It’s highly ironic, I’d say, that just when I get my make-up professionally done, learn new tricks to help my aging skin look brighter, purchase a few new products and learn new ways to use the old ones, including eye shadow, I have my eye operated on and have to go for weeks without eye make-up.
That’s right, since my cataract surgery, I’ve gone cold turkey. Not a thing applied to my lids or lashes. Nothing. Nada. Zip. For two whole weeks. Gasp.
Misses Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor Dashwood are my inspiration. Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

You’re right, of course. In the greater scheme of things, worrying about not being able to wear eye make-up is pretty shallow. Okay, very shallow. Ridiculous, even, yeah, I get that. And I’m not actually worrying. Not really.

It’s not as if I wear tons of eye make-up all the time. I’ve been out and about in our little village countless times, since I retired, with minimal make-up: just eye brow gel (applied like mascara with a wand), under-eye concealer, a little blush, and mascara. But if I venture any further out in public, say downtown shopping, to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, or to a party, I always wear eye make-up (primer, three different shadows, and liner). This new situation will simply require me to be a bit more… ah… minimal, more minimal, even, than my only-in-the-village look.

Clare Calbraith as Steph Farrow in Home Fires nails the no eye make-up thing.

So, since last week, after my operation (which went well, by the way), I’ve been looking for inspiration as to how best to navigate the no eye make-up thing. I had in my head that I should go for a retro look. Like Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility. Their make-up is lovely. I noticed it particularly when Mum and I were watching the film again when I was in Fredericton last month. In close-ups they both look so innocent, all fresh-faced, pink-cheeked, and mascara-less. Except that they are, of course, wearing make-up on their eyes, only in such a way to make it look as if they aren’t. On second thought, trying to emulate the youthful blushes of unmarried, unspoiled Regency girls might be a bit of a stretch for me at sixty-two.

Still, thinking along retro lines, maybe the look of the 1940s might be more achievable. Similar to what Clare Calbraith as Steph Farrow does in that wonderful television mini-series Home Fires. With a focus on eyebrows and lips. Which brings me to the shot of my mum in the forties, below. Mum had that pale face, dark lipstick look nailed, don’t you think? I could do that. Except with a brighter cheek colour.

Dorena Sullivan, as was, in 1944, many years before she became my mum.
For purposes of comparison, this is normal me, below, a couple of weeks ago after I scored this new Theory sweater at the Nordstrom Black Friday sale. I’m wearing three shades of eye-shadow, liner and mascara, plus my old, very soft peachy blush and lipstick.
Two weeks ago in full make-up
This is me yesterday morning. Same sweater. My hair has been recently cut and coloured, and I’m wearing my new Laura Mercier blush and lipstick. Both are a bit deeper in colour than I normally wear. When I saw this shot, my first thought was “where the heck did my eye-lashes go?”
My new “cold turkey” look.

You know, it’s funny, but I never noticed that I have one eyelid which is droopier than the other. I guess my contouring eye shadow usually disguises this fact. I’ve been a bit heavier handed with the eye brow colour, hoping for more definition. I’m also wearing my new Laura Mercier concealer which is brilliant. Covers like a dream, and you don’t even know it’s there.

Oddly enough I can’t find earrings that go with my new face. When Hubby and I went shopping on Monday, I tried several pairs and then went without. It seems that without eye make-up, wearing earrings feels like wearing lipstick in my pyjamas. If that makes any sense. My face doesn’t feel “finished” … or something.

So this is the look I’ve been sporting all week. Hubby says “it’s not horrendous.” “Okay,” I reply, “Thanks, maybe, I think.” It doesn’t really look like me, in my opinion. But I don’t hate this look.

