If my relationship to beauty products were Facebook official, it would fall under the “It’s Complicated” status.
I go back and forth between loving a daily beauty regimen and rejecting it completely. I’ve gone through phases where I buy a ton of beauty products and believe the magic promised in their advertisements.
I swear that I’m going to use these products every day and within a few weeks they’re gathering dust under my bathroom sink.
I’ve tried all the major brands of face washes, especially those targeted to acne prone skin. I’ve bought face masks and exfoliating scrubs. I’ve bought anti-aging creams, even though I’m only 29 years old. I’ve bought toning lotions, firming lotions, tanning lotions, and anti-cellulite creams.
I’ve bought loads of makeup, even though my makeup skills rival only a tween who isn’t allowed to wear makeup.
In a consumerist frenzy, I’ve bought anything marketed to “fix my flaws” and “make me beautiful.”
The six months before my wedding was the only time I scrupulously maintained a beauty routine.
I figured if there was ever a time to really invest in a beauty routine, it would be before a day which would be forever immortalized in photos. I researched products online. I read a lot of Amazon reviews.
Eventually, I spent over $100 to get all the right products to make me the most beautiful bride ever.
I also started getting monthly facials. I highly recommend them if you’re a masochist who wants to pay $50-$100 to have your face poked, prodded, and burned by chemicals. Maybe you can tell, I really didn’t enjoy getting them. But I bought into the marketing that it was the best way to get flawless, glowing skin for my wedding day. So I continued to pay and I continued to go.
What was the result of this scrupulous beauty routine and hundreds of dollars spent?
To be honest, I didn’t see much of a difference.
I still had pimples and blackheads on my wedding day. Thankfully, my sister is amazing with makeup. My skin did not glow, it was not firmer, and my cellulite was not gone. The only product I can say worked at all was the Jergens Natural Glow lotion I used. It did, in fact, even out my god awful tan lines. Other than that, I can’t recommend a single product I spent my money on.
I didn’t really decide to stop using beauty products altogether.
I just kind of put away all the creams and toners and lotions I bought. Then I ran out of face wash. And then I ran out of body wash and just started using my husband’s. After a while, my beauty routine was down to store brand men’s body wash and washing and conditioning my hair. And to be honest, I only wash my hair a couple of times a week. I have to condition more often because I like to fry my hair with box dye (I hope my stylist isn’t reading this. If so, I’m sorry!).
After a few months of using no beauty products, I realized that nothing had really changed.
I still have hormonal breakouts every month, and there’s not really anything I’ve ever been able to do about that. My skin was in roughly the same condition and I didn’t really look all that different. Even more surprising, not a single person noticed.
I was a camp counselor over the summer, mostly for teenagers, and the girls would coo, “You have such amazing skin! What do you do?”
My response was always, “Literally nothing.”
I started to feel like I’d been ripped off by the beauty industry. The truth is, I had been. And so have you. Beauty is an industry that profits billions of dollars every year based on the premise that women are not acceptable the way they are. The beauty industry tells women they have flaws that need to be fixed.
And, of course, they have exactly the right fix: this cream, this lotion, this toner, this scrub, this makeup. Buy the right product and you’ll be fixed. You’ll be beautiful. The beauty industry profits off making women feel like shit and then selling them a solution.
When I began to think about it that way, I realized that my past ambivalence toward beauty products was driven by a fundamental disagreement with the basis of the beauty industry. I didn’t want to contribute to the profits of an industry that profited off making me feel bad about myself.
So, what started as an unconscious rejection of beauty products and laziness has become my personal revolt against beauty ideals thrust on me by a consumerist society.
Now, I want to make something abundantly clear: having a beauty routine is not a moral issue. I know women whose beauty routines are a form of self-care. The time they spend on their routines is time spent pampering themselves and making them feel amazing.
I applaud this.
I know women who view makeup as an art form. Their faces are their canvasses and they delight in expressing their style through their makeup. I applaud this as well. These women are making conscious choices to engage in beauty rituals that make them feel good, to empower them. I am no better or worse than them for avoiding beauty products.
They are no better or worse than me for using them.
It is important, however, to understand that the beauty industry drives consumerism based on making women feel insecure, and every dollar spent purchasing these products supports that industry. Many women who love beauty products, but don’t love supporting the beauty industry, have subverted the system by sharing recipes for DIY beauty products.
These products often work just as well if not better than commercial beauty products. They’re also more natural and chemical free. The majority of these DIY products are made from ingredients that can be used for other things in your life, so the money isn’t just going toward your beauty regimen.
A friend shared that when she was working at a makeup store an older woman with beautiful skin came in and said she only used milk to wash her face, never water.
Many DIY gurus recommend using coconut oil for both your face and hair. This recipe for a “zit-zapper stick” relies heavily on coconut oil. If your skin is acne prone, many sites suggest simply witch hazel and thyme, things that are probably already in your house. If relaxing with a face mask is your thing, head to Pinterest and search for “DIY Face Mask”, and browse the hundreds of results. You can even filter by what type of mask you want or what kind of skin you have. The Internet is a treasure trove of DIY beauty advice that allows you to enjoy all the pampering without monetarily supporting the beauty industry.
And hey, if brand name, high-end, expensive beauty products are your thing, that’s awesome!
You do you, girl.
All I’m saying is think about why you’re doing it, and what your money is supporting.