Dua Lipa Knows The Beauty Industry Is Built On Lies
At least, she let me write about how the beauty industry is built on lies in her latest newsletter.
Did you know Dua Lipa has a newsletter? Dua Lipa has a newsletter! And I’m in it!! The team at the pop singer’s platform, Service95, asked me to contribute an essay on the general fuckery of the beauty industry and it went live today — along with, to my surprise and delight, a little write-up from Dua herself.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty standards lately and Jessica DeFino’s quote ‘beauty standards stem from the oppressive forces of patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism’ in her article below has really hit home. Without realising it, we learn and adopt certain standards that are fed by society and don’t feel good enough if we don’t meet them (and yes, there is a certain expectation of what you should look like as a pop star). DeFino’s piece is a reminder to question our relationship with beauty. Why do we do what we do? Is it being defined by society or driven by our authentic self?
First: Ahhhh omg omg omg!!!!!!! The impact of this message at this level from this person!! I’m levitating!!!
Second: I wanted to share an excerpt of my article, below — and say hi! to any new subscribers and thank you! to Dua. (Now please don’t betray me by starting a celebrity beauty line.)
Dismantling The Industry, One Article At A Time
by Jessica DeFino for Service95
The beauty industry is lying to you. I know because I used to be one of its liars-for-hire. I used to be a beauty editor.
I didn’t know I was lying, of course. I believed in the things I wrote for Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and The Zoe Report with every over-exfoliated fiber of my being. I believed skincare products nourished your skin. (In truth, most of them disrupt the skin microbiome and damage the skin barrier.) I believed signs of aging were ‘flaws’ to be ‘fixed’. (In truth, aging is just another word for living.) I believed buying bronzers and serums and spot treatments was ‘self-care’. (In truth, the incredible waste generated by the beauty industry accelerates climate change and all its associated health concerns.) I believed lips should be plump, lashes should be long, and legs should be hairless – and I believed manipulating one’s features to meet this ideal was ‘empowering’. (In truth, these beauty standards stem from the oppressive forces of patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism.)
After a year of publishing these pretty little lies, I had to wonder whether something about the beauty industry was… off. Brands were releasing new ‘skin-healing’ serums daily, but chronic skin issues were on the rise. Consumers were getting laser treatments and lip fillers in record numbers, but appearance anxiety was at an all-time high. The pressure to adhere to the beauty ideal – an ideal that was supposedly more inclusive and accessible than ever before, with the industry pumping out ‘skin-positive’ spot patches, ‘pro-aging’ eye creams, and expanded foundation ranges to the tune of $400 billion in profits per year – was increasingly associated with depression, facial dysmorphia, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, self-harm, and even suicide.
Products were prospering, I realized. But people? People were not.
Suddenly, it was as clear to me as a coat of glass-look lip gloss: of course the industry was thriving at the expense of individuals! The beauty media made most of its money from advertisers (beauty brands) and affiliate sales (beauty products) – and the most reliable way to promote those brands and products (‘try this new resurfacing face mask’) is to put people down (‘your skin should be smoother’).
I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that any more. I wanted to report on how beauty standards harm people, and how corporations capitalize on that harm to meet their quarterly sales goals.
I started by investigating racism in the nail care space. I pitched the story to a dozen publications but was told it would offend advertisers (the, uh, racist nail care companies). I researched the classism of the ‘clean girl aesthetic’ and all the climate-killing consumerism of the shelfie, but couldn’t find an outlet to publish those articles, either. I offered essays on how the male gaze influences makeup, how ‘oil-free’ skincare is a scam, how beauty culture is just dewy diet culture… and the mainstream beauty media told me no, no, no.
That isn’t beauty.
That is publishers sacrificing readers’ skin, self-esteem, and savings accounts — hell, the entire species! — at the altar of the almighty dollar.
That is, frankly, fucked up.
The Unpublishable is my small attempt at unfucking the beauty industry. (And maybe also my way of saying: Sorry I lied!)
To read the full essay and access the rest of Service95’s beauty issue — including a profile of a makeup-wearing monk and an introduction to Guide Beauty, made by and for people with physical disabilities — subscribe here.