The difference from last week: more and brighter blush, more defined brows, and brighter lipstick.
I’ve been out and about for seven days, now, with bare eyes. On Monday I went shopping with Hubby, then for lunch, then tramping across the fields at the local Christmas tree farm to select and cut our tree. The man at the tree farm didn’t blink at eye, nor did the cashier at the restaurant, nor the sales clerk at Bushtukah, the outfitters store where Hubby and I shopped. But since I’d never met any of these people before, I’d not expect them to notice. The test was the next day when I had my hair cut and Carmen didn’t notice the no make-up thing. Then I joined my friend Marina for lunch afterward, and when I sat down I asked her if she saw anything different about me. “You’re not wearing glasses?” she guessed.
Maybe this no eye make-up thing is like when a guy shaves off his mustache. And the people who know him really well feel as if something is different, but can’t put their finger on what it is. This happened to Hubby when, in 2012, he shaved off the mustache he’d worn since the seventies. And not one single friend or relative noticed. Seriously. We were at good friends’ for dinner one night soon after the big shave-off, and when they didn’t say anything, Hubby and I started joking about the phenomena that people don’t really notice other people; we used the mustache idea as an example. We were tossing out BIG hints, to no avail. “That’s weird when that happens, isn’t it?” our friend said. “Yeah,” I continued, “like when Stu shaved his off last week and not one of the hockey guys who he’s been playing with for thirty years noticed.” There was a long pause, then they both looked at him again, did a double-take, and we all had a really good laugh.
So, that’s what wearing no eye make-up is like for me, like Hubby’s big mustache shave-off phenomena. Ha.
Going cold turkey with eye make-up has been an interesting experiment, I will say that.
The biggest test will be our hockey Christmas party tonight. I’ll be bare-eyed in my festive outfit. Shudder. I think. Maybe.
Unless I chicken out and wear my old glasses to hide behind.
In case I chicken out I can hide behind my old glasses.

Now, I have to go wrap Christmas gifts and try to get them to the post office today. All things considered, I’ve left it way too late this year.

How about you, my discerning friends? Would you detect the difference if someone you know well went cold turkey and stopped wearing make-up? Or shaved off their mustache?


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47 thoughts on “Going Cold Turkey: Two Weeks Without Eye Make-up”

  1. Yes I definitely would but I'm very observant and a little superficial perhaps. I think you look fine without eye makeup but definitely different. Loving that new lip colour and Carmen has done a great job as usual. So glad your surgery was successful. I guess most people are way less interested in us than we think. Enjoy your socialising. Iris

    1. Thanks, Iris. I'm not surprised …you ARE discerning. At least given your comments that show you notice every little joke I put in my posts. Love that about you, by the way.

  2. You look beautiful both with and without eye makeup. You have gorgeous skin and a great hair cut, not to mention great bone structure. Your mosutache story reminds me of my husband, who shaved his off when our daughter was 10. She screamed when she saw him — at first she couldn't understand what was different, just that he didn't look Dad! So glad your surgery was successful 🙂

    1. Ah, thanks, Cynthia. That's a great mustache story. Poor little kid. I remember when my step father got false teeth and I couldn't look at him for days; he didn't seem like himself.

  3. I have been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now – thank you!

    And..haven't worn eye makeup in years. Usually just some lipstick and eyebrow pencil. And guess what – it's freeing and most people don't really notice. After all, the vast majority of our planet's population don't wear eye make up and look great.

    For me, having the choice is important, especially for women. No one should ever feel that they "must" wear make up.

    Just my two cents…

    1. You are so right, Sue. Women should not feel that they need to wear make-up, colour their hair… or whatever. I was surprised at how many of the women at my party last night did not have eye-make-up on.

  4. Firstly, good to hear the cataract surgery went well. Both eyes done? If I "pop out" somewhere, I have, at the very least, a little mascara on the top lashes and have swiped a bit over my brows. If I'm going to work, I'm fully done, although I have stopped using blusher. Don't know why. I think you look perfectly fine without eye make up! -Jenn

    1. No, I just had one eye done. The other will need it at some point, but not for years according to the surgeon. I'm thinking that brows are more important than eye shadow or mascara now.

  5. I love your blog. Wonderful writing, you seem to find just the right tone – often deep, sometimes lyrical and completely unpretentious. This is my first time writing, coming out of the shadows because I thought I might offer something of use to you. Yes, I agree w/ everyone that you look wonderful w or w/out makeup – but the big difference I see is that the new makeup is cool toned instead of warm – and the vibrancy of your new look, I think, is becuase these colors suit your skin tone.

  6. As others have noted, you look great with or without eye makeup. It seems wearing makeup is a little like a having a shield or a force field behind which we garner a little more strength to face (pun intended) the day and without it, we may feel a bit more vulnerable. Can't say I am particularly observant about subtle things that may change on others, though a missing mustache would catch my attention. When my husband cut off his 20 year mustache, the main thing I noticed was that it made him look much younger. Can't think of anything I could do that would have the same results.

    1. Ah yes… make-up has always been a shield of sorts for me. Hubby looked at some old photos with me yesterday, when I was trying to pinpoint the year he shaved off his mustache. He's now finally admitting that without it he looks better, and younger.

