I love the cult of Glossier. I’m a sucker for their minimalist branding and their endless stream of discount codes. They make products for a nu-age demographic that is a little too poor to be buying right off the full-priced rack at Anthropologie, a subgroup that every user on Instagram with less than one-thousand followers can easily fit into. The company is more of a lifestyle than a brand itself; everyone wants to be a fresh-faced and freckled 5’11 model sharing their overtly-simplified beauty routine on the company’s Instagram story. Glossier glamorizes simplicity, which is a good thing, but the company’s idea of beauty (waking up with no zits on your face because you used their Super Pure serum like a good girl) is entirely unattainable. It removes the grimness and grossness of applying serums and syrups and potions onto your face to prevent pimples from scarring your complexion from skincare altogether; instead of rubbing hydrogen peroxide on your face or slathering toothpaste onto a blistering cystic pimple, all you have to do is apply their hydrating Moon Mask and your skin will be saved from a lifetime of wrinkles and hyperpigmented spots. It makes clear skin look easy.
Everything is cyclical. The Love campaign in the 1970’s popularized the same fresh-faced look (what was once old is now new again) before it quickly faded into obsolescence (the eighties then sucked the beauty industry back into their color-filled, cake-faced vortex). Although the idea of having a beauty routine that only consists of splashing your face with cold water and pinching your cheeks is ideal, everybody ends up buying into the same gimmicks over time; the Proactiv copyright will continue to earn millions each year and Gwyneth Paltrow will continue to sell her snakeoil brand of wellness with an au naturale French appeal. It’s no well-guarded secret that Glossier is closer to Goop than Lush.
Glossier makes money off of people like me—young adults with bad skin unwilling to switch to a legume-free diet or fork over the money for microneedling. I know the company itself is not doing this insidiously; I wholeheartedly trust Emily Weiss and frequently check Into the Gloss for celebrity and dermatologist-approved products. I love the billion-dollar skincare industry and experimenting with different brands, companies, and creams. I rarely experiment with makeup; instead, I willingly spend the bulk of my money on trying out elixirs and superfoliants. It’s fun to me. It’s a bit glamorous, too. Buying a new anti-acne serum allows me to believe for a few days that I’ll be able to finally clear my skin for good (before my impatience and inability to stick to one regimen decides otherwise). The feeling you get in the checkout aisle of Lush is the closest you’ll ever get to being touched by the hands of God.
But here’s the gag. If Glossier is so bent on glamorizing fresh, clean skin, skin free from heavy makeup and damaging habits, why do all of the models on the company’s website have poreless and blemish-free skin? If they’re trying to sell the idea that using their products will clear your shitty skin, why aren’t they hiring girls with normal (bumpy, textured, blemish-speckled) complexions?
It’s pretty damn smart. The marketing tactic—using unrecognizable models (supermodels with large followings aren’t being photographed for the website) to market their products—heightens the girl-next-door ideal; these above-average looking models (who were clearly born with healthy, pimple-free skin) keep their pores squeaky clean with our $16 Soothing Face Mist, so why can’t you? The genetic-lottery winning complexions of the models is free advertising within itself.
They make sure you know that it’s Cool Girl skincare. It fits in with the Madewells and the Reformations of the industry. It’s semi-affordable, a feat that is attractive to those who only shop in the sale section of J-Crew and those who buy straight from the catalog. Its exclusivity adds another element of attractiveness to the company; Reese Witherspoon, Taraji P. Henson, and Rashida Jones are fawning over and wearing their products at the Oscars (and you can too!). The packaging—minimalist, sleek, and pseudo-feminine—is pretty, too, which makes for a good Instagram post (free advertising, once again). Their representative program, where social media users with small followings are given free products in exchange for excessive advertising (and not only social media users, but anyone given a referral code to attach in their Twitter bios), is another example of the company’s ability to utilize free advertising. They crave brand loyalty and promise an Instagram reposting if your beauty shelf is decked out with multiple products adorned with the sleek G logo. Glossier is kind of like the Carly Rae Jepsen of the beauty industry; stylish, cool, and eerily loved by everyone in Brooklyn.
Their creative director needs a pay-raise.
