Why I Won’t Wear Makeup Again…Ever

I was like most girls when I was little (well, almost).

I loved getting into my mom’s and sisters’ makeup drawers. I loved playing with Barbie. I even wanted to be a fashion designer. Of course, there was the other side of me—the part that came out typically around my brother: We’d make parachutes and throw my Barbie and his G.I. Joe out the windows and play survivor under the bushes….

But my first inkling that I was conflicted about makeup came when I was in my late teens. A friend of mine asked if she could make me up and photograph me for her portfolio (Elaine! Elaine! Where are you? Claude is looking for you!). We were both artists and would often do crazy photo projects together. So she made me up and took a photo, and it was beautiful. I was beautiful. In that late-’70s sort of disco way, but still…I was proud of it and showed it to my Dad, and he said, “Wow! Why can’t you look like that all the time?” Ow. Because it took her a half hour to do, and I wasn’t that interested? In fact, my greater problem was that boys wouldn’t leave me alone. Why would I want to attract even more of them?


Made up me as a teen.

As I worked my way up the ladder, I did my part to “put my face on.” I experimented with different makeup brands until I found the ones that made me look my best and didn’t irritate my skin. But still, I was never a “heavy user.” My mother, on the other hand, was. She never went anywhere without her tanning foundation and two “frownie brownie” heavily penciled eyebrows or hot-bright lipstick (often applied at the table). And perfume. Her makeup would stain all her clothes, and I could see the lines where her real skin began and the foundation ended. Once we went to a spa together, and she came down to dinner without any makeup on. And she was beautiful! Her skin was luminous! More than perfect. I asked her, “Why, why, why do you cover up your beautiful skin?” She shrugged as if to say I didn’t know what I was talking about.

So gradually, I wore less and less (and I got busier and busier)—unless I was getting a headshot. Then they would bring in the makeup people and the hair people, and I would get all done up. Sure, I looked decent—even though I felt disgusting afterward and couldn’t bear to go back to work with that layer of makeup and hair gel on (all those toxic smells and stickiness!). But when I met people in real life, they would invariably say, “Wow, you look so different than your photo.” Not really sure if they meant I looked better in real life or worse, but let’s just say I wasn’t going to ask.

One of my old head shots.

One of my old head shots.

Some of my increasing reluctance to wear makeup was also based on the research I had read on the toxins in facial products. Why would I put things on my skin that I wouldn’t put in my mouth? Chemicals that were known carcinogens. As I wrote Organic Manifesto, I couldn’t help but see the connection between the chemical industry and the beauty industry.

When I became CEO in 2009, I had both the luxury and the urgency to determine how I was going to step into the role. That’s when I made my decision: I was going in barefaced. I would keep my face clean and organic—just like my garden. After all, would a man ever wear makeup as a CEO? (Well, I’ve met a few who might, but they aren’t my role models.)

The time and energy many women use to make up their faces and manage their hair seemed a bit too precious a resource for me to spend. What if all that time those women put into “looking good” was put into their work instead? Or better yet, into having MORE FUN! As a naturally frizzy-haired woman, I’d given up trying to control the mess that is my hair years ago. (I did have ONE good natural hair day in my life: It was the day I swam in the Indian Ocean in Australia, followed by a long swim at the Icebergs pool at Bondi Beach—but those conditions are hard to replicate on a daily basis, and no hair stylist has ever, ever come close! THAT was a fun day.)


My good hair day.

I didn’t have any trouble with this decision until I had a major makeup moment while dressing up to play Miss Yvonne to my husband’s Pee-Wee Herman for Hulaween (Bette Midler’s Halloween gala). First of all, with aging eyesight, it was superhard to get right. And as I painted on more and more, I felt less and less myself. We had just seen the Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway, and I had the painful realization that Miss Yvonne (whom my husband and I had placed next to Pee-Wee on our wedding “groom’s cake”) didn’t actually end up with Pee-Wee, but with (spoiler alert!) Cowboy Curtis. That surprise plot twist mirrored my own longing. Later that night, as I washed my face, I vowed that it would be the last time I would dress up and try to be something I am not for any man. Or any woman, for that matter. Separation and divorce eventually followed.

