The beauty and wellness space is more confusing than ever.
As a female millennial in 2018, I am susceptible to beauty and wellness trends. I know much of it is gimmick, (or as my boyfriend likes to remind me, pseudoscience), but when the promise is “glowing eternal youth,” it’s hard not to be tempted. And just like news you find on Facebook, it’s hard to know where the line is between real and fake. For example, washing my face and moisturizing my skin = good for me. Okay, duh. But how about applying four different serums and toners daily? Who knows. Do I also need retinol cream under my eyes? What about charcoal toothpaste, does it really make my teeth white? Will the aluminum in deodorant actually give me cancer, and/or should I take that chance so I don’t smell like an ape?
It can be infuriating to navigate the beauty and wellness world, especially these days, when our favorite celebrities and models have never been more accessible, or appeared to be, thanks to social feeds curated by premium sponsors. Instagram, a platform that’s uniquely situated to beauty advertising, with its huge youth demographic and an ethos of glamour, is probably the biggest culprit. Influencers, aka social media darlings who are paid to use and promote a product, are the most dangerous of all on Instagram. These accounts often appear natural but are usually just the opposite. What’s worse is that influencers have been known to be completely fake accounts, or even – gasp! – bots.
That’s right: bots. They’re not just confusing our politics: they’ve come to plug various beauty products as well. My personal favorite bot is Lil Miquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian-American model, musical artist, and influencer with more than a million Instagram followers. Lil Miquela is clearly computer-generated, although she’s just on the threshold of the Uncanny Valley. “She wears real-life clothes by luxury labels like Chanel, and hangs out with real-life musicians, artists, and influencers in real-life trendy restaurants in New York and Los Angeles,” writes the Cut's Emilia Petrarca, but again: she doesn’t exist. As Petrarca observes, “Lil Miquela holds up a mirror to the ways in which technology has morphed our own constructions of self. Social-media personalities alter their bodies and edit images of themselves so heavily that CGI characters somehow blend naturally into our feeds. Miquela represents perhaps the pinnacle of unrealistic beauty standards. How can we compete with someone who never ages or gets hungry and who can be in ten different places at once?”
So because we live in a world in which the phrase unrealistic beauty standard has now become literal, I get my beauty fix through a non-visual medium: podcasts. They’re actually great resources for honest conversations about how to navigate the beauty and wellness industry. Plus, my weekly go-tos are hosted by funny, charming ladies who talk frankly about the products they’re trying, just like your best friend who will tell you that lipstick shade looks terrible on you.
Here are three of my favorites:
Glowing Up: Esther Povitsky, a comedian fave of ours on the work, hosts a weekly beauty podcast with friend Caroline Goldfarb, a writer on her show, Alone Together. Their dynamic is super charming – it’s got a sort of Broad City vibe, actually. My favorite episodes are the ones after they’ve just splurged at a beauty store and review their purchases live on the pod. I’m holding out for the episode where they take their much-discussed bucket-list trip to Paris just to fill their suitcases with beauty products and then turn around and come back home. Do it for the podcasting gold, ladies.
Natch Beaut, hosted by Esther’s longtime friend and comedian, Jackie Johnson, is sort of a Glowing Up spinoff. Her show focuses on the vegan and cruelty-free space, with honest, frank reviews of their effectiveness. I’ve learned more about alternative brands on this show than anywhere else on the Internet. Her interview with the founder of Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant was enough to convince me to try natural deodorant one more time (fingers crossed).
Fat Mascara is the beauty pod with the ethos: credible beauty editors from Teen Vogue and Marie Claire who’ve worked in for 10+ years. There’s a nice balance of insider industry language, conversations with celebrity make-up artists, reviews of trends and fails and what’s pseudo and what’s not. It’s my weekly look into the beauty world from editors who do the hard work of keeping up with the trends so I don’t have to.
header image: @lilmiquela / instagram