A Crisis of Self-Care
I’ve fallen into a skin care hole and I can’t get up. This is not the first time in my adult life I’ve become overly invested and potentially obsessed with learning about and buying skin care products. I’ve started to lose many an hour, staring aimlessly, clicking links, and reading reviews. We’ve all been there, but this time I feel somewhat more introspective about it –– as if this is a real thing to be introspective about.
But, I suppose this is all relatively new for me.
- My first known use of a real skincare product was Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash in 1998, after using my friend’s bottle while on a trip to Yosemite. I relentlessly got this in my eyes, basically burning holes in my corneas on a weekly basis… for several years. I continued using it in high school, eventually incorporating a St. Ives Apricot Scrub, essentially sandpaper paste, into my regime. Between these two products, I’m surprised my epidermis is still intact.
- I only started using a moisturizer, Aveeno Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30, when I went away to college because it seemed like the adult thing to do. Even then, it was never consistent because college kids are unreliable.
- To remove my makeup, if I did, I exclusively used body lotion on a piece of toilet paper, or scrubbed it off in the shower. Weekends were all about rocking second and third-day eyeliner very well into my twenties.
Embarrassingly, I really only started doing anything, including washing my face and taking off my makeup at night, a few years ago. Meanwhile, my 26-year-old friend has been putting sunblock on her hands forever and will never age. COOL FOR ME AND MY CREPEY HANDS.
Blessed (not hashtag, but sincerely) with good skin, I didn’t really get into skin care until I was about to turn 30, and I REALLY got lost in the comments section after I went off birth control and experienced relentless cystic, hormonal acne that was only solved through medication.
I’ve fallen victim to rose gold. Minimalist fonts. Essential oils (which are actually pretty legit). Modern standards of wellness. Questioning whether or not I want to look dewy, makeupless, or completely contoured. The mirage of self-care. Youth. THE WHOLE THING. And honestly, it’s just an expensive sieve of perpetual inadequacy. There will always be a new product, solution, and pretty smelling thing to make yourself feel worthy of self-love.
Blame it on Instagram influencers and their aesthetically soothing, rose-scented potions, tinctures, and oils that make normal, sane, educated women internally scream, “OMG I NEEEEED” multiple times a day. It’s probably the fact that 2017 was the year for skin care, seeing a 45% increase in sales. Or why not just blame fucking face masks, of the sheet varietal specifically, for turning us all into performative wellness monster people who probably don’t even really like the sensation of literal goo precariously seeping into our eyes, but taking a selfie with a sheet over your face feels easy and falsely vulnerable. Even our favorite clothing stores are falling in line by getting into the beauty game to sell us an ironic image of youth –– bathtime. I don’t need more things to impulse buy at Madewell, honestly!
GUYS, I legit bought body oil and a roller of “Feel Good Potion” while writing this blog post. And, I still want more! In fact, I’m starting to feel like my bathroom isn’t nice enough to display my new pretties. What is WRONG with me??
Yet, this is all happening in my brain while knowing full well that skin care is kind of bogus. It is. It’s not just this article that went viral, calling out modern skin care fads as ineffective bottles of privilege. Although, she makes several salient points, including her main one that asserts perfect skin is unattainable and therefore should not be desired. I get it; let’s not set ourselves up for even more self-loathing than we already feel. She argues that “New Skin Care” is “chiefly about buying things, and displaying them for others to see — to prove that you worked hard for what you have.”
The author even backed up what my own dermatologist had leveled with me about when I was battling hormonal cystic acne last year –– this shit is not necessary. My derm reminded me that our skin is pretty thick and not terribly porous, and she’s only steered me wrong once!
This is a good thing about your skin. It keeps bad shit out, but unfortunately, it’s also a gatekeeper for your $80 Drunk Elephant serum. So really, there’s very little we can do to polish, brighten, detox, or firm –– long term, at least. It’s just genetics, yo.
There are a lot of reasons to shake our fists at the skin care industry, and a culture obsessed with youth, quick-fixes, short-lived trends and superficial pretty things. We are being sold a dreamy, creamy, lavender lie.
Yet, it feels pretty nice though, doesn’t it?
The products, especially the good ones, can make a difference. I’m not implying they don’t. I’m just saying, they can only take you so far (as I can tell). But, maybe that’s enough. Maybe it’s enough if it’s something that makes you feel special on a particularly unspecial day or brings a meditative practice or ritual into an otherwise out of control feeling season of life. No matter what’s going on, it’s nice to have consistency, especially when it looks nice in a jar by the sink.
But even with that empowering thought, there’s still a little voice, “Don’t spend so much money on feeling good. It’s wasteful.” Women’s pleasure is a double-edged sword, and this is no different. You want us to look young, but not change a thing. You want us to enjoy ourselves, but not excessively. We (including me and other women with each other) want to police how you WASTE your money on self-soothing. Fuck, get botox if you want! Who am I to judge?!
As another author pointed out in her rebuttal against the attack on skin care, “Every night, I haul myself into the bathroom and spend an hour or two in the bath, trying to do something nice for my face. It’s the hour, not the face, that matters.”
I still have my own questions, judgments, and confusion around the idea of New Skin Care, and what it means to me, women, and I guess society at large, but I can’t solve them in one blog post.
So, I did a mask instead. I don’t think I did it quite right, but I did have a lot of dumb fun making my husband do it with me.
The moral of the story is, even though it’s absolutely bonkers to try and wade through the squawking advice, promises, and tales of skin peeling hell to find the perfect cruelty-free, plant-based, paraben-free, world-peace offering products, it’s harmless. It’s fun. It’s silly. It’s nurturing. It’s all sorts of feel goods. It’s your hard-earned money, so do whatever you want with it.
So, I guess why the hell not.
Also, go buy this stuff my best friend recommended I try from Oxalis Apothecary. It’s actually pretty great and affordable.