirsty. It's really easy to be too busy/focused to get up from your desk to get some water otherwise.

Once a week or so, I like to use this charcoal/black sugar face mask. I think all it really does is exfoliate, but I love how bright and soft my skin is afterwards. Treating your skin well - even if it doesn't change how it looks significantly - can help you feel better about it. Use fancy products if you can afford it, but that mask is like $4 at the drugstore so you don't have to spend a lot.

Vary how much makeup you wear at work from day to day. I used to wear the same stuff every day, but now sometimes I barely wear anything and sometimes I have full winged eyeliner and filled in brows and the whole bit. Treating makeup more like an accessory than a necessity can help you psychologically while also helping your coworkers get used to seeing you with different looks. Hopefully that way they're less likely to attribute wearing less makeup with "OMG she's tired" and won't make rude comments.

Another thing that might help or might make me an asshole, IDK: look at men's faces critically and think about all the things that they'd feel pressured to "correct" if they were women. Dark circles, blemishes, dry skin, oily skin, weak eyelashes, etc., yet no one tells them they look haggard or tired. Don't say anything out loud of course, but it helps to recalibrate how you think of your own face a little bit and recognize how much of this is gendered bullshit.
posted by misskaz at 7:39 AM on February 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

Also, it does help to remember that you actually will look different as you age. You're not "old" or "haggard" by any stretch. But driving yourself nuts, trying to look like you're 16 for the rest of your life? That is no way to live. You're an adult woman with a job and a life, sometimes you're going to look tired and blotchy instead of dewy and perfect.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:36 AM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am you... except that I started needing concealer when I was a young TEENAGER.

In my case, I think it's just genetics. I even have some big blue veins under my eyes that compound the problem. I have joked about simply neglecting makeup on Halloween and going as a tuberculosis patient. ;-)

Makeup is your friend. My favorite concealer: Nars (available at Sephora).
posted by Guinevere at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2015

Everyone is on point about your coworkers just being used to seeing you with makeup. Most of my coworkers don't wear any and look fine but I definitely notice when the ones who love makeup are wearing somewhat less.

I started plucking my eyebrows with a wider space between them recently, because I noticed that on other people it looks more approachable and cheerful. YMMV and make incremental changes, you can definitely go too far with this.

I also decided a while ago to believe that my undereye circles either make me look like a hard worker or like a rakish party girl, depending on context. Try telling yourself that instead of that you look haggard for a while.
posted by momus_window at 1:36 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally, this is not a new article, but it just came across my Tumblr dashboard earlier: The Myth of 'No Makeup'. But the truth is that something like it shows up once a week or so, now that it's starting to be a thing women talk about. We're all conditioned to think of women's real faces as the way they look when they're tired, sick, worn out, that nobody really has under-eye circles that dark and that surely everybody else's skin is less splotchy than yours and it's really not the case. Even the models look splotchy when they're literally not wearing cosmetics of any sort.
posted by Sequence at 1:57 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Vitamin D.

Most people are deficient especially at latitudes North or South of ~35' where the incident angle of the sun, during winter, is too acute and the atmosphere filters out the UVB needed to stimulate skin vitamin D production. Besides, much less skin is exposed during winter.

It's safe to take, 4,000U per day or 20,000U per week isn't harmful. I started taking 1000U most mornings since the start of December and my complexion has improved tremendously. It solved some serious cystic acne issues, too.
posted by porpoise at 3:11 PM on February 16, 2015

This is 100% because you always wear makeup to work. If you didn't wear makeup to work ever, no one would make comments when you didn't wear it. So, now you're aware of the power and downsides of makeup. You are perfectly fine-looking young woman and your skin is not a reflection of your imperfections as a human, resist the urge to feel bad about yourself and assume you're doing something wrong because you don't look like a magazine cover. Literally no amount of vitamin d or water drinking is gonna make a bit of difference in the look of your face.

Signed, the heavy drinker of water with dry skin, the heavy vitamin d taker with undereye circles.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:14 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are young and lovely. Water, sleep and taking care of yourself are good for more than your complexion.

It may be the norm where you are for co-workers to critique your FACE in a professional setting -- I'm sure they are critiquing all the young men too, yes? -- but because it is the norm does not mean it is OK.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 8:09 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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