By Nina Haines
I am a skincare junkie. I (loosely) follow the ten step Korean skincare regime. It is my five to thirty minutes of meditation and the beginning and the end of the day, all to myself. Because of this love, four different people sent me this article a few months ago within the span of 15 minutes asking my thoughts. It’s by writer Krithika Varagur for The Outline, a publication I’ve never heard of, so why is it getting so much buzz? Because it is an attack on our cherished skincare routines and the pleasure that we receive as women in doing them.
She writes: “[Skincare] is a scam. It has to be. Perfect skin is unattainable because it doesn’t exist. The idea that we should both have it and want it is a waste of our time and money. Especially for women, who are disproportionately taxed by both the ideal of perfect skin and its material pursuit … Like other human organs, skin has withstood millions of years of evolution without the aid of tinctures and balms. How could we be getting it so wrong now? The only feasible answer is: we aren’t … But we have come to see the pursuit of perfect skin through a rotating buffet of products as an empowering choice.”
To start, one thing that really bothered me about this article is that it took outliers to represent the whole of the skincare community. Some (uneducated) skincare enthusiasts are exfoliating three times with a loofa so OF COURSE their skin is going to be an open wound because that’s not how skincare works. Just because some people don’t know what they’re doing doesn’t mean skincare is a “con.” They are outliers and cannot represent everyone who uses serums and exfoliators and acids. With great skincare comes great responsibility.
Influencer Gelcream recently posted a photo on Instagram of her empty hand that symbolizes you only need yourself, nothing else.
Further, the author is targeting the skincare industry as a symptom of capitalism. It is, without a doubt. It is a billion dollar industry that has increased exponentially in the past few years thanks to social media influencer marketing; however, as someone who uses skincare as a coping mechanism (à la the New Yorker article), instead I suggest we examine the reasons why we need such a coping mechanism: capitalism.
To single out and target skincare as a symptom of capitalism is correct, but our focus should be on the larger structures of capitalism that make skincare such a relaxing, pleasurable beauty routine for millions of people. As Sady Doyle so beautifully puts it for HuffPost, “what we’re talking about, when we talk about skin care, is not just female consumption or even female gender performance, but female pleasure.”
Varagur attacks this function of female pleasure, and we musn’t let that slide. “When the realities of female enjoyment collide with consumerism and capitalism, female pleasure isn’t just ignored — it’s cast as soft, decadent and frivolous in a way that male spending is not…The men are just enjoying themselves; the woman is a narcissistic sucker who has been fooled into paying too much for an experience we’ve deemed to have no value.”
While in no way am I saying that you need to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive skincare in order to achieve self love and self care, but I do encourage taking ten to thirty minutes at the start of your day and at the end of your day to take care of YOU. Press the pause button and focus on yourself. My me time is skincare – washing my face, exfoliating, moisturizing, masking – but for you, self care can be meditation, running, journaling.
Find your version of self care, and be wary of companies that try and sell you products by co-opting the language of self love. You don’t need a $100 moisturizer to love yourself, you just need you!