An essay condemning women who choose to spend their money on and enjoy skincare went viral this week and people were predictably outraged.
Because skin care is a sham.
There’s a particularly inflammatory line where she reminds us that skincare isn’t “introspective per se: it’s looking into yourself but stopping at the literal outermost layer.”
You see, according to Varagur this is furthermore part of the scourge of the modern-day, Instagram generation. According to her, “before we all lost our minds,” those with disposable income would “buy books or art or beautiful shoes or literally anything that gives more pleasure than another useless exfoliant.”
Because beautiful shoes are infinitely more introspective.
Naturally this has struck a cord with the women whose profession and passions are rooted in the skincare industry. The same women who heart-on-hand advocate for effective products and know first hand how conditions like acne, psoriasis and pigmentation can slowly chip away at your confidence.
Australia’s own Zoe Foster Blake spoke out. While she doesn’t refute everything in the article, she says “yes, your beloved products can backfire if they’re used incorrectly or disrespectfully or impatiently,” but reminds us that there are very real steps we can take to protect our faces.
And so we should.
“If nothing else, I tell women to wear sunscreen, then cleanse and moisturise at night,” she says.
“My goal is looking after something that’s exposed to the sun, wind, air con, makeup and pollution.”
It’s OK to care about your skin, she says.
“If your skin is red and sensitive, or over-producing oil, or you have acne, you’re allowed to manage that without feeling like it’s a superficial vanity move.”
LISTEN: Beauty guru Zoe Foster Blake shares her best beauty and style advice for the busiest of women. Post continues after audio.
Beauty authority, Vogue UK has also joined in the conversation. Beauty editor of vogue.co.uk Lisa Niven knows agrees that while not every lotion, potion and serum is worth the price tag, this isn’t a secret.
However consumers are aware of this and the beauty industry has to cater to their higher standards. Through social media – Instagram, Youtubers and beauty bloggers, there’s more conversation around the transparency in the efficacy of their products as well, she writes.
“Thanks to consumer demand for more complex formulas and technical products, the offering is more sophisticated than ever and the science behind it rock-solid.
“The ‘worth’ of skincare is a personal judgement – if you think expensive products make little difference to your life then please don’t buy them. If you’d prefer to spend £50 on a really great lunch than on a pigmentation serum then you absolutely should.
“Nobody in their right mind is suggesting that a single face cream can completely defy genetics, but that doesn’t mean that it’s automatically rendered useless, either,” she says.
The assumption that the entire skincare industry is based on smoke and mirrors is wrong. Not to mention the insulting idea that because I exfoliate with acids I’ve stopped buying books: https://t.co/rOMTk54JVk
— Lisa Niven (@lisaniven11) January 31, 2018
Digital Deputy Editor for Nylon, Kristin Iversen makes the point that not everything has to “serve some definite, known purpose,” she says.
“The most frustrating aspect of Varagur’s critique, and most of the recent wellness critiques, is the condescension toward women who are exercising their purchasing power,” she says.
When it comes to skincare, there’s a product at every price-point from something splurge-worthy at Mecca to a cleanser you can throw in the cart during a Woolies shop. Some women love the former, others swear by the latter, but as Iversen says, “perhaps these are the kind of things that women can figure out for themselves.”
“Perhaps women aren’t so easily conned after all.”
At the crux of the original article, there’s a purely gendered argument that refers to women as pawns victimised by trends and marketing. We have no agency to love the experience of a face mask, or rejoice in waking up with glowy, delightful skin. Instead we’re just hamsters on a wheel trying to achieve an “unattainable” level of perfection.
It’s the same argument that claims beauty is superficial, or vapid, and not worthy of serious discussion. As she says, “perfect skin has become the thinking woman’s quest.” Like it’s an insult and that it can’t possibly be an act of self-care or a ritual woman love to take part in – like drinking tea or exercising.
When really the fact of the matter is, skincare addict or two-product devotee, it’s okay. You do you…
Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen.
LISTEN: This week the Mamamia Out Loud team is all consumed by I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and after listening to this, you will too.