During my latest photo shoot for a new headshot, I wore no makeup and simply twisted my hair into a bun, the way I usually do. Someone said my hair looked so “effortless.” And I responded, “That’s because there is absolutely no effort put into it.”

Maria Rodale head shot, Maria Rodale

My new head shot!

The bottom line is life is way too precious to try to be someone I am not, to try to fit into a mold that isn’t my own, and to cover up my true self. I’ve had a few women tell me they wish they didn’t have to wear makeup, but when they go without, people tell ask if they’re feeling all right (meaning they look ill). For me, that’s a sign that someone has to work on his or her health and beauty from the inside out, not the outside in. When you go without makeup, your true health does tend to shine through. Or not shine through.

Great beauty comes from taking great care of yourself—eating lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of clean water, sleeping well and long, feeling loved (you have to love yourself first before you can truly feel loved by someone else), great sex and lots of it, healthy doses of real vitamin D (that’s sunshine, baby!), heaps of nature and fresh air, and last but not least, a happy and laughing attitude about life. These are things you can’t buy at a beauty counter.

I do still use one product on my skin, as it does tend to be dry: Certified-Organic Coconut Oil. Everything smells like the beach every time I put it on. And all that money I save on expensive creams, makeup, and hair dye, I spend at a spa every once in a while.  And, OK, I do like lip balm. Just to keep my lips moist. My favorite is also organic and made from coconut oil; it’s available on Rodale’s.

Do I wish things were different about my face, my skin, and my hair? Of course! Who doesn’t? Curly-haired people always seem to want straight hair, and straight-haired women always seem to want curly. Do I see myself aging? Hell, yes. Do I fight it? No. There’s no point in it. I can spot a woman “fighting” her age from a mile away, and it always seems so sad. I’ve earned these wrinkles and those grey hairs. My sunspots are like souvenirs from amazing trips to sunny places: Anguilla, Bahamas, Byron Bay, and Bondi, Turks and Caicos….

No makeup required. Or desired.



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37 Responses to Why I Won’t Wear Makeup Again…Ever

  1. Dana B July 16, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    Love this post. And I loved working at Rodale under a proud and bare-faced CEO. It set a beautiful standard for the workplace that you can and should be the healthiest version of yourself.

  2. Kimberly July 16, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Wow! You are beautiful. You look so fresh and healthy. I recently dyed my hair back to it’s natural color after being blonde for so long. Now it’s what people would call mousy brown but less maintenance and as I age I feel that super blonde hair just doesn’t look good anymore. I’m still getting used to my new “brown” but I’m trying to be more natural and age gracefully as well. I make my own skincare product by mixing coconut oil, evening primrose oil and lavender essential oil. I often get compliments on my skin. I also never use store bought conditioner, I make an apple cider vinegar rinse which works well for me.
    Thank you for your post!

  3. Christine @ Taste of Divine July 16, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I think you are so pretty without makeup!

    I’m happy there are others out there who don’t wear it either. I’ve never worn it (except for my wedding day) and I sometimes feel like I should start, just so I look more put together and more “feminine”. My hubby is totally against me wearing makeup, which I’m happy about 🙂

    My mother doesn’t wear it, and neither does her mother. Yay for no makeup!

  4. Susan July 16, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    You are beautiful! I wear very minimal makeup myself but after having several precancerous moles removed, I always include sunscreen in my morning routine on doctors orders. Do you use any sunscreen or is that not a concern for you?

  5. Gina Jones July 16, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Maria, you are a truly beautiful woman in so many ways – inside & out. You continue to be on the right track and an inspiration to so many people!

  6. Donna in Delaware July 16, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    MARIA, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new head shot!!! You are beautiful. You look young, refreshed, alive, rested and HAPPY!!! Love paragraphs, 10,11, and 12. I’ll turn 58 on July 21st. I haven’t used makeup in years (I hope that I don’t look too bad without it) hair dye once, when I was a 20 something, just to highlight my hair. I will use lipstick because I am not a fan of my lips! I try to keep that as subtle as possible and the time that it takes to apply it, well, you know how it is? I also have oily skin, and that in itself caused me not to use makeup many years ago. It was uncomfortable in hot weather and I always felt dirty because it would attract al kinds of things to my face. Mascara made me look like a raccoon! That being said I totally agree with your assessment.

