Confession: I wear at least a little bit of makeup every time I set foot out of the house. It’s for one reason, and one reason only. I have perpetual dark circles under my eyes.
I can’t do anything about them. Trust me, I’ve tried. They persist despite how much sleep I get, how much water I drink, how expensive my eye cream is, or how faithfully I take my allergy medicine. They are as genetically determined as the shape of my lips and the color of my skin. I have accepted that…but not enough to not bemoan them on a daily basis.
Concealer is more essential to my morning routine than coffee. Sure, vanity is a large part of that. But it’s also to prevent the same conversation from happening over and over again. On the rare occasions I do find myself face-to-face sans makeup with someone else, I am almost always forced to assure the person that I am not sick or tired. So I much prefer taking a few extra minutes each day to mask my natural facade than consistently have to be like, “No, that’s just my face.”
Still, I often wonder how freeing it would feel to not have to worry about it. To show up at the pool or the gym or run to the grocery store naked-faced without a second thought. So I decided to make an inquiry with my dermatologist a few months ago as I was having some spots checked. After she finished up my body scan and asked if I had any other questions or concerns, I sheepishly piped up.
“Can I ask you something, strictly for vanity’s sake? Is there anything I can do about my under eye circles?”
To be honest, I kind of already knew what the response would be. But I was holding out faint hope that she’d be like, “We actually finally formulated a cream that will do it…for real this time,“ or “Yes! They’ve just discovered that drinking one Michelob Ultra everyday will completely diminish dark circles!” But her answer was exactly what I expected.
“What you have is caused by the shape of your face, the lack of cutaneous fat underneath your eyes, and some visible blood vessels. The hollow combined with the thinner skin creates the shadowing effect. The only real option is to have some filler injected into your tear troughs.”
Fuck. Well that’s that. I’m not a cosmetic procedure person.
Or am I?
I will admit it. I went home and googled pictures of people who had tear trough filler procedures. And they looked so good. It was such a subtle change, but the impact was undeniable. Their after pictures looked brighter, more youthful, and gone was that permanently forlorn cast that accompanies what should be a neutral expression.
I casually brought it up to my husband. His response? “I can’t say I have ever noticed what you’re talking about. But if it will make you happy, do it.” Ladies, this is just more mounting evidence that the area under your eyes is definitely NOT what guys are ever looking at. But I wasn’t interested in doing this because I was worried about not being enough for the people I am lucky to have who love me just as I am. Those people would still love me even if all my teeth fell out or I decided to try and bring back parachute pants. I was only looking to appease the one person whose judgement and opinion is harsher than anyone else’s, and from whom I can not escape: me.
So I made an empowered decision to do it. I called to make my appointment. I had to go back in to have a spot on my ear re-evaluated anyway, so I would conveniently banish my dark circles at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
As the date approached, I began getting more and more excited. Every time I would swipe some concealer under my eyes, I’d think, Your days are numbered, old friend. Get ready to join the ranks of my smokey eyeshadow and every tube of lipstick I own, only called to duty for dress-up occasions.
The morning of my appointment, I was in bed enjoying a few extra lazy moments before getting in the shower. I decided to look up some more tips to prepare for the procedure. And as the internet is wont to do, it led me down a rabbit hole. Filler gone wrong. Bruising that lasted for weeks. Makeup tutorials for how to cover the evidence until it heals. And oh hey…it’s highly unlikely, especially if using a board certified dermatologist like I was, but there’s always a chance the filler gets injected into a blood vessel and you could GO BLIND.
Suddenly, relying on my little tube of concealer didn’t seem like such a burden.
What if I just happened to be that statistical anomaly who experienced something terrible? Like loss of vision? I mean, I guess that’s one way to not have to gaze upon my dark circles. But, seriously. How could I look my daughter in the face…well, not look…because I’d be blind. How could I reach out and feel where she was in order to face her general direction and tell her I could no longer see because I didn’t like that my under eyes weren’t worthy of a #nomakeup Instagram post? After I have told her over and over that the scar on her knee from four different surgeries and the asymmetry of her back from scoliosis make her no less beautiful, no less worthy, no less deserving to be confident in the space she takes up in the world.
That’s a little something we like to call a reality check.
And then I thought about all the people I find to be beautiful. The people I can’t take my eyes off of, or the ones I am drawn to in photos. They are the people in my life whose hearts shine so brightly that a whole other kind of filter is created. One where you only really see the totality of who that person is and what he or she is to your life. How his smile feels like home or her eyes make you feel seen.
Approximately 45 minutes before my appointment, my decision was made.
I walked into that room, had the doctor evaluate my ear, sat while she froze the spot with liquid nitrogen, and when she asked if I wanted to talk about the filler, I replied, “Nope. I’m good!”
On the way home, I called my husband. “How was the procedure for that thing I don’t really think exists but I support if it makes you happy?”
“I decided not to do it. You were right, it’s not necessary. At worst, it could end up looking weird or I could go blind, all in the name of vanity. At best, I’d love the way it looks, but then I’d have to keep shelling out hundreds of dollars every year or two to maintain it. Because if I didn’t, people would assume I’m letting myself go, when really I’m just letting myself get back to baseline.”
This isn’t an anti-cosmetic procedure story. Because you do you. Like my husband said, if that decision helps you live your life more focused on the positive, who am I to question it? This also isn’t a story about how I came to love myself for who I am. Because honestly, I loved myself just fine before all this. To say I didn’t would be like saying my house is total shit because the siding isn’t my favorite color. Would I like looking at it more if it were a Nantucket-inspired blueish-gray? Sure. But the pale yellow doesn’t negate how much I love the huge windows or the wood-burning fireplace or the great backyard where our kids have grown up. My under eye circles are just my own personal less-than-desirable siding.
Also, I still fucking hate the dark cirlces. I will still curse them every morning and every evening as I apply eye cream. And please don’t fill the comment section telling me to own them or let the world see my face the way God intended it. Because if God wanted me to be fine with them, He wouldn’t have graced some person years ago with the gifts and talents to invent concealer. He is a God who provides.
Really, I guess this is a story to let you all know that my irrational fear of being a cosmetic procedure horror story outweighs the thing I hate most about my appearance. Because if I hadn’t been so worried about going blind, you can be sure my under eyes would be as smooth and clear as a baby’s damn butt right now.
So instead, I’m getting Invisalign to make up for years of not wearing my retainer. (Sorry, Mom and Dad). I hear 100% of patients maintained their vision while achieving a straighter smile.
Cheers to what makes you feel good.