There's no denying that social media has revolutionised the way we approach beauty. Just look at the contouring phenomenon—YouTube's top-performing tutorial racked up over 14 million views in the past year alone, and is still going strong seven years after Kim Kardashian posted a before-and-after, pre- and post-contouring selfie on Twitter. For more recent examples, simply search #glassskin on Instagram, which currently yields over 97,000 posts of perfectly “glossed-over” skin. Having the latest trends and beauty brands at our fingertips has certainly fuelled the growth of fast beauty, and ensured we're buying more product than ever before. The three-step “cleanse, tone and moisturise” routine has evolved into a potential eight-step ritual with the help of K beauty-inspired essences, serums, masks and mists. Global personal care and beauty product annual sales are projected to reach US $500 billion by 2020. Yet, as awareness around sustainability rises, the tide may just be starting to turn against mass consumption, with a growing movement across social media that is encouraging us to rein in our beauty addiction in more ways than one.
While there are still plenty of unboxing videos and tutorials demo-ing the newest blush palette or CBD-infused mascara, there is a rising number of “no-buy beauty” posts gaining traction on social media. Instead of showcasing the latest launches, influencers are encouraging us to cut back on non-essential beauty purchases and take a more mindful approach. When beauty blogger Serein Wu shared her no-buy video with her nearly 124k subscribers on YouTube in January, it was met with over 400 supportive comments. “I've always loved beauty, but it got to a point where it became excessive and more about how much I had versus the quality of each product,” says Wu. “Part of this was the increasing launch frequency of brands and part of it was being in the beauty community of always wanting more. It's about quality over quantity, clean, ethically sourced ingredients and realistic quantities that I can use up. There's satisfaction in hitting pan [reaching the end of the product] or finishing my favourite beauty oil.” Another YouTuber, Hannah Louise Poston, completed her no-buy year in 2018 and revealed that she'd managed to bring her monthly skincare spending down from $220 to $49 by culling extras, including essences and cream masks. The video detailing how her no-buy year changed her skincare routine has been viewed over 28k times since December.
It's not just financial benefits driving this movement. With the help of David Attenborough's Our Planet on Netflix and Swedish teen Greta Thunberg's tireless campaigning, the impact of our actions on the environment is starting to make people rethink their consumption. “Beauty is naturally a throwaway industry,” says Lisa Payne, senior beauty editor at trend intelligence company Stylus. But, she says, attitudes are starting to change. “[In the past,] if we didn't like a shower gel or face cream, we didn't think about recycling that product or finding a different use for it, we'd simply buy something else. Now this wastefulness is so much more obvious through the lens of sustainability.”
In January, the industry insider Instagram account Estée Laundry hosted a #shopmystash challenge to encourage its followers to use up their existing products and use the hashtag to share their efforts. “The idea is to use less, buy less and use up what you already own by shopping your own beauty stash,” the post stated. The challenge was so successful that Payne predicts it could eventually become as popular as Veganuary. Likewise, beauty blog Temptalia asked its readers how important it was to finish a product, which was met with comments including: “For me finishing up a product means I get all my money's worth and I'm not generating more waste. And I'm not cluttering my life with more things I don't need.”
Another approach making waves across social media is the idea of ‘skin fasting', aka using no skincare products at all for a day or even a week, with the aim of improving the complexion (as well as cutting back on product consumption). It's an approach championed by Japanese skincare brand Mirai Clinical. “By applying excessive amount of moisturiser on a daily basis, skin can become too lazy to produce its own natural oils and moisture,” says the brand's founder Koko Hayashi. “Skipping moisturiser completely once a week, or reducing the amount, helps to wake up your skin's natural ability to hydrate and balance from within.” The technique has appeared on several threads in Reddit's Skincare Addiction and Asian Beauty forums with people sharing their experiences of cutting out not just moisturiser, but most of their products in a bid to improve their skin. And, for those who regularly battle with skin flare-ups, there might be something in this. “Overuse of products may lead to skin irritation and taking a break can allow your skin to recover,” says Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The majority of skin experts, including aesthetic clinician Dr David Jack and dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, say that cleansing your skin twice a day—using an antioxidant serum and SPF during the day; and a retinol or vitamin C-based treatment in the evening—are fundamental steps we should all be following. For those who want a little more guidance, it's worth seeking out the advice of skincare consultancy Lion/Ne, which uses the diagnostic tool OBSERV to scan your skin for underlying conditions and then recommends specific products and in-salon services depending on your budget and lifestyle. While #NoBuy and skin fasting posts may not generate as many likes or followers as the contouring trend, the influence is definitely positive; inspiring change whether it's dramatically reducing the amount of products you use or simply finishing what's already in your makeup bag before replacing. Let the move towards long-term, sustainable solutions in beauty continue.
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Are you a skincare and makeup addict? You need to know about #NoBuy – VOGUE India