by Alice Howey
The last couple of years have witnessed an unprecedented boom in the skincare market. The cosmetic industry has dramatically diversified, with the dominant global brands going head to head with independent start-ups, who are perceptive to the potential of the social media market. A brand that epitomizes this evolution is Glossier. Born out of the blog ‘Into The Gloss', the digitally native beauty brand is powered by its environment: the loyal fan base harboured through its social media interactions. With its trendy tagline ‘skin first, makeup second', the brand has tapped into a millennial demographic, usurping the quest for the flawless base in favour of perfect skin. But in this social media age, what are the consequences of the quest for perfect skin on the beauty standards we hold?
My first realisation of the negative implications of the ‘skin first, make up second' approach to beauty, which has become increasingly connected on social media with ideas of wellness, was recognising the regurgitation of narratives that link clear skin with self-care. It's not a new concept that a facemask can be a relaxing form of self-indulgence. But what about when you follow the advice, when you buy the clay mask, soak your face with BHA's and the AHA's, yet to no avail? When does it become apparent that investing in one's skin is no longer a form of self-care but a fixation: a subscription to the idea that self-fulfilment lies in the perfection of one's body.
The regurgitation of these narratives is all the more consequential to beauty standards when we recognise the intimate space they have come to possess. With the impending death of the high street, much of the recent growth of the skin care market has been attributed to the millennial generation, who are increasingly turning to online influencers for advice as opposed to engaging more specifically with brands or cosmetic experts. It is not a new marketing technique to exploit insecurities for sales. Yet influencers, ready to lament over a single spot on their Instagram stories, make it is easy to internalise negativity towards our skin, and often without thinking, subscribe to their solution without even being targeted by the brand itself.
A lack of transparency in social media is also key to fuelling negative attitudes towards acne. In many ways, the skincare market has become more transparent and accessible as the industry increasingly takes an ingredient led approach to marketing. Yet the scientific cause-effect-solution approach to skincare also leads room for disappointment if one doesn't recognise the often superficial extent to what we really know about those who are promoting these products. Through my own exposure to the world of acne, certain types of hormonal imbalance are rarely improved through topical treatments alone.
So why have I been taking skincare advice from people with perfect skin? Taking a step back, I can now conceive the extent to which the content I absorbed contributed to my own aesthetic standards and negative thought patterns. In recent years, the new field of Psychodermatology has finally begun to recognise the psychological impact of skin problems such as acne. Yet arguably for more progress to be made, effort needs to be made on tracing the online implications of negativity around skin problems more broadly.
I am by no means saying we should stop caring for our skin, or even that skincare shouldn't be enjoyed. The problem is identifying when a passion turns into a fixation and recognising that in an age of body positivity, we shouldn't be leaving out our skin out of the conversation.
Featured image credit: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/765612005378554608/