Going Clean

by Riley Rant

naked poppy natural makeup

Do you remember the first time you put on makeup?

Did you sneak into your older sister’s bedroom when she wasn’t home? Was it at a slumber party with the giddy kind of friendships you only have when you’re kids? Was it for an awkward middle school dance, when you were all limbs and zits and braces?

I was 5 years old.

I’d gotten a kid-friendly, non-toxic makeup set that could’ve been mistaken for watercolors. The color palette was limited: Blue for eyeshadow. Pink for cheeks. Red for lips. But it was enough.

I looked at my round reflection in my mother’s mirror and smeared it all over my face — a ritual even the first time . My friend giggled and said in a sing-songy voice, “You look like a clowwwwn.”

“No,” I replied, knowing she was wrong. “I look good.”

5-year-old me felt powerful. I could shape-shift. I could alter the way I faced the world and alter the way the world saw me. It was magic. It was freedom. I was hooked.

I experimented with black eyeliner and baby pink lipstick in middle school. High school was all about the purple eyeshadow that matched my purple shirt. By college I was fully free and every weekend was Halloween. Gobs of glitter. Flaming red lips. Shimmery eyes and fake lashes and one too many drawn-on beauty marks.

I party-hopped my way through my twenties. I drank too much and slept too little, concealing the dark circles under my eyes, and shushing the voice of my 5-year-old self who was telling me to slow down.

By my thirties, I looked and felt worn down all the time. The hangovers had gotten worse with age, but more pressing were the psychological effects. The worry over what I’d said or done. The anxiety in wondering who I needed to apologize to. I’d pushed my freedom to the point of recklessness. And it wasn’t fun anymore.

So I changed. I stopped drinking. I started working out. I learned how to cook. I went out on my own professionally.

I learned that change isn’t hard like everyone says; resistance to change is what makes it hard. And I was not resisting. I could still be whoever I wanted to be.

And I wanted to be a mom.

My husband and I had been casually trying for a while, though I hadn’t really been ready. My head and heart were clear for the first time in years. I was certainly ready now.

I peed on sticks every morning, and slept with ovulation trackers on my wrist every night. After a year, we got tested. Nothing was wrong.

I changed my diet to only warm foods and warm drinks, and tried two different fertility acupuncturists.

I bought crystals, listened to meditation apps, kept a running log of baby names, and slept with a pair of baby shoes under my bed.

I took Clomid, got headaches, and snapped at my husband. We went through three intrauterine inseminations — none of which turned out.

I wanted to scream. Sometimes I did. Everything else I’d put my mind to I could do. Why couldn’t I do this?

“Have you considered transitioning to clean beauty?” my friends at NakedPoppy asked me.

I wondered how that could make a difference.

“Conventional makeup can have long-term side effects that many women aren’t aware of,” they said.

And research showed, they were right. I learned there could be lead in my lipstick. That I’d been putting formaldehyde on my face. That my favorite products could be inhibiting my fertility.

Was this playing a part in my struggle to get pregnant for the last three years? 

My makeup had always been my armor and my art. I was shocked to discover that something I used to protect myself from  — and express myself to — the world could be harmful to my health. I was ashamed that I’d thought about what I put in my body, but never considered what I put on my body. I was angry that non-toxic makeup had been prioritized for 5-year-olds playing dress-up, and not for grown-up women like me.  

I switched to clean beauty because I was finally armed with the facts. If I could prevent harming my body with healthier beauty, why wouldn’t I? I’d already cleaned up the rest of my life, why should makeup be any different?

A friend of mine likes to say, “The most powerful story you tell is the story you tell yourself about yourself.” I like the idea that I control my own narrative, and that I can manifest the life I want.

I want to be a happy person. I want to learn something new every day. I want to foster meaningful connections with the people I know, and the people I don’t know yet. I want to be an amazing mom.

But I can’t control everything.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get pregnant. But I’m doing everything I can to boost my chances. I can’t promise I’ll never drink too much again. But I’m making my best effort not to. I don’t know where my life will go. But I do know that when I have a choice, I’m making the best one for me.

With clean makeup I get all the perks and none of the downsides. I can still express my passion with a fiery coral lipstick, or amp up my confidence myself with a thick black cat eye. The difference is that when I sit down for my daily ritual today, I know who I am, and I know what I want.

And I like the healthy, hopeful person I see.

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