Controversial Opinions Post: The Moisturizer I Don’t Like

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that NARS Orgasm is the best blush. Or that Maybelline Great Lash is the best mascara. Or that Laura Mercier has the best tinted moisturizers. You know what I mean: certain products get bestowed with a certain amount of certainty over time, bolstered by their consistent appearance on the beauty pages of fashion magazines or repeated by celebrities in what’s-in-your-purse features or praised by makeup artists pulled onto daytime talk shows to discuss red carpet trends or whatever. But all this does is create one of those snake-eating-its-tail thing, because then people buy it and become committed to also extolling it’s virtues, and then magazines and makeup artists are compelled to keep recognizing its position as best in order to align with the sales stats of these products, which are so inflated because they told people to buy it in the first place! Oh god. My head hurts now. Hopefully you’re still with me.

The problem here is that makeup and skincare is, obviously, a very personal and subjective product that has a lot to do with your own skin type and coloring but also very much to do with time and place. Like, sure, I love NARS Orgasm in theory, but I wouldn’t use it now; I’m not really in the same sparkly place we all were in 2003, I guess, when Mally Roncal was touting J.Lo’s beauty tips to every magazine that would talk to her. Another time we can talk about the incredible early-2000s influence of both Mally Roncal and J.Lo because Jennifer Lopez is one of my most important beauty inspirations and The Wedding Planner is one of the greatest movie makeup jobs of all time and believe me I have a whole other post planned about that.

That was a time for a very shimmery, dewy, sun-kissed look; right now I prefer something more natural and a little more matte. “Myself but better” is basically the driving force behind all my cosmetic decisions. Like, if the point of NARS Orgasm was to make you look like you were all dewy and glow-ey from coming so hard, right now I’d rather look like I’m a little flushed from a really intense make-out, you know what I mean?

ANYWAY. That was my very long preamble to explaining that there are some products out there that have a very intense cult following but there are not always products that I particularly like, and I feel weirdly bad about it?!? Like, for instance, Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrate.

At beauty school we all paid for intense kits equipped with everything a budding makeup artist needed: a really healthy amount of foundations and concealers and lipsticks, that kind of stuff, and then every time we took a more specialized class we added a new batch of products to the kit. Like when we started special effects and we would have to make sure we had sticky blood as well as liquid blood because what if the script called for a fresh wound that dries over time and we only had liquid blood in our kit??? How embarrassing!!

We were heavily encouraged to find our own preferences for the various accoutrements we needed — moisturizers, primers, lip balms, items that prepped the face, basically — but we all more or less ended up buying what our teachers used in their kits. And then we more or less ended up using them ourselves because lol makeup is fun.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè was a total implicit must-have. EVERYONE bought it at the supply store we frequented, a second floor shop above, I think, an Internet cafe, on a very seedy part of the Yonge Street strip. That was the place we went for our Cinema Secrets Moisture Spray and to ask for help in covering a newborn baby with post-birth goo. And I used it in class and on all my clients and all my jobs and I used it for myself and never even once considered if I liked it because that’s just what everyone used.

The teachers always made sure to point out that Embryolisse was French, and while I am très fatiguée of this whole French Women Don’t Get Fat Wrinkles Because They’re Not Helicopter Parents subgenre of self-help books, I am also so in love with the idea of the French pharmacy being a place stocked with all the best skincare products you’ve never even heard of and would like to go to Paris, firstly, to do a tour of all the best drugstores and buy literally all their products and secondly to see the family members who live there, what’s up you guys, literally have not seen you since my bat mitzvah but you will just have to cool it until I’m done shopping. And so Embryolisse does appeal to my snobby better-than-you sensibilities, this is what I’m trying to say.

Last summer I was in New York and impulsively wandered into a Ricky’s, terrible idea, and they had Embyrolisse and I didn’t even think about it, I just threw some money on the cash register and was like, this is mine now. Smelling it for the first time later that night was one of those sensory memory triggers — I immediately remembered how it always got under my fingernails as I was working, how even after I’d scrubbed off all the other paint I could still smell it at the end of a long shoot day or day of classes.

But. Now I hated it. It made me break out!! And it didn’t feel nice!! I found the formula just a bit too rich, a bit too creamy, which is obviously the point; I couldn’t understand how I had ever used it on my own face. But I still WANTED to use it. I just wanted to look at it casually strewn across my bathroom sink, or maybe tossed into an empty Diptyque candle holder, so that when the inevitable happens and my skincare routine is photographed for some shall-remain-nameless-beauty-blog my tastes would align with all the other cool girls who, let’s be real, account for about 60% of all my purchasing decisions.

A huge part of being a makeup artist, or really anyone who works in the fashion/beauty industry, is following the crowds. Because you know what? Very often, when a lot of people like something, it’s because it’s good. I know we’re all supposed to be beautiful unique snowflakes with strong wills etc. and no one likes a lemming, but there are a lot of beauty products out there; there are a lot of different opinions about said beauty products; and there are a lot of people who, presumably, know better than us about what works and what doesn’t. My teachers implicitly pushed Embryolisse on us because it worked best for them and so I was right to trust them, and if I was still a makeup artist I would probably still carry it in my kit, if not use it on my own face.

On the other hand, let’s not forget that when a magazine or makeup artist promotes a certain product or brand, they often work for that brand. Makeup artists have loyalties to the companies that employ them, duh, and magazines survive off the advertising paid for by the brands they promote, double duh. When I was a makeup artist I tried as hard as possible to get work for the brands I actually loved, like NARS or Laura Mercier, and was never hired by those counters; the work I did find was for companies I was largely neutral on, and I would spend those eight-hour shifts faking an enthusiasm for mascaras and lipsticks I had never even tried, and by the end of the day I would have sold myself on the same made-up characteristics I was ascribing to products as I applied them to the faces of teens and moms who cut through the department store on their way to the subway, looking for a quick pick-me-up before heading home. If you’re a person who likes makeup and beauty, you hear the same platitudes so frequently it becomes impossible to not believe them; why would I spend forty hours a week talking about this particular product if I didn’t love it, the part of my brain prone to Stockholm Syndrome would ask in my weaker moments.

I’m like a broken record on this point. There is no such thing as “best” and there is certainly no thing as “worst” in fashion or beauty. There is only what you like and what you think looks good and that is absolutely the end of any conversation about makeup. I love hearing what other people think about their beauty products, and I (clearly) love talking about my beauty products, but the texture and tone of our skin changes over time, trends prioritizes different formulas for different periods, and technologies evolve to offer better choices like every fucking minute. So you know what I’m going to say: this has been a beauty school dropout telling you to buy or not buy whatever dumb cosmetic you like the best and ignore all those best-of most-popular coolest-products list we’re bombarded with everywhere you go. Unless you want to pay attention!! Grown woman, do what you want, etc.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about this weekend. Moisturizers!! I have a lot of feelings about them. How was your weekend? Did your bathroom cabinet inspire any 1500-word diatribes? If so please leave them in the comments.