    Some women may feel the need for using it, that is their prerogative, but I find that makeup tends to age you quicker by using it, than not. All the pulling, tugging and rubbing of the skin makes it sag and wrinkle quicker.

    You look great. The new photo gets my vote!!!

  7. Alice Green July 16, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Well, thanks, Maria, you are a woman after my own heart!! I’ve never worn makeup in my life. And I’ve had to fight to defend my decision to be myself, no matter what. I’m 71 and my twin sister (not identical) still to this day nags me about how I look, especially now that my hair is turning white, and I cut my own hair, she hates to be seen with me. Also doesn’t approve of my clothes. When I was in high school, my dad told me I had to wear nylons and high heels when I dressed up and I refused. He said when you go to get a job, no one will hire you to work in an office unless you wear make-up, heels and nylons. So I said, ‘Well, then I’ll just dig ditches!!’ Happily I never did have to dig ditches, but I also never wore heels, nylons or any make-up. Probably saved myself a lot of trouble, because I have so many allergies, even to sunscreen that I would have done my face more harm than good by putting junk on it. You are a great role model for any young girl growing up who sees nothing but photoshopped pictures that make them think that looks are all that matter. We need more and more women in leadership roles who think for themselves – no matter what family, friends or society tries to tell us how we “should” look! We should look like ourselves and work on our inner beauty, because that the only beauty that lasts or that really matters!

  8. mary July 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Thanks for this. Since moving to the desert everything in my life has relaxed, and I quit wearing makeup daily about a year ago. Still toying with going all gray …not quite ready for that. It’s not bad getting older and over the years you have earned the confidence to do so any way you want.

    And to Donna in Delaware, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I will turn 58 July 27th!

  9. Kathy July 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly with not wearing makeup. I have worn it a few times in my life, but it never felt good to me. I always wore mascara, but stopped that several years ago when I began having severe spring allergies and my eyes itched so badly.
    I worked in senior care residences for many years, and the beauty of advancing years is wonderful to me. A wrinkled face is a beautiful face.
    Maria, you are a natural beauty!

  10. Donna in Delaware July 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU TOO MARY, thank you so much! may it be all that you want it to be!

  11. Donna in Delaware July 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU TOO MARY, thank you so much! may it be all that you want it to be!

    Remember, neutral is natural and natural can be nascent!

  12. Leah July 16, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Maria…you know what is most eveident and beautiful in your latest headshot…you look the happiest you’ve ever been and it shines through. Inner beauty outwardly reflected. You rock!

  13. Randi July 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Another reason not to wear makeup is the child labor involved in mica mining: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/india-child-labour-mica-mineral-cosmetics

    Thanks for the post!

  14. Kathy Schlosser Mintzer July 16, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    You are as beautiful today as you were in high school when you hung out with my brother Rick. I agree with keeping makeup off my face. I only wear it to church! I wash my face before bed, then just splash cold water on in the morning and rarely do I have any blemishes. Must be the good European skin my gross muter gave me! You are truly right about being happy with yourself first because that is when all of your sunshine pours out!
    Keep smiling!

  15. liz July 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Love this.

  16. Rachel G July 17, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    I love this point! I’m not 100% anti makeup–I occasionally enjoy a glitter eyeliner or a bright lipstick–I do love color and drama…but I fully believe that people shouldn’t feel they have to wear it if they don’t want to. I wear makeup less often now than I ever did, and while I don’t mind wearing it occasionally, usually I just don’t feel like it!

