A lot of people ask me why I love skin care, or more specifically, writing about it. For me, it mostly has to do with the emotional connection; there are the good memories, like watching my mother apply the Clinique 3-Step System in her bathroom. There’s also the hugely transformative aspect of having a regular routine, which feels therapeutic in ways that extend far beyond what you might think of when using your moisturizers, serums, and cleansers. As Lara Witt previously wrote on Teen Vogue, “Those of us who do love makeup and beauty are celebrating ourselves.” I relate to those feelings toward beauty — with skin care being a segment of that — as a vehicle to express your truest self.
Granted, pseudoscience and unverified product claims are present in skin care. But, that’s not to say that I, the consumer, am not equipped with the tools to decipher and question marketing buzzwords that exist to push product. I seek out and support brands that resonate with my lifestyle and needs. In personal experience, asking for expertise from a dermatologist or taking the time to research ingredients has paid off, and not just in the form of visible results but in feeling more conscious of what I’m putting on my face.
A big part of my love for serums and creams is also about freedom of choice. There’s a veritable schism between a 20-step routine and “cleanse and be done” — and what you prefer is entirely up to you. An effective skin care routine, for me at least, includes around 10 steps and feels anything but routine. My nighttime regimen helps me mentally unwind after a long day and take a moment to focus on me. Just me. And my face. It’s a point that has run true with Caudalie founder Mathilde Thomas, who famously based her brand on the “pleasure principle” of skin care. In other words, she sees it as a sensorial experience akin to enjoying a multi-course meal at a restaurant. I find this particularly true when dealing with skin care, which is a very tactile experience. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with when I start my days with a refreshing gel cleanser (Aesop Parsley Seed is my go-to) or get ready for bed with a soothing overnight mask (Laneige all the way).
Clearly, I’ve tried a lot of products — some more effective than others. As much as the glitter masks and shimmery serums currently flooding my Instagram feed seem to be a recent invention fueled in part by social media, the tenets of bathing and moisturizing are anything but new. Ancient Egyptian beauty rituals included nourishing skin with castor, sesame and moringa oils. A 2008 article published in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery cites skincare recipes circulated by Raja Serfoji (who ruled Tanjore from 1788-1832 A.D.). The list includes lip balm, exfoliating scrubs, face masks, and pimple treatments. Your pressed serum and solid cleansing sticks have naturally evolved since ancient civilizations, but the concepts behind them have been with us for a long time.
Another thing I wouldn’t label my routine as is purely superficial. As Allure’s Deputy Editor, Sam Escobar, aptly voiced via Twitter, “An interesting thing I found while working as a makeup artist and beauty editor is that beauty is one of the most regularly dismissed interests you can have. You cannot be an expert or hobbyist in it without being deemed vapid.” And they’re right; beauty, skin care included, is often seen through a condescending lens that diminishes both the products and the people who dare to use — and even unapologetically love — them. This kind of perspective entirely dismisses the empowerment, the joy, the ritual you can find in your favorite products and turns them into shallow vehicles that supposedly perpetuate restrictive standards of beauty.
Cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing my face is ultimately something I do for myself, and it’s my right to feel like I’m getting something out of it. Half of the phrase is the word “care”; care is about nurturing my skin because I want to. It’s about treating it and caring for my face just like I would the rest of my body. And that’s something I don’t feel the need to ever make excuses for — because I really love skin care, and that’s really okay.