Two years ago, I recognized that I had more beauty products than I could possibly use before they expired. I hoarded half full body lotions, multiple colors of mascara, eyeliner stubs, bonus-sized eye shadows with teeny applicators, bottles of shampoo with three or four uses left…the list goes on. What became apparent to me was my inability to resist trying the latest and greatest of beauty products. When sulfate free shampoos arrived on the market, I tried them. When paraben-free conditioners were out on shelves, I tried them. When alcohol free hair mousse was available, I tried it. Oxygen-based skin cleansers, moisturizers with rare fruit extracts, nail strengtheners, face masks…
I was surveying the contents of my bathroom drawers about six months before I would depart to Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer and I felt horribly hypocritical. “I’m ready to put my life in a suitcase and serve people,” was my motto, and I had an idea of what to expect about my future lifestyle. I felt weighed down by the consumerist contradiction lined up in pretty bottles along the wall of my shower.
I made a pact with myself – I would not buy another product until all the stuff I currently owned was used up. The exception would be running out of something that would need to be replaced, such as shampoo. At that point, I also threw out the products which were expired or to which I had experienced a negative reaction, not forcing myself to use products that would make me break out. Despite the product cleanse, I still had a full arsenal of shtuff.
Six months passed, and as I was preparing to leave the country I still had not gone to CVS or Ulta to replace anything. While I continued to possess an abundance of products, the importance of my mission was fading in the light of leaving for two years. I managed to clean out once more, tossing products that had very little left in them. But you know, I kept the lion share of products, convincing myself I’d want them when I came back. Just to get me started again, if I needed them.
I quit the Peace Corps a year early – I’m proud of my service, but it wasn’t for me. Once I returned, I was overwhelmed by having access again to full-fledged stores, a variety of choice in anything and everything (whether or not I could afford it). I remembered my beauty product pact and wanted to continue it, recognizing that I still had an excess of stuff left over from before. However, I decided that I may as well indulge just this once and get myself set up with a fresh set of the things I knew were good for my skin, hair, and face. I didn’t throw out the old stuff.
That was at the beginning of 2012. At the end of 2013, I surveyed my apartment and again found myself swimming in excess. I wanted to recommit to my goal. For two months, I’ve been conscientious about using up half-bottles of hand and body lotion – winter is coming (GOT holla!) and it’s been a good time to jump-start this re-commitment and defy the impulse to purchase excess beauty products similar to what I already own. To solidify this return to simpler personal care, I have a second motivation looking forward to 2014: I expect to be moving to DC in the near future. The thought of packing up beauty products, some of which I have owned now for over two years, is mind-crushing. I just can’t handle the thought of it – either spending resources (like time) to pack and move these products, or the waste of throwing out stuff I paid for.
So I’ll work down all the extra that I own, and then what? Well, I’ve decided on an additional twist this time. For the whole year of 2014, I will first finish the beauty products that I own, then refuse to purchase more. The beauty industry deals in millions of dollars daily. I recognize that when I read magazines, I feel differently about myself immediately after, and it’s not positive. My self-esteem is fine (ask around), but capturing “natural beauty” is attractive to me. Magazines give me an excuse to see what’s new in the world of back-to-basics hair and skincare. Same thing with the internet. I get the advertising and then I get the impulse to own the latest in all-natural products. That is to say, that even “natural” beauty has become a commodity and packaged to sell.
Enough of that. I don’t dig the marketing, I think the price of “beauty” is ridiculous, and I’m disgusted by my ability to justify. Really, if I’m attracted to “all natural” products, I can cut out the middle man and seek these ingredients on my own. So 2014’s my year to reclaim my natural beauty without ever stepping foot inside a Target, Ulta, or CVS to that end. Each month, I’ll blog about my latest forays in this pursuit of less-popular methods of personal care and beauty. I think if we understand beauty in terms of what advertising executives want us to believe, then this would be quite an “ugly” year for me. We’ll see.
Why am I using A2Zhope.com as a forum for blogging about my attempt for personal revolution in the beauty industry? I don’t kid myself that my exterior appearance is part of how I determine my worth. It doesn’t come down to feeling classically “pretty” but it does come down to looking at myself in the mirror and saying, “You are happy and healthy today.” Sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet are building blocks to feeling that way, but if you examine the beauty industry, the majority of products on shelves are designed to merely imitate the effect of a healthy lifestyle. Instead of buying into a fake perception of health and happiness, I choose to create it for myself. And through that, I hope to inspire hope within myself for a truer “happy” and a truer “healthy”. And for you, too, if you want to come along.
I’ll miss the thrill of having a pretty, new, shiny bottle. Truly. But this whole resolution/experiment/re-commitment is to show myself that I can, in fact, do without fancy-pants cosmetics and beauty products. That it comes down to taking care of myself according to my standards, and not some magazine editor or marketing genius’ standards.
So here I go, and stay tuned 🙂