“Invasion of Industrial Cosmetics: Tracing the Origins of a Beauty Revolution

“Invasion of Industrial Cosmetics: Tracing the Origins of a Beauty Revolution

Since when did our skin need industrial cosmetics? When did we fall under the spell of using beauty products?

Imagine waking up in the morning, a girl washes her face with rainwater. Whenever her skin feels dry, she plucks some aloe vera from the garden and applies it. Each beauty need is intricately tied to a natural ingredient. This description sounds soothing and pleasant, but in today’s world, hardly anyone follows a beauty routine as slow and almost purely natural as this.

Take a look at your cosmetics shelf and then glance at your own skin. Is the quantity of cosmetics proportional to the beauty of your skin? What happened that we spend so much on industrial cosmetics?

When did industrial cosmetics “invade” our lives?

Beauty products have been used by humans for thousands of years. However, the shift towards industrialization in skincare began in the 19th century with the introduction of products like Chapstick, Vaseline, and baby powder. It was only in the early 20th century, following the industrial revolution, that the skincare and makeup industry truly flourished. The industrial revolution, starting in the late 18th century, had a profound impact on this sector. It was also when large cosmetic companies made their mark, selling the “dream” of perfect beauty to consumers.

The industrial revolution has made mass production of cosmetics significantly more accessible | Source: Dalybeauty

During this period, mass production of cosmetics and skincare products became more feasible, making it easier for people to access these products. Companies launched extensive advertising campaigns promoting new beauty standards, such as curly blond hair, red lips, and a pale complexion. Makeup trends were continuously pushed in magazines, with Hollywood stars appearing alongside trendy lip colors.

Advertisements continuously convey the ‘dream’ of beauty to consumers

The 21st century witnessed an explosion of innovation in skincare products and globalization, along with the development of technology and the self-care and self-love culture. At this point, using cosmetics is not just about beautifying oneself but also a statement of lifestyle. Of course, these statements have been carefully planned by companies to “touch” consumers, tapping into the inherent human nature mentioned in Robert Greene’s “The Laws of Human Nature” – the constant desire for self-love.

Cushion Foundation  from South Korea

In Asia, the Hallyu wave since the 1990s brought the widespread popularity of Korean entertainment culture, leading to the boom of the Korean skincare trend (K-beauty). Practices like the Korean 10-step skincare routine and ingredients such as ginseng and green tea have become increasingly familiar. Like a “wave,” Korean beauty practices and products forcefully make their way into our pockets. Look at a beautiful person on the screen, and you’ll find the products to achieve that beauty right at the store.

Even today, young people have more powerful ways to immerse themselves in the beauty industry. Social media trends play a significant role. Sometimes, you may not even have the need for cosmetics, but it becomes a necessary tool for transformations or reviews.

Young generations view cosmetics as a tool for creating ASMR content on TikTok

Many people are drawn into the addiction of buying cosmetics due to the constant release of new products. Currently, the subreddit r/SkincareAddiction has over 2 million members. Many use online communities like Reddit to find information about new skincare products. Positive and intriguing reviews on these platforms can drive us into uncontrolled shopping sprees (impulse buying).

Dr. Evan Rieder, a psychiatrist and dermatology expert in New York, notes that the feeling of exclusivity when discovering new and lesser-known skincare products can stimulate the pleasure of shopping. This can create financial pressure and affect the mental well-being of cosmetics addicts.

Is it possible to be independent from cosmetics?

If the industrial skincare routine feels a bit stifling for your skin, you might contemplate giving up industrial cosmetics. However, it’s not as simple as deciding to stop, as two factors contribute to our prolonged dependence on industrial cosmetics:

1. Living Environment and Natural Resources

Nowadays, returning home without cleansing your face due to dirt and thick makeup seems almost impossible. The water we use itself becomes an invisible “chemical” through the filtration and purification process. The basic skin is impacted by chemicals in various ways. To neutralize these substances, we have to use other chemicals. The question then arises – are you willing to apply raw ingredients directly to your face?

In essence, our skin is exposed to a variety of chemicals not only found in cosmetics | Source: Betibalaman

   Essentially, due to unhealthy lifestyles, human bodies are becoming increasingly resistant, lacking essential enzymes (as per medical knowledge from the book “Enzyme Factor”). So, exposure to something too raw or completely natural can have adverse effects, such as skin irritation, acne, sensitivity to sunlight, and more. Not to mention, the cultivation of these raw materials is not always guaranteed to be safe.

2. “Beyond Natural” Demand from Social Perspectives

The skin is the largest organ of the body, reflecting many things from the living environment, health conditions to societal perceptions. Throughout human history, we’ve witnessed numerous trends directly affecting the skin, like the obsession with skin whitening or tanning. At one point, fair skin became a beauty standard because it was believed to represent prosperity and a life spared from outdoor labor.

The emerging beauty trends drive people to seek methods that involve the use of industrial products

   This led to the creation of aggressive whitening methods using chemicals. Nowadays, many people choose to darken their skin for the sake of a healthy appearance, spending leisure time sunbathing. This shift demonstrates the changing, often unnatural, demands society places on the skin. Whether it’s lightening or darkening, the skin goes through many “ordeal” due to the ever-evolving societal norms and beauty trends.

In essence, the skin will find it challenging to find peace as long as people continue to expose it to the ongoing “battles” against societal prejudices or beauty trends.


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