I’ve got into a bad habit. I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve developed an addiction to skincare and beauty buys.
A selection of the samples cluttering up my home.
I can easily pick up a serum, cream or toner when I’m just out for baby bubbles or doing the weekly shop. More worryingly, with the slip of the credit card, spend a small fortune online at Cult Beauty, Space NK or similar. I’ve dabbled with Glossybox/Birchbox and I cannot pass up freebie samples even when I’m fairly certain I’m never going to use them.
Not only is this an expensive habit, it also means I have drawers heaving with samples. I’ve had so many in the past that I’ve eBayed some, thrown some out, hundreds of tiny plastic bottles and sachets full of magic potions heading to a landfill somewhere….
A Space NK confirmation email. Uh-oh.
Anyway, whenever I skip out of a shop clutching a new wonder balm or unwrap another monthly box full of trial-sized treats, I do feel genuine excitement and joy.
Is this going to be the one? Will this solve all my problems? Is this the final magical product that suddenly makes all of my imperfections and blemishes disappear?
But I’ve found that feeling is often swiftly followed by disappointment, and sometimes, even resentment (this is usually directly attributable to the cost of the purchase).
I’ve also come to realise that a fairly significant number of those blemishes and imperfections are actually on my brain.
In Unspeakable Things, Laurie Penny speaks compellingly about how feelings of inadequacy and wanting to disappear lead her into teenage anorexia.
“You do not do this to look beautiful. You know you look like hell. You do it because you want to disappear…You’re sick of being looked at and judged and found wanting.” From Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny.
I’ve come to realise that sometimes the pressures of being a girl can lead us down our own strange paths, sometimes dangerous (eating disorders), sometimes weird, sometimes just a bit misguided.
While I know my little habit sits firmly in “misguided” territory, I also now realise how it’s a symptom of something bigger, a result of internalising some of those pressures. Something which marketers also seem to have been adept at cultivating.
It’s not really their fault, this is a capitalist society and there’s a clear opportunity to capitalise on. But the beauty market makes billions every year, and the cost of cosmetics appears to keep rising.
“The actual ingredients cost 10 percent or less of what [women] pay for them” From The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
It’s also really starting to push its luck now, maybe the market is bottoming out, but when you can buy a cream which targets those little red bumps on the outside top of your arm? Something here is not right my friends. Plus I have enough neurosis already without adding that little gem into the mix, thank you.
As this kind of purchase (most often) affects women, and is affecting me, then it feels to me like it’s something I should address in my own life.
I mean, we already have a very clear gender pay gap, so what’s the value of all these little extra costs which disproportionately affect us over our lifetimes?
So here it is, a very long winded way of me getting to the point of my main New Years resolution: Not to buy spend any money on beauty stuff, but to see how far the stash I already have at home could take me.
Posh and dusty shower gels. I should probably use these, right?
I’m also planning to look more closely at the ingredients to see if I can reach any conclusions about whether they are, in fact, all the same thing (I’ve a suspicion they really are). I’ll let you know how I get on with that…
And then, when I really need something, I’m going to look for cheaper, sustainable options (or those with positive social impact) to replace them. All recommendations sought and welcomed.
This balm from L’Occitane might be a good place to start…
100% of the profits go to the UN women’s fund for gender equality, and its £4. Bargain.