Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
I’ll be totally honest: As I write this, at this very moment in time, I have yet to read in full the highly divisive article that was published by The Outline on Tuesday, titled “The Skincare Con,” on which everyone who has ever applied moisturizer has since formed an opinion. I have skimmed it. I have read things about it. And I know I should read it, if only to be able to “get in on the conversation,” so to speak. But as someone who frequently covers skin care on this website, and enthusiastically uses skin care on a daily basis, I am already a part of the conversation by default. That’s fine.
And moreover, I already know that, while the piece may very well make some good points (I don’t know, does it?), I do not and will never believe that skin care is in any way a “con.” I have no room to be outraged by someone disparaging the contents of my bathroom cabinet; I’m already mad about other shit, like the current White House administration, the wage gap, the exorbitant price of spin classes, and the fact that my dog won’t stop chewing the corner of the couch. It is not necessary for me to add my two cents to the conversation just because the conversation exists — and besides, those are two cents I could be spending on my favorite $70 face cleanser from Dr. Barbara Sturm.
Yesterday, WWDreported the results of the annual findings from NPD Group, one of the world’s largest market-research companies, which concluded that prestige skin care reached $5.6 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2017, a 9% increase over 2016. Makeup sales, by comparison, were up just 6% year-over-year; while makeup is still the largest category, the growth of the skin-care market is monumental.
And perhaps even more telling is that a significant amount of that growth — roughly 20% — came from moisturizer. Beauty-industry analyst and NPD Group executive director Larissa Jensen told WWD that most categories in prestige skin care had previously seen declining sales numbers or a plateau, but over the past year there’s been what Jensen calls a “turnaround” in the genre, with moisturizer as the driving force. Understandably, Jensen also credits a shift in the way we talk about skin care with encouraging consumers to buy more of it. “It’s less ‘fix your wrinkles’ and more ‘take care of yourself,'” she told the publication.
And maybe that’s the bottom line. Skin care, at its best, is about taking care of yourself, not about a massive industrial scheme working to bamboozle an entire society of vain, unsuspecting wannabe Dorian Grays into emptying their wallets at the prospect of perfect skin. Maybe we like our skin-care routines. Maybe they work for us. Maybe they make us feel cared for, like we’re doing something good for ourselves, like a coping mechanism, like a way to clear our heads, like we’re taking the time out of our days to do something for ourselves and no one else. And that feeling is not, and never will be, a con — and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise, no matter how high it’s trending on Twitter.