‘Better Than Sex’ and Other Beauty Product Lies

I like to think I am somewhat impervious to the hawking of overpriced beauty products. But every now and then I find myself in a Sephora-type place and within five minutes, a small part of me almost believes that I’d be prettier if I spend $100 on lip gloss made from the stingers of Alabama honey bee or eye cream crafted from the sperm of Norwegian whales. (Beauty products are so geography specific these days).

I went to the ridiculously crowded Sephora in Soho with some friends a few months ago. My first problem with Sephora is that while they do try to keep germ-spreading somewhat at bay by placing out lots of clean Q-tips and cotton blobs with which to test makeup, there are inevitably girls who say “Germs be damned!” and coat their lips with lipstick from a tube that has been used by dozens of other people, or stick their fingers into a palette of eyeshadow and smear it on their own eyes. Sephora is basically the most fragrant and colorful petri dish in existence. But heck, my friends were busy looking for the perfect shade of red lipstick and some undereye concealer, and I did need a new mascara for my puny lashes. So when an employee with footlong lashes asked if I needed help with anything, I asked what mascara she was wearing.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed gleefully. “It’s called ‘Better than Sex’ and it is.”

I was incredulous. But those women who work at Sephora, they really do love makeup, and their endorsements of products seem so earnest. So I bought “Better than Sex” and you know what? It’s fucking goop that I gloppity glop onto my eyelashes. If homegirl thinks that is better than sex, well, she deserves my sympathy, but instead I gave her $24 for a stinky tube of mascara. I left with three different nail polishes on various fingers and blush on my cheeks that looked like a rash.

A few weeks ago, I was picking up a prescription at my neighborhood Duane Reed (which is actually Walgreens, but they call it Duane Reed in Manhattan). Anyways, the Duane Reed near my apartment has a whole fancy makeup and skin product section and all the ladies who work there used to work for Sephora. I couldn’t say no to the lure of a “mini facial” that was being offered for free. Every time a “beauty consultant,” let’s call them, asks me what I currently use to wash my face with/as foundation/for lipstick, no matter what I respond with, the look on the beauty consultant’s face is akin to if I had responded “Industrial strength lye and a little street dirt for exfoliation.” Whatever I use is not just wrong, but potentially deadly. Anyways, she rubbed some expensive Swiss products on my face and then held up a mirror and asked “Do you see how your skin has a luminosity it didn’t have before?” I wanted to point out that maybe that had something to do with the blinding overhead light,  but instead I said “Oh yes, it does look glowy.” I did not, however, buy $60 face cream. I did, however, buy my usual $5 exfoliating face wash and when the girl who had done my facial spotted me walking around with it, she politely informed me that washing my face with that product was the same as picking up rubbing a handful of sharp pebbles all over my face.

I do believe in paying for quality when it’s warranted, I just haven’t yet found the “you get what you pay for” to be true with beauty products. With wine and cheese…that’s a whole other story. With beauty products, it’s all razzle dazzle in the store, with all the fancy ads and the hard sell about the rare ingredients in the beauty product (a sales girl at an Israeli beauty store recently grabbed my hand on the street and tried to pull me in to a store so she could wash my hands with diamonds. Diamonds!!!) But then when you get home, the stuff you spent too much money on seems to be just be run-of-the-mill face cream or lipstick and not so fancy after all. But maybe I just need better bathroom lighting.

I suppose the moral of this blog is that beauty doesn’t come in a jar. Or that sex doesn’t come in a tube of mascara. Or possibly that we should all avoid stress triggers as much as possible, and clearly one of mine is beauty product stores. Thank goodness for Amazon.

To beauty (although probably not to beauty products),


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