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Sinister self-care: How the skincare industry is tearing you down

Sinister self-care: How the skincare industry is tearing you down

Sinister self-care: How the skincare industry is tearing you down
February 04
10:00 2020

Whether it be from teens worrying about acne to elders fighting wrinkles in their faces, humans have been neurotic about their skin their entire lives. As a result of this, the skincare industry is booming. So much so, that 5.6 billion dollars worth of skincare products were reportedly sold in the United States in 2018, according to CNN. Everywhere you look, there’s an ad for a new cleanser, new scrub or new revolutionary product that tries to sell beautiful skin as a ticket to a brand-new, better life. It’s no wonder that we’ve been constantly told that skincare equates to self-care.

Googling “self care” yields about 3.6 million results. Articles from psychologists suggest that getting a proper amount of sleep, exercising and spending time with loved ones are good forms of practicing self care, while social media suggests that lighting a candle, turning on a streaming service and inevitably doing a face mask is the ultimate form of self care. 

In order to sell you a face mask, the skincare industry has created a sinister cycle of punishment. First, you are made to feel bad about perceived “problems” with your skin, whether that be acne, aging, dryness or any other entirely normal bodily function. Then, brands sell you products that tell you they’ll fix everything wrong with you, thus in turn fixing your self-esteem. Finally, when you feel as though things are going your way, another skin issue starts trending, and you feel hideous all over again. 

An example of this is the increasing number of steps in popular skincare routines. Clinique pioneered the three-step program in 1968, and it’s snowballed from there until today with 10-step Korean skincare routines getting marketed as necessary and even inherently feminist

After a while, it becomes easy to drink the skincare-equals-self-care Kool-Aid to believe you are treating yourself kindly because you are wearing a sheet mask for 15 minutes. It becomes second nature to use harsh scrubs, the popular St. Ives Apricot Scrub is known to be harsh enough to cause micro-tears in the skin, as if we can punish our skin hard enough to fix how terrible we feel inside and how terrible we feel we must look to others. 

The skincare industry is like a manipulative significant other. It breaks you down to build you up again, so you feel like you owe them your success. When it makes you feel bad for a pimple or a wrinkle, you’re forced to believe it’s a fundamental flaw of your character instead of an everyday, common part of life. 

While doing a face mask is beneficial for some (sometimes 10 minutes of just sitting with a face mask on can be the calmest 10 minutes of a day), it’s just not the kind of self-care that will work for everyone. So what is there to do?

You must acknowledge what exactly about your life you can change, and what you cannot. You can get your recommended amount of sleep, you can eat a healthy meal instead of an unhealthy one, you can do yoga or jog or even just talk to a loved one. You can journal, you can have a good cry or you can take a hot bath. You can listen to a favorite song and dance or you can cuddle with your pet or even clean your room. 

Before you decide to submit to common beauty standards, put the face mask away and let your true self out. 

Featured Illustration: Jeselle Farias

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Breck Sunlin

Breck Sunlin

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