There is no denying that beauty culture is in right now. If your Instagram feed looks anything like mine, you’ll know that it’s more or less impossible to scroll through it without coming across some shiny charcoal mask selfies, Glossier hauls, or aspirational medicine cabinet shots. I like this! Skincare is something that feels more sustainable and accessible to me than makeup, so I’m glad that 2017 seems to be giving it its moment in the sun.
And, obviously, one of my favorite parts of skincare being in right now is finding out how celebrities do theirs. Beauty blog Into the Gloss published a piece with Emma Watson this week for their “Top Shelf” feature, a column in which notable people share their skincare regimen. Emma Watson’s is revealing in a lot of ways–she tries to only use organic products, takes up to three baths a day, and uses fur oil on her pubes!–but one of the things that caught my eye is when she gave a shoutout to Jolen Creme Bleach, which she uses to bleach the hair on her upper lip. About it, she said, “I bleach my top lip and tweeze my eyebrows and you’d never get to see that, even though it’s a part of my routine. There’s still so much shame around the things you do to get ready while you’ve got a towel wrapped around your head. It’s important to me not to edit that out. I’ve been bleaching my top lip since I was nine.”
I don’t want to call Emma Watson brave for talking about this–the bland taboo of a ludicrously privileged white woman talking about the upper lip bleach she uses is far from the first societal barrier that needs to be broken down–but it’s pretty cool that she did. Presenting as feminine in the way that is commonly thought of as being acceptable–that is, hairless, poreless, and shiny, like a dolphin–requires labor. This labor can be cute and sometimes even aesthetically pleasing, when it comes in the form of face mask selfies and Glossier serums that you see on Instagram, but most of the time, the labor required to be beautiful is anything but. It is not ugly, per se, but it can be painful (if you’ve ever used bleach on your upper lip, you’ll know what I’m talking about), and it certainly is messy in a way that does not feel conducive to traditional femininity. So, when someone talks about it, or is caught doing it, it’s accompanied by at least a little bit of shame.
Of course, this is not to say that you have to put in this labor yourself. Your worth is not determined by any hair you may have on your upper lip, whether it’s bleached or not. But since women and girls are often expected to put in labor to make themselves presentable to society, it’s unfair that much of this labor–upper lip bleaching, laser hair removal, waxing–is shrouded in stigma. So, when someone who is more or less the picture of conventional attractiveness talks about the work they do to be that way, it’s an important reminder that being effortlessly beautiful in the conventional sense is pretty much impossible for everyone. Even Emma Watson. So, check out these beauty things you probably think are gross, but a lot more people than you think have done at one point or another:
1. Bleaching your upper lip:
Very few people put it on Instagram, but it gets the job done.
2. Laser hair removal:
It’s painful, expensive, and feels like surgery!
Also painful, expensive, and feels like surgery. Effective! But not pretty,
4. Shaving your legs before you hit puberty:
Shaving your legs as, say, a sixteen-year-old? Sure. That’s fine. But a lot of people start sporting hairier legs by fourth grade (or earlier), which means that they get made fun of for having hairy legs by fourth grade or earlier. This would be fine–just, shave, it’s whatever–but there’s a weird stigma against girls shaving before other people think that they should, since shaving legs is usually seen as a sign of maturity. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
5. Having your eyebrows waxed, not shaped:
People love to talk about getting their eyebrows shaped, but not so much anything that involves removing copious amounts of hair.
6. Waxing sideburns:
You know, I think the more painful something is, the more you’re expected not to talk about it.
7. Waxing anywhere on your face:
Upper lip, chin, full face. A lot of people do it! No one really talks about it.
8. Bikini waxes:
Bikini waxing doesn’t carry quite as much stigma as facial waxing, but it’s still not something that most people would have a before and after picture of them doing, since the admission of having pubic hair at all as a woman is (unfortunately) a pretty radical act. Publicly acknowledging a bikini wax means that you’re publicly acknowledging your pubes, so most people don’t.
9. Shaving your pubes:
Again–not exactly an Instagram moment.
10. Doing anything to your pubes, tbh:
Waxing them is weird. Shaving them is weird. Leaving them as is is weird. I mean, not really–pubic hair is totally natural, and what you decide to do with them is your decision–but if you were to casually drop that you use, something like Fur Oil in public, you’d probably get some weird looks.
11. Plucking your body hair:
A lot of people have some hair around their nipples. And knuckles. And pretty much anywhere on the body. If you do, too, you don’t have to pluck it, but a lot of people do, and there’s nothing weird or shameful about it.
12. Spray tanning:
Spray tanning isn’t quite as taboo as some of the other things on this list. But it directly counteracts the idea that a woman’s beauty should be totally natural and her tan should only come from the UV rays that can also give you skin cancer, I guess, which is why you hear a lot of jokes about spray tanning.
13. Wearing extensions:
Same goes with hair–if you have extensions or a weave, and its tracks somehow get exposed, this automatically makes you feel like the butt of a joke.
14. Using concealer anywhere but your face:
Maybe you have, like, a gnarly zit on your back and you want to wear a backless dress. You don’t have to cover it up, but doing so would make you feel better, why shouldn’t you?
15. Using heavy-duty foundation:
A lot of people who post about skincare on Instagram tout things like BB creams and skin tints, which are basically just very lightly-tinted moisturizers. If you have nearly perfect skin, these should work just fine for you. But if you have cystic acne, severely uneven skin, or another skin condition, a lightweight skin gel just isn’t going to work. This is fine! Lots of people use heavy-duty foundation.
But the prevalence of BB creams and skin tints often makes it feel as though using anything more heavy-duty indicates something akin to personal failure or self-loathing. Which, you know, it doesn’t–it just means that you use a heavier foundation. And, again, that’s fine.
Do you do any of these things? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!