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If you’re in any way invested in the online beauty-writing world, I don’t doubt you’ll have seen The Outline’s recent viral piece The Skincare Con. If you haven’t, I’ll summarize – it claims that skincare doesn’t work, that enjoying skincare is an inherently shallow and selfish act and, essentially, that we should all stop skincare-ing. So far, so incendiary.

Like anyone who quote-unquote works in the beauty industry, the piece got me all riled up. I thought it stood for all the things I, as a “beauty writer” stand against – making women feel stupid for caring about beauty, treating all products as equal and randomly atrring them with the same brush, didactically telling people what to do. After sitting and stewing for a few days, I decided to get my thoughts together on the topic. What follows are those thoughts.

My first and foremost salient point is thus: let women spend money and time on what they want. Sounds obvious, but this whole piece is a fundamental take down of female independence of thought. It almost made me want to run to the shops and spend £150 on a serum in an act of rebellion. Buying product and having a skincare routine is not harming anyone. Leave us alone!

Another aspect of the piece I took issue with was the hypnotic repetition of the world “perfect.” Perfect is not what any product claims to deliver, nor what any woman claims to want. We all just want “better” – the simple, inherent human desire for improvement. Wanting better skin is not only not stupid – it’s natural.

Also, I question what is so fundamentally wrong with “working hard” for something – even if that something is to have nicer skin. I doubt massively that any woman who is into skincare would ever think of their skincare goals as the most prevalent in their life. Sure, I’d like to look like a smooth, glowy baby – but I’d also like to figure out my mental health issues, pay my rent, have fulfilling relationships, read lots of books. None of these are mutually exclusive goals.

So: does skincare work? I can’t be alone in thinking that yes, a lot of it does. Perhaps not in terms of changing the deep down structure of our skin’s makeup, but in terms on superficially making it look better. And as for the claim that we survived for so long without skincare that it’s surely unnecessary, I have two salient points. One, in ancient history we weren’t wearing makeup and constantly bombarding our faces with pollution. And two, we were all dying when we were about twenty five, quite possibly without wrinkle or blemish. Times have changed.

Another thing I take issue with: who is claiming skincare to be an introspective pursuit? Literally no one I know. It is at best a calming and pleasingly selfish ritual in a world that is still, generally, deeply unkind to women. At worst, it’s putting stuff onto your face in the hope of looking nicer. What’s so terribly wrong with that? Skincare really doesn’t claim to be anything other than aesthetic – apart from some perhaps tenuous but possibly valid links to self-care.

Of course active skincare comes with risks. So does being a human. Being careful and moderate is (I’m learning) the key to all happiness. Slow and steady, etc. And I think it’s worth reminding oneself to be cognizant that skincare can only do so much. It’s not some magic panacea for all physical “maladies.” It can help – that’s all we can hope for.

Is some skincare overpriced and lacking in results? Of course – that’s capitalism. There are cars, tech thingys, wine, things that aren’t so gendered in their general consumer that are similarly skammy. But if we’re being smart, doing research and buying things for the right reasons and with reasonable expectations, then spending money how you want it is (whispers) fine.

Why do we need to think of the “intrinsic good” in skincare? If it is making life more pleasurable, the world a little nicer, each day more of a treat, then surely (surely) that is good enough.

Images: AM Coffee

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