Self-Care: Putting on My Makeup {Guest Post by Lily Ellyn Dunn}

Hello, everyone! Kelsey here. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care since I wrote about how important self-care is now that I’m a caregiver. Plus, I tend to think about it during January with all the “New Year, new you!” talk that can be highly problematic for everyone, especially people recovering from eating disorders. It made me realize just how much I need to start prioritizing little moments of self-care again in my own life. So I’ve decided to run a 12-week guests series on self-care.

Some of you long-term readers may recognize some of these posts because I originally ran the series few years ago. But a lot has happened in my own life since then, and I feel like I could use the reminder. Plus, we have new followers who never got the chance to read them! So every Friday for a little bit a writer I know will give us a peak at what self-care looks like for them.

Today, for the first installment, I’m happy to introduce all of you to my friend and fellow blogger, Lily Ellyn Dunn. One of the things I like best about this piece is that it focuses on a self-care ritual and an artistic expression that can so often go overlooked, but it’s something that clearly is so meaningful and enjoyable to Lily. I hope it encourages you to find your own sacred self-care in ways that are uniquely, beautifully you.


Flickr cc Sodanie Chea

When I have to be at work by 8:00 I wake up before the sun. I feed my cats in the fuzzy gray light of the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee. Then I carry the steaming mug with me into the bathroom where I sort through my makeup collection, pick out what I want to wear that day, pull out my brushes, consider the blank canvas of my face, and start to paint.
My interest in makeup began a little over a year ago. For my entire makeup-wearing life before that my routine had been the same – foundation, powder, blush, brown mascara – maybe some brown eyeliner. On very special occasions I’d pull out my single gold eye shadow or one of my two lipsticks – both hand-me-down gifts with purchase my mother had received at a cosmetics counter years before. The whole thing took less than five minutes.

My makeup routine wasn’t any sort of conscious, minimalist choice – I just never thought about it at all – until one day when I was looking for a video on youtube and stumbled onto a makeup tutorial. From there, I discovered there was a whole community of people making beauty videos. These girls weren’t just “doing their makeup.” They were true artists. They were taking powders and creams and liquids and transforming the raw materials into something spectacular. I was intrigued. After watching dozens of videos, I decided to experiment a little bit.

I quickly discovered two things about me and makeup: First, that makeup is a great creative outlet for me—the way that painting or sketching are for more artistic people. And second, that I might just have a knack for it. I spent time researching products and brands, invested in higher quality brushes, and practiced new techniques. I started waking up earlier in the morning so I could take my time getting ready, excited to try something new every day.

And then I discovered the downside of being into makeup. When you wear glittery eyeshadow or bright lipstick, people tend to assume things about you. Mostly, they assume you’re insecure, obsessed with appearances, shallow, vain, attention-seeking, and inauthentic. I understand where they’re coming from, I really do. The world is saturated with fake images of perfect faces and bodies bearing the message that beauty is limited to one certain set of ideals and that we should do everything we can to change ourselves to fit into that box. I don’t believe in this. Nobody needs to wear makeup to be beautiful. Nobody should feel inadequate without it. But by the same token, nobody should feel like a little bit of glitter makes a person shallow or that red lipstick makes a woman fake.

Sometimes people say to me, “Your makeup is so pretty, but I would never take the time to do mine like that. I just can’t be bothered.” That’s perfectly fine, and I get that. But I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I can’t not be bothered to do my makeup. The time I spend playing with my makeup is time I make in my day to care for myself.

Music and art are widely recognized for their therapeutic qualities. They engage a creative part of your mind and help you relax, rest, and recover from stress and trauma. I’m no good at painting or drawing and I’m not especially musical, but I love doing makeup. I do it because it’s fun. I do it because it’s art. I do it because it reminds me that I have the power to create, and that transformation is possible. And if that’s vain or shallow, then I suppose I’m just vain and shallow.

Maybe one day putting on my makeup will feel like a chore, and if that day comes I can guarantee you that I will stop waking up early to make time for it, but right now it is one small thing I can do every day for no other reason than that it brings me joy. And joy is always worthwhile.


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Lily Ellyn Dunn is a teacher, a freelance writer, and (most importantly) an ice cream connoisseur. She and her husband have recently relocated to Columbia, SC after two years in South Korea. Lily wrestles with her faith on her blog, You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn.

Note from Kelsey: If you enjoyed Lily’s post, leave her some comment love and check out her blog. One of my favorites: “But You Don’t Seem Bipolar” And Other Things You (And My Gynecologist) Shouldn’t Say. I appreciate Lily bravely and openly talking about bipolar with her readers (in addition to talking about faith and books, all the books).

