The End of the Shelfie

In the face of a pandemic, economic collapse, and climate change, Instagram photos of shelves crowded with skin-care products appear out of touch.

Credit: Anna Efetova / Getty Images

Today’s shelfies reveal little more than our collective obsession with stuff — an obsession that’s good for the skin-care industry, but arguably less good for the skin, the psyche, and general sustainability.

“This is a construct of the industry that wants you to buy more,” Deters says. “I finally worked it by [simplifying] my skin-care ritual. Now I have healthy, incredibly clear skin.”

So why doesn’t everyone just stop it with all the skin-care products, already?

It’s complicated. Like selfies before them, shelfies have come to represent something deeper than décor; to “communicate one’s perceived identity,” as psychologist Nneoma G. Onyedire writes. “My shelf is the first thing I see when I wake and when I drift at night,” Daniilidis tells me over email. “My shelf is my safe space more than anything. Like, each product is my baby, you know? They all have a home with me. And they’ve protected me and been there for me through many big life moments.”

Like selfies before them, shelfies have come to represent something deeper than décor; to “communicate one’s perceived identity,” as psychologist Nneoma G. Onyedire writes.

“It’s become more and more rare that we’re tagged in photos with dozens of products,” Deters agrees. The result of shelf-inflicted shame?

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