The Glossier company and its entire following is solidly built on the minimalist lifestyle that makes the company appear so glamorous. The core part of the skincare industry—adapting a healthy diet, developing routine exercise habits, and simply using products to improve skin integrity—is kind of lost behind their signature soft-glow filter. Melasma and hyperpigmentation do not exist within the realm of Glossier’s perfect body-posi unpaid-internship world. The natural look they love so much is free of cysts, uneven skin textures, and icepick scars. Age is selective; its marketing team make sure that their products only appeal to a millennial market.
I bought into it, and everyone else has to. There’s nothing wrong with buying into their ruse. Like I mentioned, it’s fun to toy with their exclusivity. Their products look good on my beauty shelf, I religiously live by their lip balm, and I have emptied two bottles of their Milky Jelly Cleanser. But what Glossier doesn’t factor into their godly fresh-faced ideal is the strenuousness of being born with shitty skin. Wearing paraben- and glycerin-free makeup is ideal, but it doesn’t get the job done. Sulfate-free skincare just doesn’t cure hereditary melasma.
My skincare routine is much more strenuous than any of the study habits I have adapted over the years. During my freshman year of high school, I wouldn’t even wash my face and my complexion remained completely clear. A hormone imbalance that resulted from a ravaging of the varicella virus when I was seventeen rendered my face speckled with purple blemishes; suddenly, every pimple I had ever popped reappeared as a hyperpigmented scar. After numerous trips to a dermatologist and consultations from my esthetician (which so happened to be my wonderfully trained mother), I’ve weeded out all of the products that do and do not work for me. I’ve bought into every skincare routine, myth, and lifestyle; I’ve experimented with Mario Badescu, Proactiv, Clearasil, coconut oil, toothpaste, Lush masks, Fresh, hydrogen peroxide, Neutrogena, Yes to Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and every other vegetable they market for $12 a pop, Clean & Clear, Givenchy, and Glossier, and nothing has beat sweet, sweet Cetaphil.
After three years of struggling with serious acne, I finally found a regimen that works for my skin. Every morning, I’ll wake up and gently wash my face with Cetaphil. I’ll then rigorously slather on a thick coating of clindamycin phosphate gel, a product I was prescribed by my dermatologist to clean out my pores every morning (at least once a week, I’ll replace washing my face/applying the gel with lathering Givenchy hydrating fluid [I’ll stick it in the freezer for five minutes to cool it down] after scrubbing my ultra-dry skin with an orange-scented Olay exfoliant). After this, I’ll put on a thin layer of shitty and overpriced Glossier moisturizer; it’s really thin and barely moisturizes my skin, but it’s just enough to mask the dryness for presentability (and besides, I want to get my money’s worth). I rarely wear makeup, but when I do, I’ll cake on a few layers of Nars pot cream concealer and dust on some cheap pressed powder. Throughout the day, I’ll pop two Minocycline antibiotic capsules, which is the true hero of my skincare regimen.
Long after my makeup creases and shows the true colors of my handsome hyperpigmented skin, I’ll wash it off with Cetaphil and rub on my prescribed Retin-A Tretinoin 0.25% cream. It feels like applying Elmer’s glue to your skin, so I truly feel like an artist by the end of the night. Right before I go to bed (directly after I turn off my TV and plug in my phone), I’ll put on a gooey coating of Cetaphil oil control moisturizer. Most nights it ends up being two.
It took me a while to realize that not every skincare regimen works for everyone. It took me years to realize that whatever the new trendy beauty blogger or IG baddie was advertising or glamorizing to keep her skin clear is probably not going to work for me. Besides—genetics, the most important factor in having clear skin, cannot be dismantled by any skincare company in the entire world. It all comes down to what you were born with. The red-cheeked model on the new Balm Dot Com advertisement doesn’t have the same hormone levels as I do, so why am I comparing my skin to hers?
I get it—skincare doesn’t have to be ugly, but it kind of has to be. It’s completely normal to have a skincare regimen closer to a chemical bath than the $45 Phase 1 set. It’s only a matter of time before we can shout this from the rooftops at the first annual $200-a-ticket Glossier conference.