I have only two beauty products that I truly swear by.
The first, A313 Pommade, is a retinoid, that exalted derivation of vitamin A that dermatologists celebrate as the perfect skin panacea. There is nothing luxurious about A313. It’s actually a little gross. It comes in an inelegant metal tube, it smells like nothing, and it has the thick, greasy texture of vaseline. If you apply it to anything other than perfectly clean, totally dry skin, it will itch like crazy, but other than that it’s easy to use. You just smear this viscous, sticky gunk all over your face, neck and décolletage (that’s French for "upper tit region"). I even apply it to the delicate skin under my eyes. Of all the retinoids I’ve ever used, from prescription Differin to ultra-millennial mail-order start-up brands like Curology, it’s hands-down the best — no contest whatsoever. It has never broken me out or even given me the dreaded “Retinoid Uglies” like every other retinoid has. When I use it regularly, it leaves my skin bright, dewy and baby-smooth.
The second product is Hexomedine Transcutanée, which I use for the sort of hormonal breakouts everyone used to tell me I would stop getting by now. (Alas, I remain afflicted with all the youthful traits of fecundity.) Hexomedine is equally lacking in luxury. It comes in a squat little jar and stinks like rubbing alcohol. You dot it on your spots with a q-tip (also works on ingrown hairs), and in one to two days, they are gone. It is the only pimple product that has ever worked for me.
Both of these products are over-the-counter French drugstore brands that would run you a few Euro if you lived in a more civilized country, because skincare is what the French have instead of a space program. This is why the packaging for both is sterile and artless, and why they have names that sound like chemotherapy drugs. But that is fine, because I do not use skincare products to "treat myself," in the sense of splurging on perfume or a fancy cocktail, I use skincare products to treat myself, as if my lack of beauty is an irritating (if minor) health affliction to be treated, medically.
There are two warring approaches to beauty: luxury and science. As someone who has paid judgmental Russian women to shoot lasers at my face (improves clarity and texture) and spent more than I’d like to admit on what is (mostly cosmetic) dentistry, I favor the latter.
The $532 billion beauty industry is bloated and decadent, not because a bit of harmless vanity isn’t a god-given right, but because a ton of what they sell doesn’t do shit. This isn’t to say consumers are suckers. We’re all aware that some "treatments" aren’t so much cosmetic interventions as they are therapeutic "self-care" (does that quartz crystal facial roller actually “support lymphatic drainage”? Probably not, but it feels cold and soothing and nice). And of course we enjoy a little novelty; it’s fun to try new things!
However, a huge percentage of beauty industry profits is snake oil, products often endorsed by extremely hot women (paid spokesmodels and beauty civilians alike), who sometimes truly believe that it’s the cream or serum that’s making them hot, rather than their enviable genetics and/or healthy, wealthy lifestyles. (If you are a Gwyneth, good for you; I am more of a Dorothy Parker.) These Genetic Lottery Winners and/or Clean Living Hot Girls are the bane of normal women’s existence, always leading us down wrong paths and dead ends, even if inadvertently, as we continue our desperate search for confidence and desirability. Hot Girl beauty recommendations are almost never to be trusted.
Skincare is what the French have instead of a space program.
This is why we, as a society of people wishing to be reasonably attractive, must turn to the French. We obviously can’t trust the beauty industry, and with privatized medicine in the US, we can’t even always trust dermatologists. But we sure as hell can’t take skincare advice from perfectly symmetrical nalgene vegans who have never left the house without SPF. We must look to the women who have socialized healthcare, yes, but who also eat carbs, fatty cheeses, red meat, and chocolate, women who chain smoke, and who might drink a bottle of red wine in a night. These are the women that know that skincare exists to repair the damage of a life well-lived. And that takes medical science.
This is not to say I am totally averse to purely aesthetic cosmetic indulgences; I love a matte lip with a stealthy overline to correct what I, in my less secure moments, have convinced myself is a Picasso-esque facial asymmetry. You’ll rarely see me without a gel manicure these days. And while I would never invest in latisse (it can change your eye color?!?), I do sometimes get fake lashes, for that sexy Diana-Ross-Disney-cartoon look. These are all enjoyable vanities, but they do not rise to the urgency and seriousness of French skincare.
Under socialism, of course, beauty will be highly scientificized and regulated. Drugstores might have a Makeup Section and even a Bullshit Beauty Section, but they will definitely have a state-approved, peer-reviewed, scientifically vetted Medical Beauty Section, where rows of ugly bottles and tubes with cumbersome names can be trusted to actually do what the doctors say they will do. Because the age of luxury skincare is over, and the age of hotness science is nigh.