The Beauty Reporter Dismantling The Industry One Article At A Time
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 fibre 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 ageing were ‘flaws’ to be ‘fixed’. (In truth, ageing is just another word for living.) I believed buying bronzers, 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-ageing’ eye creams, and expanded foundation ranges to the tune of $400billion in profits per year – was increasingly associated with depression, facial and body dysmorphia, eating disorders, self-harm, and even suicide.
Products were prospering, I realised. 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’ – was 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 capitalise on that harm to meet their 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 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.
So I quit. I created my own newsletter, The Unpublishable: a place for all the beauty-critical content that mainstream beauty publications can’t, won’t or don’t cover (including all the articles I mentioned above) – whether that’s to appease advertisers, preserve brand relationships, or cling to the outdated ideals and marketing myths that keep consumers consuming.
In the two years since, The Unpublishable has grown into a collective of nearly 30,000 readers exploring a pro-people, low-product approach to aesthetics – because the truth is, beauty shouldn’t decimate your skin, your self-esteem, or your savings account.
Jessica DeFino is a freelance beauty reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Allure and more. She is the writer of the beauty-critical newsletter The Unpublishable