Today I wanted to talk a little about some of the judgements that exist within the beauty (and more specifically skincare) space. I think I've been guilty of this; I think we all have been. I just really think we should try to extend some compassion with how we talk about things online. It's just skincare, at the end of the day and there are bigger problems going on in the world. Keep reading to find out which topics I think need re-framing...
We weren't always so clued up about skincare
I've seen a lot of people discuss the fact that online, people like to admonish you if you didn't coat yourself in SPF 50 straight out of the womb. I actually think a lot of this is coming from very young people whose default in their skincare-using life has been this very knowledgeable space we currently exist in. It wasn't always like that. We didn't always have online communities sharing information, we didn't always consider what was in our skincare and we relied a lot on brands to tell us what a product did (as opposed to seeing it as marketing and doing our own research).
When I was teenager; everyone was on the sunbeds, people wanted to have a tan and would deliberately bake in the sun without sunscreen whilst holidaying in Spain so they'd burn and it would peel to reveal a tan. The common understanding was that non-white people didn't 'need' sunscreen and if you weren't burning, there was no skin damage occurring. Of course, since then a lot of work has been done in the UK to restrict sunbed usage by young people and those of us who are into skincare understand that burning is not the only type of damage that the sun can cause our skin. Sure, it's the type most likely to lead to skin cancer, but it's just not worth the risk.
Additionally, even now many people don't realise that sun exposure can cause a lot of the damage you then spend time and money trying to undo with topical products and even injectables. Of course, it's a great thing to get into good suncare habits, but I didn't wear sunscreen daily until a year or two ago. Maybe other people didn't start until their 30s, 40s or even 50s. I firmly believe it's never too late to get on it, but I don't think that shaming people is necessarily the best way to go about making this happen. Likewise, try to have a little patience with older people, in particular, who might not know what an ingredient is or might not challenge marketing claims on a product to the same extent you do; it just wasn't that much of a thing until recently! Just try to be kind to people when explaining and educating; not everyone knows everything yet, otherwise Clean and Clear (packed full of fragrance and stripping surfactants - the last thing I'd want to put on acne inflammation) and the St. Ives Apricot Scrub (made with jagged, rough particles that can cause microtears to the skin) wouldn't remain bestsellers.
Being able to access a wide range of cruelty-free products is sometimes a privilege
I don't generally like to name names when it comes to these sorts of posts, but she's 100% never going to see it, so I'll just come out and say that this point was kind of inspired by Cassandra Bankson's reaction video to Dr Dray's skincare routine. Dr Dray is known for discussing very affordable, accessible skincare brands on her channel and throughout the video Cassandra repeated the same criticism that the products weren't cruelty-free and suggested alternatives. I just thought it lacked self-awareness that all the suggested alternatives were several times the price of the products Dr Dray was talking about and this got me thinking...
I feel like this is an extension of a lot of the discourse in the vegan movement; of course beauty products aren't essential but everyone needs personal care items and if your skin is causing you discomfort, you should be able to remedy this. Myself and my partner are mostly plant-based at this point but I spend close to £100 a week on groceries when shopping for the two of us. I totally get that that isn't doable for a lot of people. Sometimes I just walk into the supermarket and I'm like 'ooh cool tempeh stuff - let's give that a go' and throw it into the cart without checking the price. I have the self-awareness to realise that it's not very fair to admonish people on the internet for not spending £4 on vital wheat gluten or £3 on a single block of smoked tofu. Can you feed a household on vegan food if you're on a budget? I guess so, but I appreciate that people are busy with their family, housework, their job and they need to be cut a little slack. I'm sure over time, economies of scale will be reached and brands like Aldi are already putting affordable options on the market, but we're still a way off and not everyone has the time with work and family commitments to drive to three different supermarkets to do an affordable shop that's totally vegan. Likewise, I wouldn't expect people with fewer resources than myself to eat only vegetables at every single meal, when stuff like tofu, soy and tempeh alternatives are staples for me (it's also worth noting that if you have nut, soy or wheat allergies / intolerances: you're going to have a very difficult time).
