Everyone online is talking about skincare! Actually they already were, but last week a skincare-critical article in The Outline brought it to the forefront and also led outlets who already publish stories about skincare on a daily basis to exclaim “everyone is into skincare?!”
Like most of my millennial skincare enthusiast peers, I wasn’t a fan of the Outline piece. I didn’t appreciate the assumption that those of us who choose to be passionate about skincare are somehow being duped or fooled. It got some things right, mainly “Within the current paradigm, a blemish seems like a referendum on who you are as a person.” Skincare-as-moral coding is something I’ve long read into the marketing of certain brands like Glossier (still buy their makeup) and many “clean beauty” lines. About my own skin anxiety I wrote, “My face is something I can’t hide, and if I can’t present something close to perfect to the world, then I’ve failed at self-management.” Skincare can be exhausting. It can bring on a new wave of stress when I’m struggling with self-harm and the chasm between the now and the ideal seems wider than ever. And because skincare is a huge industry like any other, it can be hard not to cave to the pressure to try every new trend and wonder if the routine you’ve locked down is good enough, expensive enough, or Holy Grail enough.
Despite that, I do and will continue to stan for skincare and the people who love it. For the most part, my skin has felt more resilient and youthful (bouts of mutilation aside) since I fell down this rabbit hole. Some days I will be VERY depressed and feel like my life is unraveling but damn, I have great facial elasticity. People who don’t buy the hype or don’t approve of relegating that much of one’s personal finances to skincare may dismiss a double digit routine as a placebo, but I kind of think most of us have accepted that placebo effects are just fine here. A flawless, dewy face is great – and I would be willing to bet, fairly rare to wake up to even for the most dedicated among us – but what skincare fandom has provided me goes deeper than what you end up seeing.
My particular brand of depression and eating disorders has involved a lifetime of cycling through feelings of unworthiness – of food, love, enjoyment, kindness, and even basic self-care. The cluster of bottles and jars on my counter can serve as a reminder that even on the blackest of days, I can allow myself this one thing (…11ish things). When I started self-harming on my face again earlier this year during a huge spike of professional, emotional, and logistical stress, I kept up with my skincare routine. When you regularly dig a sharp object into your own cheeks, of course you’re not going to present as the picture of porcelain radiance. In the midst of that it was a valuable practice to, every morning and night, do something that communicated to myself that no matter what damage I had inflicted, I was still worthy of washing my face, of going to bed with the promise of healing – of the care and attention that past me would have deprived myself.
A skincare routine is also a comforting port in so many storms. It’s absurdly comforting to have one thing that doesn’t change, simply because you control it and choose not to alter it. I have done all 9-12 steps of my routine on good days and bad days, while drunk or hungover, while celebrating and grieving, while feeling idiotically in love and while feeling on the edge of abandonment. Through all that, it’s nice to look at those solid, unchanging bottles. They’re still here. I’m still me. In light of these emotional benefits, I think people can forgive us skincare fanatics for being a little extra.
And just for kicks – here’s my actual routine, for posterity. I’m a terrible role model in almost everything, but if you have dry skin you can honestly trust me here.
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