Call it whatever you like. Whether it’s self care, skincare, wellness or a beauty routine — this new age obsession with constantly maintaining ourselves (or rather fixing ourselves) is slightly problematic and borderline cult like.
This new age obsession is impossible to miss. Why? Because it is both everywhere and anywhere you go, whether its virtually or physically. It’s in the movies, television shows, billboards, magazines, social media — EVERYWHERE. For all my Euphoria fans, what I’m describing can best be seen through Euphoria’s episode 3 of season 2, where we witness Cassie’s obsessive 4am morning routine. Let me lay it out for you: Wake up at 4am. Shower. Exfoliate. Scrub. Shave. Face Mask. Eye Patches. Face roller. Ice Roller. Hair Rollers. Moisturise. Makeup. More Moisturising. Perhaps the ‘craziest’ thing about Cassie’s insane morning routine is the fact that it felt so similar to many of ours today, or rather, many of the routines that so much of us are chasing after today in the name of self care. What’s even more bizarre about Cassie’s morning routine is the fact that it so perfectly reflects the realities of the beauty and wellness industries of today. Think about it, Cassie’s morning rituals are no different from the morning routines that flood many of our tik tok and instagram algorithms, that is; your “that girl” routines and “project 50” wellness aesthetics.
Don’t get me wrong, the notion behind self love and taking care of ourselves is an important one. Not only is it beneficial to our wellbeing as human beings, it is also beneficial to our mental health and the ways in which we take a break from the often chaotic environments we find ourselves in. These little acts of love, such as putting on a face mask or using ice rollers, go a long way into making ourselves feel good and feel at home in our bodies. But is it really “wellness” and “self care” if we place so much pressure on ourselves to create these precise routines and even more, if we carry so much guilt and shame within ourselves for not keeping up with our own overwhelming routines? Is waking up at 5am and putting yourself through a whole 20 step beauty routine part of the love you have for yourself or for the perception of your life that you want to put out into the world about how much you “really” love yourself? Think about it: even when we are consistent in our curated beauty routines, are we really ever satisfied? And is it ever enough if each day there is a new “beauty” and “wellness” item that is added. It started with superfoods. Then it was collagen, to the beloved sunscreen, the protein scoops, the retinoids and the infamous ‘gua shua stone’. The list is endless.
Ultimately, this new phenomenon is more a cult than it is a movement igniting human beings to love themselves and take care of themselves. I mean, the essence of cult organisations is to get people to believe in something so much that they are willing to pour a ridiculous amount of money into it. In 2020, the wellness industry was set to be one worth $639 billion, whereas the beauty industry was recorded to be worth $1083 billion. These two industries are notably among the most dominate industries in the world currently, and passionately preach the need for people to improve themselves and put their wellness forward. The reality is, the more we as people constantly try to stay up to date with the new ways of self care and wellness, the more the wellness and beauty industry seek to benefit for their own pockets. Again, self care is undeniably important. However, this self care and wellness shouldn’t be represented through 4am morning rituals, 20-step skincare routines or even aggressively rubbing and sculpting our faces everyday in order to better shape them and “allow for blood flow”. This cult like phenomenon is problematic because it pushes towards this endorsement of anti-aging and anti-imperfection. At the core of this phenomenon, we are running away from the inevitable; the ageing, the puffy eyes, the pores on our skins and of course, the wrinkles. We are running away from the essence of what it means to be human.
More than anything, wellness and self care is supposed to be inclusive. It’s supposed to be attainable and within reach for everyone, not just the few that can afford to keep up with the never ending demands and certainly not for the benefit of those who gain substantially from our misery and obsessions.