How I Reconstructed My Toxic Relationship With Makeup

And cut out the filtered baggage.

Debdutta Pal
Jan 18 · 6 min read
Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

I miss the days before social media when you could smudge black eyeshadow across your lids, go to bed with it, and wake up in the morning with skin that’s good to go after a wash.

Maybe my teenage skin was that much more tenacious. But, I often reminisce about that time when we could do anything we wanted without judgment.

If you wear too much makeup, that’s a self-worth issue; too little, and you are a cave person. You spend years buying the right brush, blender, and sponge for step, and then the Guru’s change it up and advocate natural makeup, using your fingers instead.

You save up and buy the highly anticipated $40 highlighter and then hate yourself a little for being so vain.

Video tutorials call out insecurities about myself I didn’t know I had. Pro techniques can never be mastered. An in-between does not exist between consumerism and minimalism. The bag of tips and tricks is bottomless, and after a while, I simply cannot keep up.

Will this new mascara solve my problems?
Maybe it will be a go-to product, and I will own one for a change.
And the question comes to mind, should it be this hard?


My vanity cabinet has been gathering dust for about ten months now, courtesy of the Pandemic. As itchy as I am for not being able to sport new looks, a sense of relief also washes over me every day that I live without the pressure.

Most importantly, it has allowed me to spend adequate time, thought, and energy required to repair the relationship's crucial final links. As we know, all the good ones need much effort and hard work.

As a step, I stopped judging myself for considering makeup/beauty a serious topic. I had to assure myself that this journey is a worthwhile pursuit.

I couldn’t call makeup a proper hobby as I am a Feminist. I can’t be too obsessed with it, as I to like how I look. I couldn’t laugh it off when I would fail at something after spending hours on research, trial, and error.

And I wasn’t able to justify why something as trivial as getting the wrongly colored blush ruined my day.

This needed to stop. I needed to resolve the tormenting duality.
Makeup is important to me because it is. Do I need to offer an explanation?

I am a complicated person. I like looking pretty, playing with colors and glitter, and experimenting with looks. I also have a compulsive need to be in control. I am quick to judge myself and take a to decide what I want. This is my reality and also my starting point.

I realized that although I am very selective with the content I consume, the entire culture of “beauty” is built on playing on our insecurities and then selling us something — many things, for fixing them.

They tell us we have discolored skin. The wrong eyelid shape, lips that are too thin. A fat face. Brows too unruly or too sparse. An uneven canvas. How we are aging the wrong way. The list goes on, and so does the slew of products that will help us address these burning issues.

No one advocates not buying — not less, simply not buying for a while. No one talks about self-love without selling us a few products that will help achieve it. Minimalistic, one-stop solution products are always heavy on the wallet.

Every time I read, watch, or even glance at something, I need to treat it as an . I need to look out for best interests and continuously remind myself that all that glitters is not gold.

I need to trust my learned judgment, rely on my tried and tested techniques, and pass everything I consume through a tight filter.

Most importantly, I need to acknowledge the complexity of this relationship. I am embarking on unlearning years and years of improper conditioning, recognizing my personal insecurities, learning what I like to do, to do, and don’t want to do.

It’s a lengthy, rocky, and ongoing process, and I need to treat it as such.

I remember breaking down after beating my face with the original beauty blender and a super expensive luxe foundation for 15 minutes.

I hated how I looked and wondered, is it me? Will my face ever look flawless like the ones on Instagram?

I wrote a satire piece about this topic last June because that’s the only way I could address it then. But, within it was a lightbulb moment that took me a couple of months to internalize.

  • Makeup should not be about hiding ourselves.
  • We don’t need to constantly cover, conceal, correct, and contour.
  • It should be about celebrating ourselves and accentuating features.
  • This should be a pleasurable activity, and I am going to reclaim it.

Among all the lies that the Beauty industry throws at us, the biggest deceit is that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we naturally look. That we need to bake and cake our face to perfection to look presentable.

I started a ditch list, and anything that didn’t make me feel better, no matter how expensive or critically acclaimed, was going to be trashed.

The first thing to go was foundation. I replaced it with BB cream, and my skin thanked me for it. The second thing was my concealers (plural). Then went the rule book of what’s right for me, as told to me repeatedly. The fourth thing to kick would be my contour stick, but I haven’t been able to part with it yet.

I sport my dark circles with a sense of pride now.
Yes, I’ve got insomnia; you got a problem with that?

I wear the wrong shade of eyeshadow for my eye shape. I let my skin be greasy and breathe freely. And most importantly, I am working on not reprimanding myself when I spot a wrong stroke or fallout while looking into a mirror.

I am okay at this — not good, not bad, and that’s okay.

My skin is not the same as before. It has been through life, battles, memories, and effects of PCOS. I’ve also finally identified its “type” as sensitive.

Taking care of it every day, albeit time taking, has been rewarding. I’ve finally begun to look at it as a part of my overall health and well-being.

Developing the right skincare regimen for myself took an on again-off again journey for over 1.5 years. Once I understood the science behind it, getting the right products, trusting a few brands, and creating a short checklist for testing something new, came naturally.

Now I am no longer swayed by the words hydration or glow. I actually check the ingredient list and am mortified by it far too often. I’ve managed to find my happy place andfeel immensely better after completing my routine.

Not too ironically, I feel comfortable in my cared-for skin and find myself catching a quick glimpse in the mirror every now and then.

There is no right answer here.

We are constantly bombarded with information, contradictory ideas, and new ways of doing the same things. We each have our own customized set of insecurities to deal with. We are also caught in a deadly dilemma of how much or how little to be attached to beauty.

Let’s not judge each other for the choices that we make. Instead, let’s focus on the lengthy process — of finding things that are for ourselves.

A full-glam or natural look is a personal preference, and you know what, do both depending on your mood, but choose self-love first.

A beauty journey should not start from a hostile place. If standing on a foundation of understanding, appreciation, and kindness, you would find this process much easier. Most of my time went towards building that platform for myself, and I am better for it.

Ask yourself:

Do you like how your face looks with or without makeup?
Are you okay? Happy with things the way they are?
How would you like to work on yourself, psychologically?

Let us accept that this is hard for us — things are stacked against us, including our own internalized notions, and we begin the journey of finding ourselves.

Trust me, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Atta Girl

For women in their 30s & 40s or whatever. If the internet doesn’t think you’re cool anymore, we do.

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Debdutta Pal

Written by

Taking a voyage into the depths of my mind, Navigating through waves, currents, and icebergs. Sharing some of my journeys with you.

Atta Girl

Atta Girl

For women in their 30s & 40s or whatever. If the internet doesn’t think you’re cool anymore, we do.

Debdutta Pal

Written by

Taking a voyage into the depths of my mind, Navigating through waves, currents, and icebergs. Sharing some of my journeys with you.

Atta Girl

Atta Girl

For women in their 30s & 40s or whatever. If the internet doesn’t think you’re cool anymore, we do.

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