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February 11, 2013

I’m Giving Up Makeup for Lent

The exposure just might help me discover a few things about self-worth underneath it all.


What does Lent mean to me? Yes, it begins on Ash Wednesday with the remembrance of Jesus in the wilderness, and it ends on Easter Sunday with the celebration of his resurrection—but what does it all mean? I’ve been thinking about this question for a while now, and have finally discovered an answer.

Usually I see Lent as a 40-day diet, a time for me to abstain from sweets with the secret hope it will result in smaller love handles. This year, however, I’ve been convicted of my ulterior motives. Instead of merely giving something up in hopes of losing weight, I want to give up something that will benefit me spiritually. That’s why I won’t be wearing makeup this year during Lent.

Every morning I wake up, work out, get ready, put on make-up, eat breakfast, and if I have time, read my Bible and write in my journal. I’ve focused too much of my time on improving the things that others find value in, including my outward appearance. In the process I’ve neglected opportunities to improve my character and relationship with Jesus. First Peter 3:3—4 says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

Although I don’t wear inordinate amounts of makeup, I still feel inadequate without it. In fact, sometimes I put it on before I go running. I’ve believed the socially constructed idea that the only way people will find me pretty is if I wear makeup, if I cover or hide the flaws. Therefore, when I don’t wear it I worry what others will think, and am afraid that they won’t approve of the real me: Her complexion is uneven; her eyes look tired; she’s ugly. I hide behind a mask, finding security in covering the parts I don’t like and emphasizing the parts I do. Goodbye blemishes, hello eyes! But I’m tired of never feeling good enough, and never feeling pretty unless I wear makeup.

“What makes me feel like I’m not enough?” my roommate asked the other night at dinner as we discussed Lent. Moments later she said, “Society tells me every day that I’m not enough. That I don’t have enough. Wearing makeup tells me that my God-given face isn’t enough.” Like me, and I’m sure other women too, my roommate’s self-esteem was contingent on how others saw her. Inadequate. Not enough.

Those words haunted me. When I’m in my apartment alone I don’t wear makeup, and I love it. I’m not sitting there thinking, I wonder what people will think of me—because no one is there! It’s when I leave that I have this urge to make myself look presentable. It’s when I start comparing myself to others that I feel like I’m not enough, incomplete, inadequate.

The discussion with my roommate became a catalyst for me to try to change that feeling. The best way for me to start? Give up makeup for Lent. So for the next six weeks, I want to focus my self-worth in the one who created me just the way I am—all-natural and makeup free. My prayer is that by learning to love and accept myself the way God does, it will also transform the way I view others. Because I’ve become insecure in how I look, I sometimes judge others because of the way they look: she wears too much makeup, she should wear more, and the list goes on.

Making myself feel prettier at the expense of others becomes a self-indulgent cycle. However, Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

I judge others because I’m afraid they’re judging me. But I want the next 40 days to be different.

I want to use the time I save from not putting on makeup in the morning to pray through the fruit of the Spirit. My hope is that praying for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will help me see others (and myself) as beautiful, image bearers of God.

The issue then becomes less about how I look, and more about where my value lies. I want to focus not on the “speck” in someone else’s eye, but on taking the plank out of my own.

So what does Lent mean for me? It means finding myself beautiful, inside and out. It’s about finding my worth in God, not in everyone else. It’s about loving others the way God does.

Other women are taking The Challenge and experiencing the transformative power of going “naked.” Will you join us?


Abbey Woodfin is Today’s Christian Woman’s editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter @abbeywoodfin.

Also read about Constance Rhodes’s month-long makeup-free experience in TCW article “A Month Without Makeup.”

Related Tags: Acceptance and Identity; Beauty, Lent


This is awesome Abbey! I love the line "It's about finding my worth in God, not in everyone else" (and I would even add, "not in myself") Our worth is totally in God and how much more precious could we be as the image-bearers of Christ? Great article- proud of you!! :)

Abbey, I knew your dad when he was in high school (we are both from Trenton). I LOVE that you are doing this and being so transparent about your feelings! Our teen girls (and some of the mom's, me included) did this during November and I totally understand the obstacles. Let me just tell you that it was a freeing experience. Yes, I got a lot of 'are you sick'or 'you don't look well' comments from well-meaning people but I feel like it was another way the Lord was removing the pride of life from my heart. I hope that you too will be filled with His acceptance of you as you take this 40 day journey. You are a beautiful Daughter of the Most High King and He says you are more than enough! With your permission, I want to share your article on my blog. I think my readers will be blessed by it.

