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Big Beauty seems to think I am a very busy woman — so pressed for time that I’m routinely applying my makeup in the back of a cab or on public transport, cocktailing my 10-step skincare routine into two products, and somehow MacGyver’ing complex looks like a smoky eye with just one piece of makeup.
I’m mostly talking about beauty brands that target millennials. When Milk Makeup launched a little over a year ago with the tagline “Milk girls do their makeup quick,” my initial reaction was how dare you. The collection actually was pretty cleverly designed to be tool-free, requiring only your hands to apply, with products housed in gender-neutral-ish packaging, despite having “girls” in that tagline. Most of the products are multi-use, from eye pigments that moonlight as body paint and lip and cheek colors to blotting papers that double as rolling papers. Even K-beauty skincare brands, famous for unleashing the 10-step routine unto our medicine cabinets, are starting to cater to the time crunch by launching combo products — like RE:P’s All-In-One Multitem and Goodal’s Moisture Barrier Liquid — that are supposed to be an E-ZPass for several steps like toner, essence, serum, and emulsion. One skincare brand that plays into this idea is science-heavy newcomer, Allies of Skin, which offers only three products: a toning mist, a daytime mask, and an overnight mask — all “smart, effective products for the modern multi-hyphenate” (actress-model-DJ, mom-blogger-student, etc.).
The dedication to perfecting a minimal skincare line that requires only two steps in between your cleanser and moisturizer or sunscreen is impressive, but as someone with no hyphens, I enjoy these products because of their innovative formulations rather than how they allow me to scrimp on other steps. I don’t doubt that if these multi-hyphenates can enjoy an excess of title, they might also enjoy an excess of beauty routine. And truth via survey be told, millennials apparently do want value and quality. But is it lame now to be too earnest in touting how well your product works or how great the value is?
There’s a sort of veil of implied exclusivity about this purported group of chicly rushed women who seem to only have time to do their makeup during transport or for literally five minutes in a bathroom mirror using only the contents of a small makeup bag. Gone are the days of the beauty industry leveraging your insecurities to get you to buy — now they are apparently too busy hanging out without you. It makes me wonder, Should I be busier? Am I not doing enough activities? Is it weird that sometimes I just like to put on fancy makeup at home even thought I’m not going anywhere? Maybe FOMO has been a more effective way to sell makeup all along.
I happen to be the type of person who enjoys losing hours in the aisles of Sephora. I take pride in choosing how I embellish my corporeal prison. Ease of use definitely falls short of performance in terms of the determining factors separating me from my money, which is why I find it so odd when a brand chooses to market their product on its low-maintenance ability to be utilized in a moving vehicle more than the strength of its formula. Sure, packaging is always an eye-grabber, but we can agree that everyone wants results, and if I have learned anything from being alive and without an endless supply of money, it’s that results generally require time and effort.
On the one hand, my Instagram feed seems clogged with memes about awkward social situations, cancelling plans, and being alone forever, but then I’ll see an ad for a beauty brand selling the perfect product that’ll take you “from desk to dawn.” (Okay, that one is actually a pretty clever tagline for Milk Makeup’s Lip Colors, but realistically, how many people are regularly partying until dawn after a full day’s work?) What’s alienating is the implication that the beauty-conscious woman doesn’t spend time on makeup or skincare — she’s either too busy, too cool, or too busy being cool to deal with a multi-step skincare regimen or makeup brushes.
I have no doubts that some people really are that busy — I say this as someone dwelling in NYC. But what good is a beauty product that will supposedly give you a full contour or perfect brows in no time at all if you don’t actually have the skills to execute those the regular way?
Between the arena of Kardashian-inspired Instagram beauty, no-makeup makeup, and now apparently express beauty products, the irony is that all this marketing only offers more decision fatigue when beauty shopping. And you know what definitely is a huge time suck? Deciding what stuff I should buy, especially when that stuff apparently has a more packed calendar than I do. I get enough FOMO from social media alone — I don’t need my beloved beauty products making me feel like I’m a loser as well.