Looking at the basics
Skin care, something that was previously very domestic and personal, now comes in bottles, wrapped neatly and mechanically. It is now an industry. It makes the practice of skin care look a certain way and tells us it’s about buying. We think of skin care and think of marketed products.
But what is this phenomenon? It’s commodification. The transformation of ideas, goods, nature, among other things, into commodities. Simply put, it is making something – which previously was not a product – a product so it can yield profits. A price is fixed on something that didn’t previously have a price tag.
It feeds off insecurities and tells us all skins are supposed to look the same way. Far from relaxing and indulging it has now become a way of saying “your skin must always be glowing and be blemish free, buy our product.” We let an advertisement or an Instagram post we see become our dermatologist.
It has, to say the least, become superficial. Commodification of skin care, and the subsequent glorification of it, has also removed the focus from formulas like clean eating, taking care of your mental health, exercising, oiling your hair, getting good hours of sleep and staying hydrated that have worked since centuries. It is no longer about preservation and community in pursuit of getting familiar with your skin, it is now about splurging and aesthetic packaging.
Let’s hear from someone who has been in the industry:
Cinzia DuBois, explains how she saw the commodification of skin and self care unfurl as a worker in the industry. She reveals it becomes “a narrative in the retail world…as a retailer we were told to tell people to ‘indulge yourself’ and ‘treat yourself’…it became a marketing ploy”. Throughout her video, she keeps coming back to the theme of “you’re doing something good for yourself by buying something”.
Towards the end of her video she explains that after seeing the backstage of the skin care industry, her skin care routine has taken a sharp turn. She says she has hit reverse and has gone back to routines she followed as a child who listened to her mother. “..my routine is thinking what future Cinzia needs right now.”
When we talk about skin care, we must not talk only about skin care. With the commodification of skin care, it’s crucial we bring in topics of capitalisation; be it about women, their insecurities, their pleasures, their bodies.
Skin care commodification is also convincing people to give into their immediate gratification impulses. One feels like they’ve “treated” themselves or taken care of themselves because they’ve used an expensive product. Commodification also robs self care of being the behavioural process that evolves itself for us as much as we do. It’s okay to be the unremarkable version of yourself.