  17. Nikki Lindqvist July 17, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    I applaud you and agree with you 100%! It’s bad enough that so many people are taking one or another type of drug to make them able to cope with life these days… so when you meet someone, you never know if you’re REALLY meeting them or just the medicated person. If you add some levels of makeup on top, well, it’s just almost not worth digging to find the real person under there. I (66 years old, raised in Iowa) also do NOT like the feeling of gunk on my face. And all blemishes are – ME! Me and my life! Take it or leave it. Every time I see the term anti-aging I feel insulted. Especially when it’s a woman saying it. We’re all doin’ it! Aging, that is. Why not embrace it?!? (On this subject, I’m delighted to be living in Sweden. 99% of the women my age don’t seem to be wearing much makeup at all. I like that.) And yes, I have straight hair and would LOVE to have your beautiful curly hair! 🙂

  18. Cathy July 17, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    I haven’t worn much makeup in years — maybe a little lipstick if I’m going to a wedding, but that’s pretty much it. People are used to what I look like without makeup. I would no doubt look *different* with makeup, but not necessarily *better*.

  19. maria (farm country kitchen) July 17, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU everyone! You all are awesome AND beautiful too! I forgot to put in this post that a few years ago a fellow frizzy haired woman came up to me at the cafeteria at work and said “Thank you for having frizzy hair…I was told in BUSINESS SCHOOL that I would never succeed if my hair was frizzy.” She was an intern. She was young and lovely. ARGGGHHH!

  20. Donna in Delaware July 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    New website, new you. Told Ya!

  21. Kathlyn in Harrisburg, Pa July 20, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    Love your look Maria.

  22. Laura K July 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    I totally see where you’re coming from and I love that you look glowing and healthy and all natural. I’m not quite there yet, but I do go without makeup more often than I used to. I’m a little addicted to mascara.

    BUT. That teen photo, the disco queen, is AWESOME. Great story.

  23. Victoria July 23, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    I have mostly stopped wearing cosmetics because I have a difficult time finding cosmetics that make me look “flawless” while also having ingredients not tested on animals. I have also stopped chemically relaxing my hair (a daunting task for an African-American woman, given that we are encouraged to fit into a beauty standard that doesn’t take into account our natural attributes). I’m forty-two, and I still like lipstick and the occasional swipe of mascara, but I don’t have time to put on a liquid mask that I later have to wash off if I don’t want my skin to break out. Thank you for being fabulous and showing women of all ethnicities how to be fabulous, too, in your natural beauty.

  24. Rose Coffman July 24, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Thank you Maria for that great post. I am over 50 , do not wear makeup, or dye my hair. I tell people that ” this is

    what a 50 year old woman really looks like ” !! I would rather spend my time living on the other side of a makeup

    mirror & spending my money in other places. Btw, you look amazing !!

  25. Holly August 2, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    You’re last picture is just stunning!! I have also started going towards the no makeup route, I only hope my curly hair looks as good as yours as they go gray!! I started loving my curly hair around 20 or so, and almost 25 years later I really appreciate how little I have to put into maintaining some kind of style of hair. My only problem is that with pcos I’ve lost a lot of hair, including my eyebrows. So I do use eyeshadow to fill my eyebrows in and use colored lip balm as lipstick now. I just threw out my regular lipstick the other day. I love the soft look of only having these two things on my skin. I also have always been told I look tired and sick when I would wear no makeup, and I think you are right…probably because I was.

  26. Ellen August 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    I have never cared for makeup and wear it rarely. I find it interesting that I have many colleagues who don’t wear it either. We’re teachers and very down-to-earth, practical types. Unlike many of them, however, I’m letting my hair go gray. I just don’t want any exposure to chemicals that I can avoid.

  27. Ellen August 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    I neglected to tell you that your post was beautifully written and your latest head shot is simply beautiful (like the subject is inside).

  28. Kim August 7, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    YOU are an inspiration to women! It was an honor to have been associated with your vision.

  29. mary s August 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    I was a er trauma nurse for 36 years, and makeup was actually requested by the supervisors, especially if you worked nights. 5 years ago I was hit by a mack truck. I sustained a broken neck and broken lower back. Destroyed my career, but opened a window of opportunity to reinvent myself. I went back to school and became a chef and a baker. At these jobs I wear no makeup what so ever! I wear just a very light weight moisturizer and I just wash my face with a very mild soap so I don’t hang onto any kitchen grease. My skin looks and feels great. I,too,have curly hair that I thank God for daily. I can just wash it, shake my head and go! Life is good. I have just finished a cookbook and I am having umbrellas made with my original oil paintings. I am hoping to be in san francisco in a years time. I love reading your articles. Thank you.

