The Beauty Experiment | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Beauty Experiment

When TLC Book Tours contacted me to review The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde, I was intrigued by the request that I not write a standard review of the book. I was instead asked to conduct my own beauty experiment and report on my experience.

Still, before I tell you about my personal beauty experiment, I feel you should know a little bit about the book, its author, and my feelings when I read it.

The Beauty Experiment was born when its author, Phoebe Baker Hyde, decided she was tired of trying to live up to an expectation of perfection when it came to her appearance. As a new mom, she was frustrated with keeping up with the latest trends, the women around her, and that inner voice we are all so familiar with that constantly reminded her of all the things that weren't right about herself.

After a disastrous experience at her husband's work party, she decided to just throw it all out.  Her make-up went in the garbage, she resolved to stop buying new clothes, and she even covered up her mirrors for a time. After a year, she became a new woman: one who was okay with herself and the way she looked without any of the enhancements on which we women tend to rely so heavily.

I will admit, this book made me annoyed at times. I love nothing more than to dress up and look beautiful, and I didn't want someone telling me that I shouldn't do it. I especially didn't want someone telling me that because I do wear make-up or enjoy dressing up, that I am somehow not okay with who I am. Because maybe who I am really likes wearing lipstick.

But the more I read, the more I realized that maybe who I am likes wearing lipstick and feels good wearing lipstick because I'm really not okay with how I would look without it. It's kind of a circular argument, though, and I'm not really sure I got anywhere with it in my mind. So, I figured I may as well just take the darn challenge and go without make-up for a couple weeks.

I was only asked to go without my "make-up crutch" which would probably be lipstick and/or mascara, but I mostly just didn't wear make-up for two entire weeks. And the one Sunday that fell in that time, I didn't wear mascara to church, but I couldn't bring myself to go completely au naturel. Not to church.

Now, it is not unheard of for me to run to the grocery store with no make-up on, nor is it unheard of for me to not bother with shaving my legs in the winter when nobody is going to see them anyway. (I hate shaving my legs, don't you?) But I will not be caught dead without make-up and nice clothes on at work or at church. Which is why I did this experiment during my Christmas break (hopefully that's not cheating). I still had plenty of places to go during this two weeks, though: my book club discussion, out to eat at a nice restaurant with my husband, a football game party, and a few other places.

And, wouldn't you know it? Just when I was going without make-up I had a major cold sore breakout. Worse than it's been for about 16 years, actually, even though I get them fairly regularly in the winter time. And the worst thing about my cold sores is that they are on my nose and not my mouth. I've had them since I was a little girl, and I always feel like they would somehow be more socially acceptable if they were on my lips like normal people. But no, they are on my nose, and when they are bad like they were this winter they are capable of completely overtaking my nose and I am extremely self-conscious about them. (When I first met The Maestro 16 years ago, I had a similar awful cold sore break out---another story for another day.)

I embraced the fact that having ugly sores on my face would just help make this experiment all the more effective, and off I went to face the world without any make-up. I also didn't bother with contact lenses during the experiment because, to be honest, the only reason I wear them is because I know I look better without glasses. They generally bug me after a few hours and I prefer to wear glasses from a comfort standpoint. But since my motto is always "beauty at the expense of comfort," I endure.

I don't take a lot of selfies, typically, but in the interest of comparison here is what I look like all gussied up (I took this photo this past summer just before giving a singing performance, so I'm extra made-up):

And here is what I looked like for my two-week experiment:


When I look at the second photo, I am very critical of myself. But it is mostly because of the cold sores, because aside from a few wrinkles that are becoming more and more prominent as I approach 40, I think I look okay without make-up. I just feel better when I wear it, is all.  When I look at the first picture, I think I look fat because I've lost quite a bit of weight between then and now.

What I learned in my two weeks without make-up was that I don't really worry too much about what others think of how I look, and that's the honest truth. I do worry about how I feel. And when I'm not wearing make-up, I simply do not feel my best. I feel frumpy and gross. But I don't really care if other people think I look frumpy, I just don't want to feel that way. I may be just feeling a little self-defensive about the book, but I don't think so. I have posted several photos of myself sans make-up on this blog, and it doesn't phase me one bit to do so. (More recent posts containing Lara au naturel can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

The cold sores, on the other hand, do make me self-conscious. And I do worry what people think about those, because who gets them on their nose? (If you do, please contact me so I don't feel all alone in the world--maybe we could start a club.)

Conclusion: if you don't feel good about yourself, get to the root of what is causing it and figure out how to fix it. There are plenty of ways in which I don't feel good about myself, but how I look isn't generally one of them. UNLESS we are talking about my weight. But wearing make-up or not doesn't really fix that one, so my experiment didn't really address that. The author of The Beauty Experiment didn't feel good about herself, and she fixed it by stripping away the paint and finding out who she really is. I admire her for it, and after finishing the book, that is the biggest lesson I took away from it.

We have the power to change.

You are not a tree
Click on the image to download from Flickr. For instructions on downloading from Flickr click HERE.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours. All opinions are my own.

P.S. One thing that has helped me to feel SO MUCH BETTER about the way I look is the Dressing Your Truth System. If you want to dress the way that's right for you and not feel beholden to all of the fads and fashion mags, check it out here: Dressing Your Truth.

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  1. I believe we should try to put our best for forward.... A fresh coat of paint on an old barn is great... Then forget yourself and go and serve. I don't think we have had the same Issues this fall has had. So happy for her to figure out though.

  2. I believe we should try to put our best for forward.... A fresh coat of paint on an old barn is great... Then forget yourself and go and serve. I don't think we have had the same Issues this fall has had. So happy for her to figure out though.

  3. Oh girl. Lemme tell ya. I wear makeup when I go somewhere with my husband (nice) or girlfriends. Most days I just don't bother anymore. I am just too tired. I am such a makeup chick, I love to buy it. I comb websites and read up on it. Then I buy it, and it sits. LOL!!! I think you are beautiful, either way. OH, and I get those things too, every time I get a migraine. I have had a couple on my nose, and usually I can stop them with meds. ;)

  4. Ack! Your poor nose!

    I think, we should each figure out what makes us tick and do that. I would struggle going w/o make up, I just would. But I have friends and family that don't need it and they are happy that way -- so yay! But, I have never really been a fan of beauty mags and what not, nor do I follow fashion trends. I've always been the kid who has done her own thing.

  5. Hi Lara, thanks so much for taking the time to read and experiment. As a fellow Overstuffed work-at-home parent, I know how valuable your time is! And I also want to acknowledge many women don't feel "beauty craziness", or have gotten the proportions of time/effort/
    expense/payoff just right and feel that they'll be able to hand down a philosophy of self-care to kids that is healthy and empowering. My Experiment helped me get there, but if you're already there, hooray! I find it interesting that the no-makup issue gets all the press because for me no window shopping and deeper self-acceptance was much harder- to each her own challenges! Again, many thanks and I can't wait to try out your snow whitening camera tips; plenty around here to practice on.
    Stay warm,
    Phoebe Baker Hyde, Author of the Beauty Experiment

  6. I'm glad you gave this experiment a shot and that you learned something from it. I'm like you in that I FEEL better when I have some basic makeup on.

    Thanks for being on the tour!