What it’s like to give up mascara

mascaraThis month I took on the gargantuan task of giving up mascara. Ok, that may be a slight overstatement, but as I mentioned in my original Year of Living Freely post, this was the one  I was most afraid of.

Apart from the occasional eye liner on nights out, mascara is the only make up I wear. Being Filipino and born with black, yet very thin, hair and lashes, I’ve been using mascara for the better part of 15 years to create the illusion of longer, thicker and darker eye lashes.  Over the years, as I’ve become increasingly aware of what I eat, I’ve also grown conscious of what I put on my body.

What’s in a bottle?

This newfound awareness led me to conduct some simple research on mascara, and I learned that toxic ingredients such as Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Propylparaben, which have been linked to skin rashes, are in mascara. Additionally, parabens are also used, and they are absorbed by the tiny pores around the eyes before entering into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, synthetic colours that are believed to be carcinogenic are also used. Finally, ingredients such as Polybutene, derived from petroleum and sometimes used as manufacturing adhesives, are also an ingredient in mascara.

After reading just a few of these hard-to-pronounce ingredients, it may be obvious why anyone would be compelled to kick the habit. Although there are many fair trade and organic mascaras making their way into the mainstream, I thought why not give it up completely? With my eco friendly eye liner in hand, I started this challenge enthusiastically.

Clump-free beginnings

Pretty much no-one around seemed to notice my lack of mascara wearing (less the one person who commented on how tired I looked and asked if I was sick). I zoomed in on photos taken during the month and even I had a hard time noticing. I received many comments from friends and students telling me I looked “fresh”. Not putting on mascara granted me extra free time in the mornings, and I could rub my eyes profusely during allergy season – all bonuses in my opinion.

And then…

Around week three I began to miss having dark, thick lashes that “naturally” curled up. I noticed all the women around me wearing eye make up and how much it made their eyes pop. I missed feeling feminine and “grown up”. The more I noticed others, the more I grew self-conscious about my own lashes.

Lessons Learned

Around this time I was also participating in an urban meditation retreat, during which my teacher underlined that most of our problems do not lie within “things” but rather in our relationship to them. Of course, that got me thinking of my relationship, not with mascara, but with myself. Over the last decade and a half, I began to truly believe that using mascara made me more womanly, beautiful, grown up… even worthy, somehow.

And so…

Is this at all true? Of course not. Will I pick up mascara from here? I don’t know. Most likely yes, and almost certainly not every day. Although I know that adding a few layers of chemicals and colour to my eye lashes doesn’t make me more or less loveable, it does take more than a month to de-program 15 years of false beliefs.

Up next

November calls for a month free from sugar (refined and organic). With the sweet tooth I have and my endless supply of Giddy Yoyo raw chocolate and Rise Kombucha, this will definitely be a challenge for me. The good news is I will be traveling most of the month to Burma and Thailand, and the lack of processed foods and abundance of fresh fruits in Asia may will definitely ease the blow. Stay tuned!

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