Thursday, December 11, 2014


This fall has been the busiest season of my life. It made the months leading up to my qualifying exam (or, ahem, NJ road test) look like a breeze. I did whatever the professional equivalent is of that oft-heard social advice to say yes to everything. What shall come of all this remains to be seen, in so many different respects, but that's not the point of this post.

The point of it is that it's now December, and I haven't had a haircut since July. An every-other-day workout routine has dwindled to every other week. My pampering, so to speak, consists of hygiene and eyeliner. It's everything that falls somehow between the two that falls by the wayside.

And then there are the women profiled on Into The Gloss.* Their thing is pointing out - as if nearly every other site-participant hasn't already done so - that skincare is more important to them than makeup:

"I’m not a huge makeup aficionado [....] But I love skincare and, once I find something that works, I stick with it."

"For me, feeling beautiful is all about being natural—it's not about the colors of lipsticks, or foundations, or concealers, all those things. It goes beyond that."

"The [some product] line is really nice for young skin that’s prepping for anti-aging without being so full-on." [....] I like to switch up what masks I wear seasonally. [....] I’m not a makeup girl."

And these are just among the more recent ones. While each individual woman may well just be describing her own routine, in the aggregate, the message is clear: Caring about your skin is a noble enterprise, while wearing makeup is tacky and borderline deceitful.

The sensible part of me, the part that has read Naomi Wolf but had already more or less come up with this on my own, gets that skincare products are generally snake oil. A tax on being female and all that. While I have nothing against skincare when it's needed (when, say, you have a mark on your shoulder that Dr. Google tells you is not just melanoma but the deadliest kind of melanoma, it never hurts to have an offline dermatologist set you straight), I try to restrict my skincare routine-such-as-it-is to sunscreen and, in winter, moisturizer. (That said, I'm a tremendous hypocrite and currently own three different tsubaki oil conditioners. In my defense, Mitsuwa was having a sale.)

But skincare seems somehow like a really luxurious pursuit. The idea of spending money on something that couldn't possibly do anything, that isn't even claiming to address a skin problem, merely to improve the skin's appearance, is part of the luxury, but there's also the question of time. What sort of morning is this that would allow for not only the usual getting-ready but also a multistep application of mists and serums? And what if it all really does work? What if the reason my face at 31 looks different from my face at 21 isn't that it's a decade later, but that some mix of frugality and feminism has stopped me from going the skincare route? I can't tell if the fantasy is more about youth or relaxation, but it definitely pops up on days when I look in the mirror and think I look tired.

*A cynic might note that ITG is now selling skincare products of its own, but the motif predates the e-commerce, and may well explain why, once the in retrospect inevitable decision to start selling something came, they went that route.

No comments: