Girlfriends share everything from dance moves, recipes to skincare. Ask Monica and Rachel or Cher, Dionne and Tai. As a teen, I always fantasized about what it would be like to attend a Grease slumber party a la Pink Ladies. There’d be a musical number featuring Brandy or The Backstreet Boys. There’d be some love-letter writing — with “143” and “TCCIC” and hearts scribbled on loose-leaf paper. More than anything though, what I longed for most was all the beauty stuff: sharing secret makeup tips, hair struggles and skin woes. There is a vulnerability associated with these moments that somehow bring you closer to others — and I longed for that as a young woman.
The Breakfast Club
Although I didn’t exactly get my Pink Ladies night, my beauty practices have largely been shaped by those around me. Aside from family, the first people I learned skincare tips from were my friends. In my social group, it was the girl who was first to wear bold liner and studded belts—think: Allison in The Breakfast Club—who doled out remedies she’d learned to get rid of our nonexistent eye bags or prevent boy-repelling pimples from emerging. (Applying aspirin to the skin was one of many DIY remedies, but it was a secret kept amongst girls because the boys couldn’t know this info.)
Middle school and high school opened the door to skincare exploration—which involved a lot of Proactiv and Neutrogena—I was thrown for a loop to discover skin care was more of an afterthought in college.
Bonding moments involved late nights and weekends in Brooklyn, going to random warehouse parties and ending the night sleeping on (or in) a stranger’s bed.
My friends and I didn’t talk about our skin concerns because at the time, we were more concerned with our ongoing identity crises (and passing our classes). During these years, I kept my skincare ritual to myself.
I thought having a skincare routine that involved more than my CeraVe face wash and Olay moisturizer wasn’t the norm. College life wasn’t conducive to lavish skincare. Most of us were broke, lost and trying to just get through it.
This, however, quickly began to change once we entered the workforce.
The “Real World”: Workplace Sexism, Sheet Masks and Self-Care
Being fully in the real world inevitably led to conversations about how to present ourselves in order to land our first job. Sporting the bedhead-and-sweatpants look may’ve been acceptable in college, but not for someone breaking into the world of fashion and beauty PR. Now, proper grooming was a necessity to accompany the typical all-black publicist’s uniform. Aside from the black attire, minimal makeup and a fresh face was my go-to look.
But with the high-paced job came stress-induced breakouts — and revisiting my dermatologist. The one consolation? Being surrounded by women experiencing the same challenges, blemishes or otherwise. Sharing the same struggles made it easy to get along. We first vented about things like cranky colleagues and our crazy overtime hours, but these discussions eventually led to deep talk about skin care. Should we start using an eye cream regularly to cover up the fact that we’re always tired? Which ones should we try? Do we really need to start using a neck cream?
On top of that, as women in corporate environments, traumatic, enraging or stressful experiences became increasingly common.
Divulging the microaggressive, sexist encounters with a colleague or job negotiation gone sour eventually led to talks on how to take care of yourself — skin included.
We swapped tips on how to “treat yo’self.” For one of my birthdays, a friend gave me a set of TONYMOLY I’m Real sheet masks to combat one of the most stressful work months I faced. (Although the gift of skin care can be a risky one, it’s totally appropriate when it’s among close friends.)
My Girlfriends Are Getting Skincare Savvy as We Get Older and Wiser
Forming the Skincare Circle of Trust
In the pilot episode of the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, there’s a scene where Midge sneaks out of bed while her husband is still asleep. She tiptoes into the bathroom to complete her nighttime ritual. She removes her fake lashes, washes off her makeup, sets her hair in curlers and applies a mask before returning to bed. Having opened one of the blinds a smidgen, the sun finally creeps in just enough to wake her from slumber in the morning so she can again slink out of bed, wash her face, remove her curlers, apply her makeup and lashes and creep back into bed. Moments later her husband’s alarm goes off. He awakens to find his “sleeping” beauty beside him.
I mention this scene because it highlights the vulnerability associated with not only your personal beauty rituals, but also allowing others to witness or partake in it. A lot has changed since the ‘50s, but the private life behind a woman’s beauty still exists. There are many things only my most trusted girlfriends are privy to — insecurities, past trauma, embarrassing sex stories, and as mundane it may seem in comparison, skincare is also one of those secrets.
Behind my seemingly put-together look is a frantic call to my friend about how to erase the gigantic stress-induced zit on my nose before a client meeting. Behind a picturesque wedding is a group text on how to flatten puffy under-eye bags. Behind a brave cross-country move is an earnest request for a new moisturizer that can beat the unfamiliar humidity. These are things I’ll always go to my friends for, not Facebook.
While skin care has become a coping mechanism to help deal with the stress of today’s political climate (despite others referring to it as a con), there’s something to be said about the way beauty routines evolve in relation to our friendships and what that symbolizes.
As we continue to hit pivotal milestones in our lives, our friends are often there with us sharing in those experiences. While some of these relationships may slowly fade as the years go on, the way in which we approach skincare often parallels where we are with those who are closest to us, our friends.