  30. Susan August 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Thanks for the nudge. Been wanting to clean that stuff out of my vanity drawer for the longest time. Why did we ever think we “needed” all that anyway? Feel lighter and freeer.
    You rock, Maria!

  31. joe ruby October 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    I am so glad there are women out there who don’t wear make-up. I am apparently not being allowed to say more as my comments have been deleted. Is there or is there not a conspiracy out there by the cosmetics industry to silence the truth? Obviously so as I have not been allowed to say more after several attempts. Ladies, fight these bastards!

  32. Lucia November 2, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Hi! First of all I would like to thank you, all sisters living in Anglo-Saxoon countries. I love you for persuading me that I can feel myself beautiful without makeup too. I myself dont wear makeup, just when it is some special occasion like wedding or job interview. By not wearing makeup I really mean not wearing, I usu go out completely naked, even without mascara. Now that I read so much encouraging comments about being natural, Im really grateful to you and enjoy myself being the way God created me.:) However, Im, too, sometimes bothered by my family or some relatives, they say “every women should wear makeup, its the femininity simply”. And I admit many times I felt blue about my decision to not wear makeup, but now that I see your comments full of heart and tenderness, I will never feel in negative way. 🙂 Kisses to all of you,
    Lucia from Slovakia:)

  33. Marie December 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    I’m so happy I found this post. I’m 35 and a mom of two, and I have never liked wearing makeup. I have hardly ever worn any except for the occasional date night with my husband, or going to a wedding. But I would love to throw my makeup out and I think I will! I don’t like the way it feels, I don’t like taking it off, I don’t like how my eyes are so sensitive after taking mascara off. I had a bit of a crisis this summer when some things my husband did caused me to feel extremely unattractive, boring-looking, and sometimes ugly, I am too ashamed to say how much money I spent on fancy cosmetics. I saw some therapists and realized that I don’t give a crap if my husband finds me attractive or not. (for the record he does, I just no longer care!) I don’t care if he even wants to divorce. (and he doesn’t). I like me for who I am. I don’t look like a stripper, or a 20 something who’s tanned and made-up. I do not care. I am loving letting my natural face and glory of my skin, even if there’s a blemish or two, shine through. I say screw men and the beauty industry and what they expect a woman to look like.

  34. jen February 25, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    But you look like you ARE wearing makeup, however minimal, in the last shot, especially when compared to the one right above it. How did you get your complexion so even toned and I see lipstick.

  35. Risabella Rambler April 7, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    You are gorgeous. And I couldn’t agree more. I know way too many women who feel powerless without the makeup—and it seems like such a silly thing to lose your power to. My face is flawed, but it’s my face, and I kind of like it as it is.

  36. Lucia April 12, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Savage you are a bitter, narrow-minded backward going fool. Btw I have seen a lot of “men” like you who put down women and guess what? They are all insecure and plain stupid – and of course the same like you. Btw Marie is beautiful.

  37. Beth Adair June 7, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    That’s a very positive message! Undoubtedly, we are all going to age, and none of us are getting out of here alive. I cling to the notion that I am only as young as I feel.

    You remind me of my aunt, a retired college math professor who is very cerebral and just doesn’t understand the need for makeup or hair dye. As a kid, I used to help her grade calculus papers and then do her hair. When she started getting gray hairs, I asked what she was going to do about it, and she said, “Nothing. They make me look distinctive”. When I got divorced, she said, “I have never regretted not getting married”. We are two different birds. I like the gym, dating men, new ipod downloads and flying to foreign countries. She reads everything, has her house wired with all the newest tech gadgets, gardening and spends time in the church on weekends in SC. I’m glad I have her influence.

    You are a successful woman in a business world. It’s always intriguing to read what you have to say. Your opinions make a difference:-)

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