Inventing Insecurities | No, I Don’t “Need” Eye Cream

Several weeks ago, while trying to take a selfie, I noticed a new wrinkle in the oddest of places – my cleavage.

Where before my skin had not creased, now I had a defined, additional line that led from the inner curve of my left breast and up across my breastbone. I poked it. I squinted at it. I tried moving my boob. But it was there. Staring at me, this new wrinkle.

I turned 35 in October. My oldest child is in Grade 7. Certainly, time has marched on, and I’ve gone along with it – my hair starting to grey at my temples, light creases appearing in the corners of my mouth and eyes. But I’ve never felt old, or like I needed to take up my weapons against ageing. If anything, I’ve observed these changes with interest, like some kind of researcher in my own process of ageing.  I moisturize my face after I shower, I usually take off my makeup at night, I wear sunscreen (most of the time!). But a peek in my medicine cabinet won’t reveal an extensive skin care regimen,  creams, potions, lotions and exfoliators. An eye cream I bought nearly two years ago remains nearly full.

Yesterday, while scrolling through Instagram, someone I follow who sells beauty products through a direct sales/MLM company, had posted a meme – a collage of 80s style high waisted jeans, and a caption:

“If you wore these, it’s time for an eye cream. Call me.”

My eye twitched, but I kept scrolling. But that meme proliferated, and multiplied, as memes are known to do – soon I saw it a half dozen times on Facebook, sometimes with only one pair of jeans, sometimes with a pair of early 90s style sandals, all targeting women in my age demographic – mid to late 30 year olds – all with the same directive “You need to use eye cream. Buy it from me!”

Wait, what? I need to use eye cream? Bullshit. I can choose to use an eye cream, if I want. If you want to use one, more power to you (I can even connect you with some women who can help!). But is this really the conversation we’re having right now, between women? Are fine lines and wrinkles really that horrible? Why are we putting so much pressure on each other to look young?  But more than that – why are we suggesting to women in their 30s that they “need” to use anti-aging products now?

Let’s set aside the fact that many products that “fight” the signs of aging strip the top layers of the skin off, leaving you more susceptible to sun damage. Let’s forget for a minute that the beauty giants have been preying on our insecurities for years. We can even skip over the fact that most of these products are ridiculously expensive and incredibly time-consuming (multi step processes, masks, dermabrasion tools, and so on).

But you know what I hear most often from my MLM consultant friends whenever someone speaks out against the direct sales business model?

“We’re empowering women!”

There’s a big contradiction going on here. This method of marketing is almost more insidious than the method that uses our insecurities to get us to spend money – this one is trying to create them for us. What’s empowering about that? Does anyone feel empowered when our friend or family member tries to hint that we need to fight aging that for most of us, isn’t even really happening yet? Where’s the hidden power in sending all your 30 something friends to the mirror to peer at their eyes, searching for the imperfection there?

It’s not the first time I’ve run into it. After commenting on a Facebook post about a funny exchange I had with a Sephora employee once regarding an age spot on my cheekbone and my need for a moisturizer with sunscreen in it, I found myself on the receiving end of a PM about a product that would make that age spot disappear. Until that moment, I hadn’t felt any desire to minimize it – my trip to Sephora had been an effort to prevent future sun damage.

Since 2000, Botox procedure rates have risen 759%. No, that’s not a typo.  North Americans spend more than $60B a year on beauty products. And increasingly, people under 30 are among the biggest users of anti aging products. Our fear of aging is spilling into the thoughts of ever younger women, women who are the most susceptible to being convinced this is a problem they need to worry about, when in reality it should be the last thing on their mind.

Aging is not a crime. You are allowed to get older. You will be beautiful even with wrinkles. And if you think you need to start fighting aging in your mid 30s, consider the sheer amount of time, money and worry you’re going to expend for the next 50ish years, given that the average life expectancy for a North American woman is 81 years old. And no matter how much you spend on this stuff, you’re still probably going to eventually look like an old(er) woman. Only you get to choose if you want to get there with an acceptance of your inherent beauty, or kicking and screaming every step of the way.

Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

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