what is make-up rehab?
It’s big on Reddit right now, and could have an impact on the future.
u/cowboyprincess12345 via Reddit
The beauty world is built on mass consumption. It thrives on Instagram flatlays of mega make-up collections, revels in #shelfies showing bathroom cabinets fuller than our fridges and is driven by the undeniable thrill of that first finger dip into a new tub of moisturiser. More is more is more. But what if the very people causing the 24-hour foundation sellouts and frenzy over new lip kit launches call it quits? Well, over on Reddit, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
Enter r/MakeupRehab. Inspired by the wave of conscious consumption affecting everything from our fashion tastes to our food choices, this forum is a haven for beauty lovers wishing to repent for their years of excessive make-up purchasing, and develop more responsible habits for the benefit of their wallets -- and the planet.
Most of them are graduates of r/MakeupAddiction, and have spent years stanning beauty brands and their weekly product launches. The beauty equivalent of queuing for the latest Palace drop, these make-up obsessives join waiting lists to pre-order the newest eyeshadow palettes and lip glosses just to (by their own admission) wear them a few times before filing away in their jam-packed Muji storage. But as the growing conversation surrounding mass consumerism shines a light on their own make-up habits as part of the problem, they’re ready to change their ways.
“Of course, it’s obvious, but when you’re caught up in the consumerism cycle you don’t really realise it, or maybe you’re pushing it out of your head to justify buying more. But none of us need more of this shit,” writes one r/MakeupRehab user.
To break the cycle, these Redditors set themselves spending limits or go completely cold turkey with a shopping ban, and then coach each other through the weaning process. The main aim is to use what you have instead of buying more, and as such, their advice spans the practical, like how to hack beauty products for different purposes, to the psychological, like how to regain control when things start to spiral. For example, the forum recently talked one user down from a Sephora-splurge ledge.
But anyone that’s tried to give up something knows that sometimes you need more than just willpower and a wise word, so these Redditors have come up with creative, albeit drastic, solutions to curb their spending. Take u/Leiasedai for example. She’s blocked the beauty websites she usually shops on to remove temptation, while u/cowboyprincess12345 has swatched all of her eye shadow shades in her bullet journal so she can spot the genuine gaps in her collection. Others have created crazy-detailed spreadsheets to track the usage of their existing make-up. Only once u/sociallizzy uses so much of a product that its cost per usage drops to $0.50 will she be satisfied she’s got her money’s worth.
Things get pretty mind-blowing with u/deidresm’s data visualisation of her entire eye shadow collection, which she claims stops her from re-buying similar shades to ones she already owns. “My main focus is on being more thoughtful about my purchases,” she told i-D. “I found that playing with make-up was cutting into my programming time and vice versa, so it was one way to accomplish both goals at the same time.” She also says her visualisation helps her pull together certain looks and cut down the time she spends trawling through her collection every morning.
It may seem a little extreme, but this behaviour does build on a growing discomfort around excess in the beauty community. Although the first is thought to have been posted in 2015 by Kimberly Clark, Anti-Haul YouTube videos reached fever pitch last year. Subverting the standard haul format, rather than sharing the glut of new buys from big shopping sprees, these videos show YouTubers talking about the products they’re not forking out for that month -- whether that’s because they’re crap, a duplicate of something they already own or simply not worth the money.
Then came ‘Pan Porn’, the unusual beauty fetish born on this Reddit feed, whose users get their kicks by using so much of their make-up products that they start to see the silver pan underneath. The internet rose up when influencers started to smash up make-up palettes and chop up lipsticks in the name of video entertainment. And this past weekend, while some of us elbowed our way towards discounted trainers, support grew for Black Friday boycotts such as International Buy Nothing Day. It’s official: buying less is the new buying more.
“Global sustainability movements are encouraging more mindful spending habits,” says Chrissy Hilton-Gee, Trend Manager at market forecasting agency Trendstop. “This is influencing an anti-excess drive as conscious consumption is becoming mainstream. We’re increasingly exposed to waste-guilt, a result of the media’s constant reminder to make more considered choices.” By buying fewer beauty products, these consumers talk not only of rejecting consumption-oriented culture, but also of reducing the pressure on the environment caused by excessive beauty purchasing. Or purchasing of any kind, for that matter.
Chrissy sees links with the current ASMR craze, too. “There’s nothing more satisfying than the physical tangibility of scraping the bottom of a bottle and this sensory pleasure taps directly into the fundamental attraction of make-up and beauty.” Get your thrills and save the planet? Great!
But will beauty brands finally wise up and cool it on the relentless product drops? Chrissy thinks they should. “Marketing product by focusing on function and purpose rather than just visual aesthetic will help brands establish themselves as a long-term investment,” she advises. “Considering the long-term use in product development is a sustainable practice that taps directly into this.”
While we wait on that, maybe technology will save us? Chrissy calls out beauty app Nailbuff, which works in a similar way to the makeshift spreadsheets and data visualisations shared in r/MakeupRehab. “This next generation app encourages more mindful spending by promoting new nail polish colours, but also tracks similar past purchases to avoid waste.” Okay, it’s only really useful for nail polish purveyors, but it does lay the path for future innovations in this area.
As for now, you might not feel the urge to log the contents of your make-up bag onto a Google doc, but these make-up rehabbers are onto something. Yes, we should be allowed to replenish our moisturiser and buy a new lipstick every once in a while without feeling riddled with gut-wrenching guilt, but if we applied a little more careful consideration the next time we click ‘add to basket’ and used what we have before buying more, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to help turn this ship around.