Likewise, you can get great, affordable beauty and personal care products that are all cruelty-free but I feel it's a little self-involved to expect every working parent to be looking into the parent company of every personal care item they've picked up on a supermarket aisle because 'oh we've run out of shampoo, better grab this one that's £2'. We have brands like the Ordinary (though will they still be considered cruelty-free now I'm hearing Estee Lauder want to buy a large stake in them?) and the Inkey List but, let's be real: they're fairly incomprehensible to the average consumer and not everyone has the tenacity or inclination to do all that research. Also remember, not everyone has a ton of choice. I'm lucky to live in a city centre where I can visit different health food stores to find all the funky ingredients for my plant-based recipes. Some people live miles away from a big supermarket, don't have access to a car and don't have much choice. It's exactly the same for personal care products. Likewise posts saying 'swap your MAC foundation for this cruelty-free option from Ilia' could only have been created by someone white, because that shade range... whew!
Obviously this is nothing against cruelty-free and vegan creators; I love and follow them because I think we should all try to be more mindful of our choices if we have the luxury to be. These accounts are doing great work in showcasing the alternatives out there and I'm also trying to shift towards brands that are smaller, independently-owned and cruelty-free; if they're owned by minorities then, even better. It's just always a balance and to admonish people with such broad brush strokes removes all of this nuance from the conversation.
Inclusivity is not that simple
For the love of god: just let people make their own choices. I saw a well-intentioned white creator say how 'I don't support x brand because I think they're not inclusive and you shouldn't either' and that's fine, but it just so happened that on the same day, one of my favourite black creators did a takeover on their Instagram and you bet I went over there and left her a comment of support. I don't wish to be judged for that. On the flipside; there are brands I don't talk about because I don't think they care about my custom. The clue is: I don't talk about them and do really champion and spend a lot of time promoting the brands that align with my values. I just don't think this announcing that x-brand or y-brand is cancelled over inclusivity is doing anything but shaming people with a slightly different take on things to you. Maybe the creator who did this Instagram takeover did it because they felt this brand had listened to the feedback and was looking to amplify black voices. Admonishing people over this doesn't really help. I don't buy products from Drunk Elephant any more (despite the fact they're good products). And that's just it: I don't buy the product! I don't talk about the brand! I'm not in anyone else's comment section telling them off because they do. I'm sure they have their own reasons for doing so and it's ok for those to be different to mine. Just elevate the voices of the brands that deserve it and don't waste energy on this negativity.
Fear is a real factor
I won't lie: it makes me want to punch someone in the face whenever I read an email from a brand reaching out about their amazing 'non-toxic', 'chemical-free' skincare (I wrote a whole post on the topic here), but I'm careful to direct that anger towards brands. Brands have the access to scientific information and experts, so they're making a marketing choice that preys on fear if they choose to push these ideas. I don't actually blame consumers for being duped by this. After all, isn't that the purpose of marketing? I feel as though pregnant people and parents are specifically made to freak out over everything they do: is it wrong to have that one cup of coffee after a rough night's sleep? I accidentally ate something with a prawn in - am I harming my baby? My child needs a filling - am I a total failure of a parent? You get the picture! A lot of the feelings people have over certain skincare products being 'unsafe' are based on these sorts of emotional fear responses, and I think we should be kind. Don't call people 'idiots' on the internet; have a bit of compassion and direct your anger towards the brands pushing this idea.
Not everyone thinks fragrance is The Devil so stop shrieking at me
I won't lie; I feel like a lot of this is down to Hyram's 13-year old fans but it's like no one is allowed to mention anything that might have any form of fragrance in it whatsoever. My personal view is that it seems the majority of people do not have or develop fragrance allergies and perhaps the scaremongering has gone a bit far. Everything in life has a degree of risk, but I still get on planes and drink a bit too much sometimes. However, I recognise that some people have sensitivities to it or just personally prefer to avoid it, so I will mention in a review if a product contains fragrance. To be honest, if there are things you want to avoid or have allergies to; you really need to be reading the INCI list before just buying something because I said I liked it anyway, but I'm not sure where this idea is that you need to leave comments on every post like 'tHis cOnTaiNs FraGranCe tHoUgh'. I'm aware, thanks.
