On Skincare Snobbery

Two interestingly related things happened today: I got my hands on my first Glossier-products and came around this long-play about why we are getting skincare so wrong. Whether you have strong feelings about washing your face or not, I recommend you read the piece because it is interesting, and obviously also provocative. The article claims that skincare has become an obsessive (yet useless) hobby for the wealthy who like to brag about the price and complexity of their obscenely elaborate  (and again, useless) skincare rituals on the social media. After having finished the article I stared at my spanking new, millennial pink Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser and felt weird.

In addition to stationery, I have always, always been drawn to beauty products: the more niche and difficult to obtain, the better. Some of my early purchases were the results of such near-spiritual contemplations (not to mention the lengthy money-saving processes!) that they deserve a mention here, decades later: My first Guerlain lipstick in a golden, clunky case (the most glamorous thing I’d ever owned, far too expensive for a high-school kid but I had an after school job cleaning a massive meat mincer at the food department of a supermarket so it was possible to obtain such luxury). My first Diptyque Philosykos from Edinburgh SpaceNK while a student. Had I not bought the perfume eventually, they probably would have given it to me, just to stop me from stalking around the shop every Saturday (and many other lecture-free days) for about a year. But did I love the perfume (I still do)! 

You see a gateway theory forming here and yes, I have become a cosmetics junkie. I still shy away from the big duty free -brands and gravitate towards lesser known niche products, with inclination to small brands that make natural products*. I have followed with great interest the way natural cosmetics, once considered the go-to only for joss-stick smelling, granola-bar munching hippies, have scrubbed up their image and become both glamorous and conscious alternatives to many upmarket luxury brands (now, I’m very much aware of the muddy waters I just dipped my toes into. Buying cosmetics that claim to be natural surely is no sign of a greater consciousness than buying products that do not make such claims? Yes, I know. This is how the products are marketed, does not mean we must believe it).

The article makes a few points I wanted to look into. Let’s start with “like other human organs, skin has withstood millions of years of evolution without the aid of tinctures and balms“. I believe –  no, actually I hope – that every adult in the possession of enough liquidity to purchase a €200 Vintner’s Daughter serum is aware that owning such a product is not necessary for the continuation of the human race. Many a human part has withstood millions of years without most of the things that are considered pretty standard today. Hair extensions. Nail extensions. Cosmetic surgery. The whole dental industry of tooth-whitening, veneers and whatnot. Removal of toes, ribs and other body parts to better fit shoes, corsets and costumes. People hardly do these things to stay alive. Why is there a need to single out caring for your skin? Because there is a dermatologist who’s said  we don’t need a twice-daily layering ritual of a dozen ointments to have a good skin? Well, we also don’t need big, fat German cars to move from place A to B – hundredsof years ago people surely did not have such a luxury?

Then “we have come to see the pursuit of perfect skin through a rotating buffet of products as an empowering choice“, which also caught my eye. Yes, us girls are just that silly. Give us a 15-step Korean skincare routine and that’s us empowered for the next couple of thousand years. Is the skincare craze (sic) a symptom of women finding empowerment through spending their earnings on expensive skincare? I never thought about it that way, but could this be subtext for preferring to see women spend their monies on something else than creams and cleansers, such as… Yes, what? 

Maybe the critique is not gendered as such (although women do spend far more money on cosmetics than men) but it is difficult to see it any other way, except maybe as a criticism of the wealthy, who have become so inward-looking that the furthest they see literally is their epidermis (which also is a feeble argument, quite frankly). I remember seeing a picture of two shower cream bottles on twitter lately (same brand, essentially the same product, but there was a female-version and a male-version (obviously)). The female-version of the shower cream included moisturising lotion. The male product included moisturising technology. Because it’s just us girls who become blindly spendy with frivolous gimmicks while men know to invest their money in technology

Most skincare is really just a waste of money“. Haha, I know. Smearing expensive oils onto my skin in the evenings will not save the human race, take years off my face or make much difference in the larger scheme of things. I am happy to report that in addition to an elaborate skincare habit I also do many other things that are not necessary for the survival of the womankind, and can be considered waste of money. I eat out, drink wine and cocktails,  buy expensive candles as well as excessive amounts of magazines and books and wear impractical but fabulous heels. People in the olden days surely sustained without most of that, if we were to use the “millions of years of evolution” analogy. But now I must insist you read the article as I fear I’ll slide further off piste from the original point otherwise. Plus I have to go and remove the moisturising mask I’ve slapped on and move on to the next step of my evening routine. 

*Yes, am aware that Glossier is neither. 

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