Under the Skin: Why we should rethink the Busy Girl beauty fad

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My love for makeup began while completing my Masters degree. I know it sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it was at the peak of my academic trajectory that I began experimenting with bright eyeshadows and bold lipsticks. Most people who know me would suggest that this was a procrastination tactic, a means of passing the time to avoid getting down to business. But, for once, this wasn’t the case at all.

In my fourth year of undergrad (though I suspect it started long before that), I began experiencing significant anxiety: I was involved in many extra-curricular activities and in student government, my course load was intensive, and had started learning a new language. My sleep had dwindled to an average of 4 hours a night and still, I always felt that I was out of time. Even the simple act of washing my face ate up precious minutes, so I considered doing makeup as an activity for people who “had too much free time.”

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Increasingly, the cosmetics industry has been moving towards a focus on beauty for the busy woman. In this new framework, we are presented with an ever-increasing tension between expectation and reality. Women today must make up for lost time in the professional landscape, by closing the wage gap, raising more VC funding, and leading in high-powered industries. In contrast to previous eras where vanity was everything, women now are not meant to have time to spend in front of a mirror. Enter: the “grab-and-go” marketing schtick where women who have the time for a complex makeup regimen are portrayed as vain. The trouble here, of course, is that it feeds into the notion that having time to care for oneself is problematic – instead, you should be constantly moving and on the go, with no time to stop.

In this new framework, we are presented with an ever-increasing tension between expectation and reality.

This message results in an unhealthy pattern of putting yourself last. While the lazy girl in me totally appreciates products from companies like Glossier and Nudestix that simplify my beauty routine, I equally appreciate my Modern Renaissance palette from Anastasia Beverly Hills, and my nightly routine of serums from The Ordinary. I do not feel guilty about using either.

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The increasingly popular equation of “keeping busy + fearing vanity = not having time for self-care” is troubling. Looking back on the stress of my last year as an undergrad, I made a conscientious decision to give myself time to take better care of myself. In slower periods of my Masters studies, I could spend 40 minutes smoking out my eyes; at the peak of my thesis writing, cloud paint and haloscope were a blessing. Regardless, taking these steps every day forced me to slow my breathing, focus on something completely different for a moment, and think about how I could better care for myself that day.

What I’ve found since, even on the days that I choose to skip my routine, is an increased sense of self-awareness and overall comfort in those moments of quiet. While I still feel the need to keep busy (as we type A’s always will), I see less shame in taking time to care for myself. I think if we started considering self-care as the first step towards caring for others, we’d likely accomplish a great deal more with less burnout - no beauty routine shame required.