Why aren't we talking more about accessibility?!
Lastly, for this post, I wanted to touch on the fact that not all products are accessible to disabled people. Whether it's a lack of tactile markers to allow blind people to tell their shampoo from their conditioner or fiddly packaging that excludes those who don't have the fine motor skills because dispensing the product is a battle; I sometimes think people forget that this narrows down the product choices for disabled people. I'm not saying you should only use products that are accessible to everyone (because, as an able-bodied person, it could be difficult to make that call) but it's worth mentioning it if a product isn't easy to open and use and something to bear in mind before you jump on someone else for using a product that isn't cruelty-free or has fragrance in it (in this video created with Allure, YouTuber Molly Burke - who is legally blind - actually mentions that scented products allow her to enjoy the experience and also to tell which product is which, if there are several that come in similar packaging). Likewise, some people suffering from mental illness can't always face getting up and doing things like showering and double-cleansing! If a face wipe is all you can muster: you should be able to wipe your face in peace without the beauty community shrieking at you over it.
Having 'work' done
When JLo launched her skincare line and people were questioning if the secret to her amazing skin at 50 was olive oil (as she claimed) or botox, she hit back saying she'd never had any type of injectable because she "not that person". This really rubbed me the wrong way. That person... Don't get me wrong: I think that if you're bringing out a skincare line, it's important to be transparent about your dermatologist, your esthetician, your treatments, if you have any other stuff done like fillers or botox, because it feels highly disingenuous to market the products as 'if you buy this, you'll look like me!' When you look at celebrity beauty brands that have had longevity like Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr, Honest Beauty by Jessica Alba and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna; they're the brands that have some authenticity and real creative input from the celebrity in question. They aren't the cash grabs. Likewise, personally, if I was on Instagram promoting something like a retinol for its anti-ageing benefits and I'd had any sort of botox or I got regular professional peels or laser, I would mention that because otherwise surely I'm engaging in some form of misleading advertising. Similarly, I personally don't at all smooth, airbrush or whatever any of my pictures on my social media account because a) I just don't really care and that sounds like a lot of effort and b) again, if I'm promoting something (especially if there are 'before and after's or whatever) that's misleading. I feel the same about Cheryl Cole's reems of hair extensions in L'Oreal shampoo adverts or people from Love Island who just got brand spanking new veneers but say their blindingly white teeth are down to some charcoal product they're using. You know if something feels icky in your heart of hearts: just don't do it.
However: what someone else wants to do or not do to their face is not some reason the be snotty and judgemental. If they're happy with the results, your opinion on it is irrelevant. Where did we get the idea that dishing out unsolicited feedback like that on how someone chooses to present themselves is ok? Jennifer Lopez saying she's "not that person" is tantamount to sneering at other people for not being as genetically blessed as her. I'm 27 and dye my hair every few months, because I get greys. Good for you if you're my age and have no greys: I'm happy for you! But don't come at me for my choices or because of how I want to present myself to the world. I just don't understand people who allow their thumbs to type 'well I thought you looked better before' on someone's post talking about a procedure they've chosen to do for themselves. If you don't like botox and fillers, it's very simple: don't have botox and fillers.
I think the point of this point is; try not to be on the attack. Everyone has their reasons for their purchasing choices and some of those things really aren't their fault and even when they are: kindness and compassion works better than being confrontational. I've done it passively, I'm sure many of us have, but going forwards I think we should try to make our community a kinder, more inclusive and more understanding place. What's really to be lost by assuming that people are doing their best? That's what I'm going to be bearing in mind, even when writing my posts, to make fewer assumptions about people who do things differently to me.
What are your views on these topics? Do you ever catch yourself being judgemental and have to take a step back?
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