I first saw ‘Don’t Diet…RIOT!’ scrawled on a bathroom stall at Laguna Beach High School. It stuck with me because at LBHS, there was immense pressure for girls to be thin, just like many schools today. This constant body-badgering is fed by fashion magazines, celebrity culture, and most recently, social media. In my day, at least my upward self-comparisons with the beautiful girls—almost all of them named Jessica—ended when I left school. For girls on Instagram these days, that’s not the case.
I can’t speak for other parts of the country, but for me, growing up in an environment with so many surgically remodeled mothers and proud size 0 classmates made me feel ugly and inadequate for most of my adolescence. I know my experience isn’t unique and I can’t deny the privileges I enjoyed at LBHS, but I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fretting about my bad skin and love handles, counting calories, and gorging on products with artificial sweeteners. Most of all, I wish hadn’t bought so many stupid beauty products.
Beauty products. That 80 BILLION dollar industry in the US aimed squarely at making women feel unattractive and self-conscious. For the sake of our sanity, please help put some of these exploitative companies out of business and
For the uninitiated, here are some of the modern things we women are taught we can’t live without:
- Temptu Air (i.e., at-home airbrush kit) – $195.00
- Shimmering Skin Perfector – $38.00
- Kanebo Sensai Collection, The Lipstick – $40.00
- Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate (for essential ‘contouring’ and ‘strobing’) – $80.00
- La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation – $220.00
- Beautyblender Blotterazzi (i.e., sponges) – $20.00
- Christian Louboutin Beauté Nail Colour in Louboutin Red – $50.00
- Dr. Jart+ Water Replenishment Cotton Sheet Mask – $7.50 (what a steal!)
- RéVive Peau Magnifique les Yeux Youth Recruit for Eyes – $750.00
I’m all for the free market, but the existence of this overpriced garbage highlights the toxic conflation of a woman’s beauty with her self-worth. Let me unpack that: why else would we justify spending $220 on caviar foundation unless it felt validating and essential to our well-being? What else could it be for? Certainly not to attract other people. Call me a plebe, but I doubt the majority of people can tell the difference between a contoured/strobed and a non-contoured/non-strobed feature on a person’s face. (Exception: my dear friends in the drag world. Derek and Robert, you totally know the difference and probably would disagree with every word in this piece. And can you actually strobe a feature? Am I even using that right? Hmm.)
And this year, L’Oréal is releasing a ‘smart hairbrush’ with a companion app to tell us all of the L’Oréal products we need to buy to treat our brush-detected hair issues. As if our socially imposed self-loathing will be fixed by a $200 hairbrush.
In sum, the damn beauty-socio-industrial complex employs a two-pronged strategy:
- Make women feel terrible about themselves.
- Develop expensive creams, masques, cleansers, lotions, elixirs, toners, and other junk while promising women a release from feeling terrible about themselves.
Makeup can be fun, sure, but a survey of the average woman’s shower or cosmetics case is a real wake-up call. I want to end with a picture of the few products I use—simple, natural things I’ve never seen advertised anywhere:
- Moisturizer: coconut oil
- Hair care: Savannah Bee shampoo and conditioner
- Makeup: Mineral Fusion foundation and mascara
I guess only time will tell if I end up looking like a leathery old crone at 40 because I didn’t throw down for that palmitoyl oligopeptide. Then again, the thousands of dollars I’ll spend instead on traveling & dining out & guitar lessons & sending boxes of dogshit to the White House once Trump assumes office will make me feel more alive & beautiful than anything I can buy at Sephora.