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Op-Ed: How Dance Competitions Affected My Relationship with Makeup

I started dancing competitively when I was 11 years old, and I loved it. The costumes, the applause, the camaraderie, and sometimes, even the drama could be entertaining. 

The women in my family don’t really wear makeup, so putting foundation, contour, highlighter, eyeshadow, eyeliner, false eyelashes, and red lipstick on an 11-year-old was uncharted territory. 

I remember our dance teacher invited a Mary Kay makeup consultant to come in and teach all of us how to apply the makeup correctly because we would have to learn to do it by ourselves eventually. And we did – well, the 11-year-olds did our best, anyway. 

After discovering the world of eyeshadow at 11 years old, I woke up one morning to go to school and applied some on my eye like the Mary Kay consultant taught us. Mom protested and said it would be better if I just wore mascara. Let’s face it, the eyeshadow probably didn’t look good, and she was saving me from embarrassment. 

When I started to have acne, the layers of makeup worn at dance competitions and recitals each year exacerbated it. Thus, began my love/hate relationship with makeup. 

I liked wearing makeup because I felt pretty when I wore it. My skin was never smooth, so I felt the need to cover up my acne to look like everyone around me who had clear skin, which made me feel insecure. Caking on makeup made my acne worse, but I had to wear it for dance competitions. 

At some point in high school, I had become hyper-aware of the “weight” of all the products on my face at every competition. I don’t remember when, but I started to dislike the way I looked with the competition makeup. I felt like I didn’t look like myself, so I slowly started to wear less makeup at competitions. I tried to see what I could get away with not wearing. 

The first thing I ditched was the false eyelashes. I had a friend who couldn’t wear them because she was allergic to glue. I decided to steal that excuse and further justified my choice because my eyelashes are pretty long. 

I stopped wearing contour and highlight and felt justified in that decision because when I saw pictures of me on stage, I didn’t look washed out. At least, I convinced myself I didn’t. So, at the end of the day, I wore foundation, blush, mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and red lipstick – which was still too much for me. I’m pretty sure there were a few times I didn’t even wear eyeshadow.

Objectively, for a competitive dancer, it’s not a lot of makeup. Unfortunately, I just had this mental block that if I had anything more than just a little concealer on my face, I would break out everywhere. 

I spent my formative years dancing competitively. Putting on makeup that (to me) drastically changed what I looked like tremendously affected the way I perceived myself. 

It wasn’t until about five years ago that I realized the biggest problem was that I wasn’t properly taking care of my skin after wearing makeup. I wasn’t hydrating – which is something that’s good for your health in general – and I also wasn’t using the right products for my skin which makes a huge difference. 

If I could tell high school me anything, it would be to drink water, moisturize, and for goodness’ sake, please stop using the Maybelline Mousse Foundation. 

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