17 thoughts on “Self-Care: Putting on My Makeup {Guest Post by Lily Ellyn Dunn}

  1. I personally appreciate a person who presents herself well. It makes me smile. Life can be so draining and a pleasant face is always refreshing. I started wearing make up late. I felt I needed to look more polished. I didn’t get more clients or business. I did get better service at the bank or at the store. Some folks thought I must be in love. For me, the experience left me convinced that others also felt some delight or enlightenment when they saw a pretty face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like doing your make up is an act of self-care for you, and that’s great. Sometimes I find just feeling “put together” makes me feel like I’ve cared for myself, which means make up but also feeling like I’m all matchy, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 🙂 Love this! So, on my list of “things to do for me” this year is pick out a red lipstick color I like and wear it. I have some cheap “hand me down” red that I’m always terrified to wear (plus it’s such a specific color it doesn’t work with a lot…) I like that you addressed that side of it. My problem is I never know what would be good, and I don’t want to spend money on something and then it’s like… eww, that didn’t work. You should consult. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

        • OK, so red lipstick. One of my favorites is Rimmel’s Kate Moss lipstick in #107. It’s a berry red color, so not orangey and not like stark Hollywood red. It’s matte, so not shiny at all, and it’s only about $5 so very affordable. I actually recommend that whole line (Rimmel Kate Moss) for affordable lipsticks that perform well. Another brand I’d recommend is Colourpop – you can only order these online at, but their lippie stix are also $5, they have a jillion colors, and they are in a thinner tube with a small tip, so they are easier to keep in your lipline if you aren’t great at applying lipstick. They also sell matching lipliners, but I don’t really think they are necessary.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Kelsey for writing on self care topic! I am a stay home mom, and recently I found one of my self care (therapy) by putting on make up, even if I am home with my son all day 🙂 I have never been a make up person to begin with, but I tried a few different brands online. I discovered that I like a bright red lipstick 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sastri, I’m glad you’re liking the self-care series. And enjoyed Lily’s guest post. 🙂

      I completely get that. Sometimes, even if I’m not leaving the house or seeing anyone. I do the same thing with clothes; I’ll pick out a cute outfit, something that makes me feel put together, and wear it even if it’s just at home. 🙂


  4. Yes to this! Thank you for sharing your story, Lily. As a writer who works from home, this resonates. My self-care routine includes getting dressed in real clothes (i.e. not pajamas or workout wear), putting on a little makeup, and going to work at the library.

    Even though I do work from home if I need to, it helps me psychologically to go out and join the world looking presentable. It signals self-respect, and helps me to move through the world with more confidence too.

    In fact, my new year’s resolution last year was to ‘dress better’, since I could see how dressing in worn-out, raggedy clothes was negatively affecting how I moved through the world. Here’s the full story:

    So thanks for this post, and for reminding me that it’s not frivolous or ‘unproductive’ to spend a few minutes applying mascara and lipstick in the morning. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Makeup as an Act of Self-Care: A Guest Post | Such Small Hands

  6. If it makes you happy, then why not? My problem with foundation is that it doesn’t make me glow, it makes me sweat and it all runs. I go to the gym most mornings, so there’s no point putting it on first thing. Then the ‘aferburn’ keeps the effect going. Really annoying when I want to use it. Even face cream is too much; I’m going to be a wrinkly old lady. My mother used no makeup at home, but always wore lipstick outdoors, I don’t usually even do that, so when I do put on makeup, it always feels special. Lipstick colours are so difficult to get right. I grew up in the time of disco and punk, but neither of those really spoke to me. Now I love the bare-faced hippy look for most of the time, but would love a modified ‘goth’ style if I’m going to the right sort of event. For people like me who find it difficult to pick the right colours, it might be worth the money to book a one-off session with a makeup artist to try to find the right colours of lipstick for different looks if you’re not confident in picking the right one in the store where the lighting is always horrible. Cheaper than buying lots of shades yourself. Another idea: perhaps a local college needs models for makeup sessions. I just had my hair dyed by a hairdressing student; it cost me nothing, but as I don’t normally dye my hair, I now have to think about doing my roots in a couple of weeks. Ah, the trials and tribulations of caring for yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. HBL

    Yes! Its great to hear your viewpoint! I recently discovered youtube makeup tutorials, and they blow my mind.

    Makeup has always been scary for me, because it brought up lots of feelings about not being female in the way our mainstream American culture tells us to be. I love makeup because I’ve discovered that outfits that I love, but look a little bit awkward can be pulled together by the right makeup.

    I wasn’t able to have a positive relationship with makeup until I realized that people pretty much to a rule look fabulous without makeup (me included!), and that I could use makeup to look unique in many different ways instead of just looking like a [insert female beauty archetype of choice].


  8. Pingback: What I’m Into: January 2016 Edition | Such Small Hands

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