Hi Abbey!

This is a great article, so full of Biblical truth well applied. I've been struggling with the ways that I judge people as well, and I'm learning to look at people with love. For me this means that I'm resolving to write thank you notes every day in Lent... many of them long overdue. I want to get myself into the habit of expressing my thanks for friendships that I've taken for granted.

Every blessing on your journey. I hope you write more about it!

Hey, Abby - I am SO IMPRESSED!! What a great article!! And this position you have of intern...? Lots of wisdom in your piece. Thank you for sharing it - and keep on keepin' on. God has his hand on you, I am sure of it!
Love, Betsy Tyvoll ( your OLD middle school Bible teacher... - remember me??)

Hi Abbey!

This is a great article, so full of Biblical truth well applied. I've been struggling with the ways that I judge people as well, and I'm learning to look at people with love. For me this means that I'm resolving to write thank you notes every day in Lent... many of them long overdue. I want to get myself into the habit of expressing my thanks for friendships that I've taken for granted.

Every blessing on your journey. I hope you write more about it!

Dear Ladies,

Thank you so much for the encouragement; I really do appreciate it!

@Laura: What a great idea to write and send letters to people--I love it and may have to implement that into my own life.It's truly amazing what an act of kindness will do, not only for yourself but for others as well. I wish you the best of luck, and may God use you to encourage others in their daily walk with Him.

@Betsy: Of course I remember you; you haven't aged a bit! Thank you so much for your encouragement, I really appreciate it. Yes, I am very blessed to be working here and to have the opportunity to share what God has been doing in my life. Please tell your family that I say hello!

@Teresa: Wow, that is so great that you have already taken this challenge--and I do mean challenge! I am eager to see how God will use me these next 40 days, but like you said, the lessons in humility are going to be hard to accept.
I would be honored if you shared it on your blog; however, TCW doesn't allow re-printing in total but you can excerpt a paragraph or two and then link back to the original article on our site. If you have any questions then please contact me via email: awoodfin@christianitytoday.com

@Amy: You bring up an excellent point--finding our worth should be in God alone, not in ourselves OR anyone else. Thank you for the insight and support!


Great article. I am very fair and seem to rarely go anywhere without mascara. And usually only buy brown. And for Sundays and sometimes" town " /'errand' days I'll add blush. And though that isn't much, I am amazed even when I go to stores or pay bills how FEW women of all ages and mostly those whom appear ( graying, just older looking) to not be wearing any make up. I wonder then what the need is? Why I feel I have to wear even the little I do. Not sure if its an age thing? I am nearly 52 and feel I probably overdid the makeup in college. And then became involved in a denomination that forbid face paint. So was glad when I finally came out of that standard. Anyway, thanks for the article. My nearly 15 year old girls are wanting to experiment with eye shadow. So far they've been okay with me still telling them not yet. Maybe I should have them read this. :-)

Hi Abbey, I salute you for being so brave. What a thought provoking article. As much as I would like to NOT worry about my physical appearance even for six weeks; that would be impossible. Physical appearance is the cornerstone of my very being. If someone mentions me in conversation; the first thing one would say is “She dresses so beautifully, her make-up is applied to perfection, not a hair out of place”, then they would FINALLY get around to my intellect. The only day I have the luxury of going make-up free is on Saturday and that depends if I have no plans outside of the home. I wore a nice pair of blue jeans to work one day and everyone thought I was either “going through my files/archiving OR I was leaving early to begin a vacation week. So to come to work for 6 weeks without make-up; they would think I was terminally ill . . . LOL!

Thank you so much for this article. I am doing this too. I attended a two church meetings and services last night, without makeup. These words are just what I needed to read and was hungry for this morning.

