How Skincare Became the New Lipstick

“Local Student Spends Hundreds on Skin Care Routine! What You Find in Her Bathroom Cabinet Will Shock You!”

Or at least that’s the dream clickbait title I would assign to my dirty little skincare secret. Except it’s not really a secret – if anyone mentions skincare, I will jump in with the latest and greatest in pH balanced products and which acids I’ve recently subjected my epidermis to. I don’t know exactly how, but somewhere along the line I became a skincare addict. Luckily, there’s a subreddit for people like me, but I often wonder how on earth I became the kind of person who drops over $100 on a serum (not mad at it, it’s amazing).

For a lot of people, skincare is deeply rooted in self-esteem. Having the power to actively change skin is incredibly powerful, and results in potentially incredible transformations that change the way men and women alike feel about themselves. Now I love covering my face in serums and oils, but in all honesty, I was lucky enough to be blessed by the genetic gods and haven’t had to deal with any particular skin conditions – my skincare glow-up is, despite my efforts, very low-key.

Then there’s people who use it for self-care, and for some having that routine has played a major role in their journey to bettering their mental health. I definitely consider my skincare self-care, but I don’t have any mental health issues to battle.

Accurate depiction of me rewarding myself with face-masking after a long day of doing nothing

This leads me to believe that there’s something a little more sinister behind my sheet mask – I believe my skincare routine helps me cope with our current social and political climate.

The Lipstick Effect in Action

Okay, I realise the dramatic nature of that statement, but hear me out. There’s this lil’ thing called The Lipstick Effect. Whenever there is a period of economic hardship, there’s a serious spike in the sale of lipsticks. Following the deflation in the economy caused by the 2001 terror attacks’, Leonard Lauder, chairman of Estee Lauder, noticed that lipstick sales increased by 11%. Take that back further to the Great Depression, and despite industrial production in the US halving, sales of cosmetics rose. This effect is due to the fact that while people could no longer afford big-ticket purchases like a luxury handbag, they could still afford a $30 lipstick and indulge in a guilt-free treat. Studies actually find that retail therapy genuinely does provide positive impacts on mood.

Now let’s flip this back over to skincare, which has recently had an incredible boom, likely thanks to the now infamous Ten Step Korean Skincare Routine – the rigmarole that Korean women put themselves through in order to achieve perfect skin. Market Research Company NPD Group found that skincare sales in 2017 were up by 9% from 2016, the rate of growth of which is faster than the makeup category.  The sceptic in me understands that this is marketing gold – ten steps means ten products, and that’s ten products you can sell to one person.

Donald Trump’s election has been attributed to the rise in enthusiasm for skincare (and the novel 1984 apparently). Even if it’s not skincare specifically, Google searches for the term “self-care” reached a five-year high after the election – The Lipstick Effect is in full force, and it has a new, moisturised face. New Yorker columnist Jia Tolentino believes that her skincare routine is aiding her journey in surviving the Trump Administration. For many millenials like Tolentino, the Trump era of presidency is a new political climate that challenges their beliefs, and their concept of their inherent human worth and value.

exclusive sneak peek of donald trump’s night time skincare routine

But then I turn on the nightly news, remember that Peter Dutton exists, the unfairness of Julia Gillard’s treatment versus Barnaby Joyce’s, and the fact that Harvey Weinstein once owned Project Runway, and I angrily apply my enzyme mask to cannibalise both my dead skin cells, and the thoughts of shitty people who have too much power. It makes sense that skincare is popular – makeup is very much personal preference, but the majority of people do something to their skin, and you can spend anywhere between two minutes to two hours nurturing it. Writer Sady Doyle gets it – writing that “there’s a meditative quality of lying down with a sheet mask on, the ritual of applying exactly the right ingredients in exactly the right order”.

Skincare is not so skin deep

Skincare is something that people can take ownership of, even when times are tough, no matter their budget – they can still have a decent skincare routine. I refuse for my investment in my high-maintenance beauty routine to be considered vapid – which female-inclined interests often are. Even if you’re very good at it or possess skill in it, it’s still considered to be “basic bitch”. I’ll tell you right now, the PH levels of my glycolic acid serum are anything but basic.

much like this “basic bitch” pumpkin spice latte order, you’ll find that my “basic bitch” interest in my skincare routine is anything but.

Similar to Tolentino, I get this hopeful feeling with the increased discussion around skincare in relation to self-preservation. Skincare also has a feeling of long-term gratification – seeing your skin slowly improve with the time you put in is immensely satisfying. There is a problem with instant gratification: it can cause denial, which, when reality comes crashing down, can ultimately be destructive. Using a pore strip can give you satisfaction immediately, but it’s a kind of fake self-care that isn’t going to do anything good for you in the long run – your blackheads will come back, and you won’t enforce any effective change. However, spending a little bit of time for yourself every day caring for your delicate acid mantle means you are paying attention to yourself “at a basic, physical level”, and meditatively grounding yourself within the present. Psychiatrist Patricia Normand states that “anything that makes you feel good is usually a means of self-care”, and there there should be no guilt in taking time to enjoy something they love. And I really love skincare.

Ultimately, I see my skincare as my battle armour. Feminist author Audre Lorde wrote that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. I feel that on a deep, dermis level (that’s the layer below the epidermis, FYI). My skincare makes me the metaphorical Daenerys Skincare-born, First of Her Name, the Exfoliated, Queen of the Acids and the First Essence, Khaleesi of the Great Oil Cleanse, Breaker of Closed Comedones and Mother of Moisturiser – and no one can take that away from me.

me when I use my extra strength peel pads

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