I’m not one for new year’s resolutions (new year’s resolutions in September?! Bear with me…). After years of reaching the 8th January and returning to December’s levels of drinking, eating and not exercising, over the past few years I’ve decided it’s best to not bother with resolutions in a bid to stave off spiralling into depression. Instead, I’ve been trying to just live a little more healthily whilst also knowing I’m not someone who’ll go to the gym every week and that I will likely drink more than two glasses of wine on a Saturday night and sometimes all I want to do on a Sunday is have chicken nuggets for breakfast followed by a Chinese takeaway at 6pm.
However, this year I had another stab. I made a resolution and have managed to stick by it for a full nine months (perhaps the pandemic helped?).
In January, I told myself that I wouldn’t buy any more beauty products/toiletries/cosmetics unless I needed to replace a necessary empty item. So far – I’ve accomplished this.
But what this has made me realised is HOW MUCH I have in the way of female beauty crap. Not crap in the sense of poor-quality products (I’m one of those suckers who believes that a £24.50 lipstick from Bobbi Brown is far superior to a Rimmel lipstick you’ll find in Boots for £4.99 because it’s the perfect shade).
I have cleansers, toners, moisturisers. Exfoliants, face masks, clay masks and priming cleansers. Tea tree oil, special spot cream for the odd hormonal breakout. There’s glycolic gel, under-eye serum, lip serum, vitamin C gel, purifying lotion, overnight miracle cream. Cream that promises to revitalise, rejuvenate and intensely hydrate. Tonics that are anti-ageing and salicylic acid. Yes, acid. And this is just for my face. I shan’t bore you with the lotions and potions for my body. I am 28 and aside from the few lines on my forehead that appear when I look surprised (and when I smile, giggle and show enthusiasm – all the time as I’m a bit of an eager beaver – hence the lines), I’m pretty lucky on the ageing front. I know some friends have grey hairs appearing or are looking a little sallow in the jawline and of course, there are some friends who still look baby-faced.
I wonder if I’d still look as I do now if I just used a bit of soap and water but I’m loath to try it in case I don’t. What will the years of cleansing, toning and moisturising have been for?! Another option would be to
chuck recycle all these bottles, but I’ve probably spent a small fortune on them so I’m adamant to use them.
Does this mean I’ve been brainwashed by society to need all these creams? Possibly. But maybe I do need them?
We are part of a culture that often equates beauty with goodness (the ‘halo effect’). Women, as well as men, are on a never-ending quest to self-optimise (thank you Jia Tolentino for this term). We should be toning, buffing, nipping and tucking. We pay people money to pour hot wax onto our vulvas and rip the hair out. We pay (sometimes the same) people to repeatedly poke a fine needle into our upper lip and zap an electric current through the needle. And if creams and fitness don’t do the trick we can splash the cash and get tummy tucks, rhinoplasty, boob jobs and facelifts. We can practically transform ourselves into a new person – if we have enough money.
Why do we do this? In an attempt to feel good about ourselves and hope we are desirable (and I don’t just mean sexually desirable, we want our friends to want to hang out with us and for strangers to look at us and think we’re delightful). Yes, inner beauty and a cracking personality is what counts, but in the words of Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada, ‘Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.’ Perhaps not.
We’re not going to overhaul the beauty industry in one night. So maybe we could all start in our small ways by showing the cosmetic giants that we’ve cottoned-on and we’d prefer to spend our money on socialising with friends, saving up for a holiday and buying an extortionately-priced candle that smells of Christmas.
Hopefully, by the time we approach 2021, I will have considerably fewer bottles and tubs, skin as smooth as a baby’s bum and maybe a little more cash in my purse.