  7. Well, I think you look great without the eye makeup. After I had eye surgery for a detached retina in 1972, I stopped wearing mascara. Wrap your head around that! I just felt rubbing the eyes to get the stuff off was too dangerous. Now many years later, after two successful cataract surgeries, I do wear eye shadow and under eye liner but still NO MASCARA. Habit I guess. I think you are just so accustomed to wearing the mascara and all the rest that you just feel uncomfortable without it. Your skin is beautiful, your hair is great. Just wear earrings! It might make you feel better!

    1. That's probably what I will do for at least a few weeks… wear no mascara. Shadow is very easy to get off with a light touch… mascara not so much. I did wear earrings last night to my party and no eye make-up. Still feels a bit weird.

  8. Miss Dorena Sullivan looks beautiful-as well as her daughter,with or without eye make up ( So glad that everything went well!Btw.did you have one eye or two eyes operation,sorry if I'm rude to ask? It is in my future,too-and two- :-))
    I'm not sure-I usually notice things but sometimes not
    Have a nice party-you look great!

  9. You look really lovely…. the lip color is perfect! I do wear mascara, only because my eyelashes are otherwise invisible, but no other eye make-up in probably the past 10-15 years. It all makes my eyes itchy.

    1. My eye lashes haven't been so colourless in years. Comes from not having worn mascara for days and days. I wonder if I should just get my lashes tinted… might be an easy solution.

  10. Ditto for me to everything regarding your makeup routines prior to your surgery. However, you truly look fabulous without eye makeup! I’ve admired women who go eye makeup free and wish I could/would do the same. Unless you’re going out to a formal event I’d say you should stick with the natural eye. As for earrings, I think a small pair of pearls would look lovely even for the most casual outings.

  11. Glad the surgery went well! I think the new look is a bit more contemporary ? Either of course is lovely.


    1. Thanks, Ceci. You may have a point. I should do some research on make-up on what young'uns are wearing. Except for the Kardsashian look, I wonder if it will be more or less than what I'm used to doing.

  12. Susan, I love your blog. I love your style, and I think you are beautiful both au naturale or made up. Trés French without…or so I hear. Thanks for your wonderful photos too. Have a blessed and safe holiday season.

  13. Count me in as a hockey guy, I didn’t notice last night. Actually you have such natural beauty Sue, that you can do without. I just feel bad that I forgot all about your surgery.

    1. Ha ha… this made me laugh this morning, Sue. I think I had my glasses on most of the time when we were talking… big chicken that I am. Don't feel bad … the surgery was really no big deal. Except for the better sight thing. Our conversation was much more interesting.

  14. You look fine. Perfectly normal. I'm not very good at noticing make-up and tend to wear little myself. As I age, I find it makes me look older. You look tired, said my husband yesterday. That's because I'm wearing make-up, I replied. There's a lesson there.

    1. I had to really rethink how I wore eye makeup a few years ago. It was making my eyes look smaller. I find that liner on the lower lids looks aging, and stopped wearing it. When I was in my twenties I'd go to town on the lower liner and the mascara. No more. And now I'm kind of enjoying taking only three minutes to put my make-up on before I leave the house.

  15. I like this look. I could see you going all in on the lips – several layers, a liner, some smudging, a little gloss – and on the natural look for your cheeks and skin. You're a beautiful woman, if nothing else that gives you the freedom to play around and own your looks, right? Enjoy!

    And I don't wear eye makeup any more, unless going out somewhere at night, because I'm in glasses all the time:).

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I have to work up to the stronger lip colour. I'm so used to emphasizing the eyes and going neutral on the lips. Plus my lips have a fair amount of colour naturally and so most of the time I just wear lip balm. I don't want to get that slash of red look that some older women wear. I think that looks too harsh. Gloss helps with that, I think.

  16. I haven’t worn mascara for almost 5 years. My droopy lids slide over the lashes and cover them anyway. Also, for some odd reason, my eyelashes won’t curl anymore. Mascara eventually rubs off on my upper lids, so not a good look. I don’t miss it a bit. Eyebrows and lipstick now do the heavy lifting. You look lovely without, you shouldn’t worry.

    1. I've never been brave enough to use an eyelash curler. I've always been afraid it would break them or something weird. It's been an adventure discovering just how dependent, or not, I am on wearing makeup these past couple of weeks.

