Our new feature, Makeover Diaries, tells the stories of women's real-life beauty transformations. This week, Samantha Chang, a mother of two in New York City, realized that after decades of bold hair dye, heavy makeup and head-turning outfits, less can be more.
Photos: Courtesy of Samantha Chang
Growing up in the Midwest as a Korean within a German Catholic family had its challenges. I was acutely aware from an early age that no, I was not blonde, blue-eyed, or German like Mom; hence, we had the "adoption talk" when I was four years old. As soon as I realized I was different, part of me wanted to look just like everyone else.
"Suffer for beauty" was Mom's motto; it was her own mother's as well.
There was the Sun-in and lemon juice, a failed attempt to get the wheat-colored highlights of my mother, aunt, sister, and best friend. Wait - are highlights supposed to be dirty orange? And who could forget the spiral permanent wave treatments endured from box kits - my own natural, glossy sleek black hair had little appeal back in the day. There was the Madonna-style matte red lip and the frosty mauve gloss, the electric blue eye shadow... all less than flattering. I roasted in baby oil and coconut-scented Hawaiian Tropic for hours - now my natural ivory skin has broken capillaries and brown hyper-pigmentation to show for it.
By the time I was in college, I went in the opposite direction - I wanted to look different and stand out. At 19, I was a dead-ringer for James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins, white-blonde streaks, thick, kohl eyeliner and all; I was thinking about nose rings and I am sort of glad I never got one. In my 20s I embraced throw-away vintage and trashy denim. My hair from Cathy Dennis red to platinum, brassy-brown, and witch black. My best friend at the time would always do a tsk-tsk when looking me over from head to toe. "You are so pretty... why all of this? Just be a CLASSIC BEAUTY," he would tell me. Classic? Me? How boring.
Finally, I realized, he was right: less is more.
Now that I'm in my 30s, married with twins, I have different beauty challenges. For my children's first two years, I had the lank hair, bad skin, and stained t-shirts of so many new moms. But five years later, I again care about what I look like. The difference is that now I want to look like myself.
I like my un-dyed, almost black hair and appreciate the natural smoothness of my bob haircut. When I wear makeup, it is natural and applied with the intention of enhancing, not recreating my features. I respect my skin and treat it accordingly, and it has finally started to forgive me a bit. I use Proactiv twice daily to keep my face clear, and I wear sunscreen religiously. I use Sephora Collection tinted moisturizer or Shiseido foundation for a more finished look. Nars makes a great powder blush in a neutral rose/plum called "Sin" and Dior's famous DiorShow Unlimited mascara is the best for me. Korres makes great, glossy all-natural lipsticks that I love to wear.
I prefer neutral clothes and spend my money on timeless pieces with occasional flair, and wear easy, chic silhouettes: No more vintage go-go/cheap polyester or crazy denim. No more cringing. My look is subdued and perhaps even boring to some, but it makes me feel comfortable.
It took me a long time, but I finally learned that beauty shouldn't be a burden or a disguise, but a way to express ourselves as we really are. When I stopped trying to be something I was not, I discovered the beauty I had within.
Got a makeover story you'd like to share? Visit Seed.com to find out how you can contribute.