Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 26, 2024

I feel so ugly without my makeup on

By BUSE KOLDAS | February 8, 2024



Koldas describes some of the experiences that have affected her self-image and understanding of beauty.

Once you arrive at the 9 a.m. class you have to fight your inner demons to not skip again, you might look around the lecture hall and notice girls who look totally dolled up. They wear cute outfits, full faces of makeup and seem ready to kick start their day like the “girlbosses” seen on TikTok. You might think to yourself, “How do these people love life this much?” to the point where they sacrifice maybe an hour of extra sleep time just so they look good for a college lecture.

If we share any morning classes, I might be one of those girls for you, though it was different in the past. I remember how it was back in high school. Most days I would sleep until the last possible minute, exert minimal effort in choosing what to wear for school that day (just enough to look presentable, and maybe a necklace or pair of earrings if I felt like it) and leave the house. Just like that. It was so simple when I was a child.

Back then, makeup and self-care were fun. My friend group would take mini Sephora trips to get sheet masks that did nothing for our skin but were entertaining at a sleepover with friends. We would wet our red pencils, try to use them as lipsticks and then laugh at how stupid we looked. Even at school, we would amuse ourselves by attempting to use the radiators to curl our hair, twisting small sections around the heated pipes.

Looking back, I think it all changed when someone started a gossip page for my class. There, someone tipped, “Buse Koldas is only pretty if she wears makeup. Even then, it’s questionable.” To this day, I still remember that post. It was a reminder that people could look at my face and evaluate my beauty. They could decide I was hideous. They could rate me on a scale of one to 10. I wasn’t invisible after all, contrary to what I had believed.

Demeaning and rude comments like this one sparked uncertainty about my femininity and questions about how to embrace it. I started to wear makeup. First only when I was going on dates, then when I was going to meet up with friends and finally whenever I was going to step foot outside and display my face to (what felt like) the whole entire world.

The feeling of going out without makeup became awful. The urge to run away looking straight down when I see people I know is excruciating. The thought of the guy I like losing interest in me if he sees me without makeup is humiliating. The realization that people I talk to are looking at my unwaxed eyebrows or unconcealed acne is infuriating.

Especially now, as a freshman in college whose life is slowly transitioning into building a career, makeup carries a meaning that is greater than girlhood or femininity. It is a way of saying, “Take me seriously, because I’m a grown woman, not a clueless teenager.”

Every day, when my alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m., getting out of bed is the last thing I want. But I know that if I give in and sleep for a few extra minutes, I will regret the decision until the end of the day. I have to be the girl you see at your 9 a.m. and maybe get annoyed at because I am treating class like a runway. 

This is an insecurity I will forget when my skin clears up, when I lose the body fat in my cheeks and when I stop growing as much hair. Yet it is one that I will never heal from and will probably resurface in a later stage in life in a different form. When I grow old, wrinkles will form on my forehead and in the corners of my eyes. Gray strands of hair will get more and more visible day by day. Cellulite marks will declare independence on my thighs. I will be a different woman, yet I suspect the same, untouched girl carrying the very same, unmoved insecurities deep inside. 

Buse Koldas is a freshman from Istanbul, Turkey majoring in Computer Science and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her column discusses how her past experiences have affected her, with the hope of making others feel seen and understood. 

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