On Individuals Over Industry & People Over Products

Jessica DeFino
11 min readNov 29, 2020

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 end of a beauty standard makes for a broader interpretation of beauty.

Recently, I reported on the “end of the manicure” for The New York Times. The concept isn’t necessarily novel; plenty of people have noticed that former manicure buffs are giving up polish during the pandemic. The trend was mentioned in last month’s issue of Vogue. It was noted in a recent Harper’s Bazaar report, too. The article I wrote was not well-received by the industry, to put it mildly.

It’s obvious now that I didn’t give vital aspects of the story — the industry’s impact on women of color, in particular — the attention or nuance they deserve in the text, and for that, I am deeply sorry. It has always been important to me to cover issues that affect Black, Indigenous, and people of color, but I am clearly an imperfect ally. I’m always learning. I can and will do better going forward. I have set up a recurring monthly donation to the California Nail Salon Community Care Fund as a small way to support the community.

I’d like to address some of the questions and criticisms that the piece prompted.

First: As a reporter, my loyalty is not to the industry. My loyalty is to the individual — the wellbeing of the individual, the empowerment of the individual, the freedom of the individual, the ability of the individual to thrive.

That said, industry is mechanized by individuals, which is a paradox I constantly question in my writing and my life. Ethically, I don’t support Amazon. What does that mean for the 1.2 million people it employs? Environmentally speaking, fast fashion needs to end. What about the garment workers — mostly women of color, women who are underpaid and overworked, women who…

Jessica DeFino

Jessica DeFino is a beauty reporter covering natural, holistic, sustainable skincare. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, Allure, & more.