  17. Congratulations on completing cataract surgery on one eye! With your natural beauty, you look wonderful without any eye makeup. When I flew for Pan Am (in my 20s and 30s), I dutifully wore the "suggested" makeup (except on my skin). When I stopped flying, I stopped wearing makeup except for lip gloss. Nearly 40 years later, that remains my practice, with the possible addition of a bit of mascara, shadow, gel blush and lipstick for a very special evening. It has been so freeing not to have to wear all that "stuff." IMHO, your lovely, animated real face expresses your inner and outer beauty best!

  18. I think you look fabulous with those strong brows and lips!
    I used to wear at least a tinted moisturizer every day, some contouring of my eyelids with neutral shadow, then lipstick, mascara, and blush. Now I wear just the latter three (still make sure to use a skin cream first). Even before retirement, I scaled back after reading comments on a post Duchesse (Passage des Perles) wrote about makeup (somewhat focused on ageing, but also a feminist perspective on women feeling compelled to use cosmetics; men, of course, not). So many commented that they couldn't go out of the house without makeup for fear of scaring the children, or some such, and I felt so saddened that we could feel that way in all our "certain-age" wisdom that I challenged myself to scale back. I still feel naked outside without my mascara, but I will even go that bare-faced from time to time, just to make a point. . . . Not that I'm saying anyone else should, but perhaps that we should value our un-made-up selves and try to feel comfortable with their value out in the world as well. . . Or some preachy thing like that — gaaah! Sorry. Stepping off the soapbox now, but saying once again that I think you look gorgeous in the photos above. xo

    1. It certainly is a journey, getting used to our faces as they age. Then beginning to "value our un-made-up" selves. I'm not totally there yet, but I don't think I'll go back to my usual layers when I am able to. Partly because now my "eye" has become used to seeing my less made-up self in public. I'm still not sure about the strong lip. I find it a pain, because I get too much on or not enough. I may end up sticking with a neutral shade. We'll see.

  19. I stopped wearing mascara when it started irritating my eyes – usually in the evening. And once I stopped working, I really dialed back my makeup. On days I'm going out, I do my brows, a tinted moisturizer, and a bit of eye pencil (top only) and eye shadow. A light blush and a neutral lip gloss or lipstick, depending on my mood.

    I think you look great with no eye makeup…we should all look that good! 🙂 I actually came to see this post after seeing your picture on Instagram with glasses. Really cute.

    And I'm happy for you that the surgery went well. I have that in my future as well, and I have drooping lids that will eventually impede my sight, I fear.

  20. Sorry, I missed this blog and a couple of others thanks to my new anti-norton virus chucking everything into an email junk folder . Glad the eye surgery went well. I had both eyes done a couple of years ago and although I need spectacles for reading and computer work, it's wonderful not to have wear heavy spectacles all day. Do you find colours so much brighter now especially blue ? I never wore eye make-up as you could not see it behind my heavy lensed spectacles. I find that my friends and I are more obsessed on finding the elusive tinted moisturiser and the right concealer to hide the blue patches under our eyes. We're not tired but we do look it !

    Your earrings in the photo above are lovely. They are a good length without being too dangly. Perhaps its the colour of the earrings you need to change. I need more "brilliance" from my earrings now so have started to wear pewter/silver style earrings in order to stand out more. You could try some cheaper styles from until you find something you feel happy with. Also what about a lightweight contemporary brooch ? I've started wearing some long vertical styles. So if you don't want to wear earrings but still want to dress up that might be the answer.

    1. I haven't noticed that colours are different. But I can now see distance with the eye which had the cataract removed, but not close up and my old glasses seem to cause eye strain. Luckily my appointment to be fitted with new glasses is next week; I had to wait for a month after surgery. I'll be relieved to get everything done.
      Hear, hear to finding the right tinted moisturiser. Have you tried Laura Mercier? I tried several and have found hers to be the best.
      Happy New Year, Heather.

    2. I've cleared out some bad make-up buys ready to start again I have kept a list of the tinted moisturisers I have tried so I don't repeat my mistakes. Now I'm retired and only 15 mins drive away from the shops I have decided to try out some make up sessions along with the moisturisers and take my time to try to get an "untired" look along with that elusive perfect lipstick. Thanks, I will try the Laura Mercier first and then try some others. I may just start to spend more. My skin just sucks up moisturiser the older I get.

      Happy New Year to you and your family, Susan. The weather is quite dry and mild here in the UK so we'll stroll up a nearby hill with lots of other families to watch the fireworks go off over Birmingham. My husband and I agreed we've made much better use of this second year of retirement so we don't feel discontented about letting the old year go. We're looking forward to 2019.

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