I had a different newsletter ready to publish Wednesday morning. But when I read about the six Asian women who were murdered by a white supremacist domestic terrorist in an Atlanta-area shooting spree the night before — after a year of escalating anti-Asian hate crimes across the country — I decided to scrap that and attempt to address anti-Asian racism within the beauty and wellness industries instead. This is a very, very long article that I had planned to write in the future, but the conversation needs to happen now.
This is not an article about cultural appropriation.
Hey, did you hear? It’s hip to hate on clean beauty! All the biggest names in mainstream beauty media are doing it. Editors, influencers, dermatologists, everyone.
And listen, I get what they’re saying. I said it myself two years ago: Clean beauty means nothing.
That was the title of an article I wrote for HelloGiggles in 2019 that touched on the term “clean beauty” and its limitations. To refresh your memory: “Clean” is not defined by the Food & Drug Administration, so any brand can stamp “clean” on its label, no matter the ingredients inside. There is no master list…
The latest addition to my skincare lineup isn’t anything to look at. It’s an amber jar with a black lid. It has no other distinguishing features — no brand logo, no marketing lingo, no inch-high letters promising to smooth or soften. There’s no label at all.
Inside is an unassuming oil blend. It has six natural ingredients and all the nutrients the skin really needs: antioxidants, aminos, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and K, anti-inflammatory melatonin, and trace minerals. It cleanses and moisturizes, and can be used on face and body. It renders all other skincare superfluous. …
Welcome to the inaugural Beauty-Critical Content Charcuterie: A snack-able spread of observations, ideas, and thought-starters that have taken over my mind! A sampling of stories I’m dying to write but don’t have the time to really write! The text equivalent of a photo-dump!
Today’s Beauty-Critical Content Charcuterie is brought to you by my book. (Did you hear I’m writing a book?) I’m a few months shy of my deadline, so I’m taking that time off from everything else. No new articles, no social media, only the occasional newsletter.
Ask the average skincare enthusiast what causes clogged pores — otherwise known as acne — and they’ll probably answer “sebum.” There are aestheticians and dermatologists and all sorts of online experts who’ll say the same thing. But it’s not true. It’s one of the biggest myths in the beauty industry and it’s sad, really.
As I once wrote in Nylon, “Our poor, sweet sebaceous glands did nothing to deserve this. Sebum — and I cannot stress this enough — does not cause acne.”
Introducing “non-aging,” the disguise du jour for anti-aging ideology.
The groundbreaking term recently replaced “slow aging,” “preservaging,” “aging gracefully,” and “addressing mature skin” as the way to capitalize on women’s fear of living long-but-wrinkly lives while conveniently avoiding the ire of anti-anti-agers!
Well, almost avoiding.
When I read the words “Non-Aging Skincare Tips’’ in a headline earlier this week, coupled with a lovely photo of 54-year-old Halle Berry looking more like a 24-year-old, it made me ARGHHH and ugh and also :weary face emoji: cry.
Not because I’m opposed to “non-aging.” (Although, of course, I am. Synonyms include “dead,” “cryogenically…
Honestly, fuck Goop.
Fuck its appropriation of ancient, bone-deep wisdom.
Fuck the way it positions holistic health as a high-end luxury.
Fuck it for milking easy, accessible, affordable practices for profit.
Fuck how it offers free healing tools — Breathwork! Meditation! Yoga! — next to $800 serums, making the former seem as privileged and useless as the latter.
Fuck the way it bleaches the beliefs of Indigenous cultures again and again, over and over, until they’re as stiff and white as the collar of a G. Label button down.
At the end of 2019, I wrote a retrospective of the… best? worst? just kind of there? celebrity beauty brands of the year for Fashionista. I guess it wasn’t so much a retrospective as a critique of all the ways in which celebrity culture has infiltrated our lives. It started:
In 2019, Americans ceded all control to celebrities. “Dress me,” we screamed, and Rihanna gave us Fenty. “Make me smell good,” we demanded, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Lionel Richie, and J.Lo heeded the call. “Wait, would you… register me to vote?” we asked, and Ariana Grande actually did it. “Run for…
Every beauty reporter has a beat, a type of story they like to tell. I cover the end of things. The end of shelfies. The end of sheet masks. The end of products and practices that put an unnecessary burden on the environment, that feed us false ideas of empowerment, that reinforce societal beauty standards.
This sometimes gets interpreted as negativity, which I guess it is, but I’ve always seen the positive in it: The end of the shelfie stops the glorification of overconsumption. The end of single-use skincare means a more sustainable industry. …
The “fat-free” fad of the 1990s was born in the 1960s. That’s when the sugar industry paid scientists to “find” data that sugar didn’t lead to heart disease or weight gain, but fats did. The findings fueled America’s first dietary guidelines in the 1970s, the creation of the carb-heavy food pyramid in 1992 and, Harvard researchers say, maybe even obesity. Today we know that healthy fats actually prevent heart disease and weight gain, and sugar does the opposite. …
Jessica DeFino is a beauty reporter covering natural, holistic, sustainable skincare. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, Allure, & more.