Thank you for speaking out about not wearing makeup for the next six weeks. I've been wearing very little, or none, now for over six years and I love it. I am a high school teacher and I chose to wear minimal makeup, if any, because I want young girls to know that they are beautiful without all of the superficiality that our society says one has to have and/or wear in order to be considered beautiful. It's so refreshing to see these young ladies' youthful faces without all of the eyeliner, mascara, and dark eye shadows and to see their real beauty shining through. I am 58, have a head of mostly silver hair, and I have yet had one person ask if I am sick, feeling bad, or tired. I do keep a nice haircut, albeit not in the latest style but one that is still a little sassy and neat, and I endeavor to move with energy and purpose. I don't feel the need to apologize for my age, for my looks, for my hair color, or for anything else about me. I am extremely comfortable with how God made me. After all, I don't want people to see me when they look at me, but to see Jesus!

Abbey, your intentions are sincere and genuine and your article so thoughtful. Blessings on your Lenten journey. I am in my fifties and in a different place. Although I don't obsess, I do wear makeup. Part of my thought process is that I put my best foot forward and a polished appearance is simply routine, like brushing my teeth. For me it says I care about my body and how I present myself to the world. Our appearance can make us approachable or less so and as a business woman I want to present an open presence to my clients and employees.

Hey abbey!

I also chose to give up make up for lent this year. I was having a bit of a struggle with it today and I was letting my self consciousness get in the way of my goal. When I read your blog, all of the reasons came back to me and gave me strength to move on. I really appreciated your article and the quotes you provided. I know they will continue to help me in this 40 day challenge! It's inspiring to know that there will be other women giving this up. It's a great sacrifice and lesson! God bless you in these next 30 some days. Thank you for your inspiration!!

Abbey, I think you are cute as a button either way!

Wow! Ladies, thank you for your overwhelming support. I am so encouraged by all of your comments and am glad that this article has inspired so many of you.

For the women who have joined me in the make-up fast, I commend you in your endeavor! I hope that each morning when you look in the mirror you see what everyone else sees: a beautiful and confident woman. And if it is any consolation, the other day a male friend of mine said that he generally thinks women look better without make-up on. Ironic isn't it? Often times we wear make-up for the opposite sex, yet they hardly notice!

However, Carol you raise great questions that I have likewise been asking myself. Why do we wear make-up to look "natural" instead of just going all-natural? I think Susan's point of women in the workforce feeling unprofessional, unpolished and unapproachable is the answer. It feels like you aren't as put-together or on top of things when you aren't wearing any make-up. Honestly, this has been my biggest challenge thus far. How can people take me seriously when my face looks the same at 6:00am when I’m going to the gym and 2:00pm when I’m giving a presentation?

Ladies, thank you for the support and please keep me posted on how you answer these questions :)


Abbey, I am so proud of you. I am 63 and for various reasons have not been a wearer of make-up. I used to tell my mom that my skin couldn't breath (she was a big on girls wearing make-up) I have worked since I was 16 and not wearing make-up was ever a problem or suggested that I do by the people I worked. I was always working with the public too and many women were amazed and envious that I didn't and wish they could feel comfortable without. Neither of my sons ever objected either. Keep up the good work for we are made in God's image and we know we are beautiful to Him and that is really all that matters.

Hey abbey! It's the last week of lent. Just wondering how it's been going for you! I found it hard last weekend when I went to a baby showe and everyone was all dressed up and there I was with no makeup! I got comments that I looked tired-ha! But it's all part of the bigger goal. In all reality I feel more confident, which I thought would never happen from doing this. But in a way I feel confident that the people closest to me love me no matter what. My husband has been very supportive and it been a great way to think of Jesus's struggle. It's easy to forget about my silly sacrifice when I think of Jesus dying for me and fasting. I think of how min harder it was for him. Anyways I was just curious to see how it was going for you! We're almost at the end now! :)

Ashley! Hello and thank you so much for asking how Lent went. I understand the feeling of seeing everyone else dressed up, and there you are wearing a dress with no make-up on. Sometimes it feels like you walked out of the house with wet hair and a towel wrapped around you, but honestly I am sure you looked beautiful!

Anyway, Lent went really well, much better than I anticipated; however, since it has ended it has taken me a while to process. I'm in this weird stage right now where I know I can wear make-up, and I(occasionally)do, but whenever I look at myself with it on I think "How silly you look, Abbey. That's not you." It's been an interesting adjustment, one that I am still trying to figure out. I'm currently writing a blogpost so that will hopefully be up in the next week or so but my thoughts have not been very coherent so we shall see :)

Ashley, thank you for asking about it, I really appreciate it, and am very encouraged by your experience! You did it and not many women can say that.

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