Beauty Memes, Role Reversals & Self-Care

Matt Klein
On Advertising
Published in
4 min readNov 2, 2022

--

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a sea change across beauty subreddits, revealing a complex sentiment shift.

Consumers are fed up with the social pressures, countless product releases, and double-standards. This isn’t that new of an insight. Two years since lockdowns and sweatpants, a return to “normal beauty standards” is questioned. Why go back?

But what is new: Absurdist, self-deprecating humor is being used to call out the unfairness across the women’s beauty sector. Half-joking, men’s routines are now seen as aspirational.

Historically, beauty has rarely been a laughing matter. Traditional standards have treated beauty as a solemn topic: mature, steely, seductive. But now, memes are flurrying discussion threads.

These jabs don’t just hit hard because they’re harsh, unspoken, shared cultural truths, but because poking fun at beauty has long been taboo. It wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t real.

But the humor here isn’t he full story. Memes are masking something more serious beneath the foundation.

Within r/30PlusSkincare, a subreddit subscribed to by nearly half a million redditors, there’s been a +73% growth of mentions of “I’m over it” and “exhaustion” YoY. Meanwhile, mentions of “too much” or “too many” are up +187% since 2019.

Exhausted from endless waves of product pushes, rotating routine rituals, algorithmic influencer testimonials, holes in pockets, and largely ineffective results, droves of makeup buyers are getting fed up.

Mentions of “K-Beauty or Asian Beauty” and “experimenting” are down -48% and -40% YoY respectfully in r/30PlusSkincare, while mentions of “routine or regime” are also down -62% since 2019 in r/SkincareAddiction… Burnout is foretold in the data.

The ethos of Fast Fashion has spilled over into beauty: Fast Beauty. But not all are buying it.

Skepticism is setting in. While influences of the west and K-Beauty trends downwards, gender binaries blur in the east. Do we even need differentiated products? Is this new release any better? How duped are we?

Further, as teens and young adults think twice about manufactured online appearances, there’s consequently less pressure to put on a face. “Skinimalism” now reigns queen. #NoFilter

This exhaustion is a reckoning for beauty brands. However, it’s not a lost opportunity.

Coincidentally, mentions of “skincare” are up +317% in r/AskMen since 2019. There’s been an awakening.

As women look to men’s routines for inspiration, men are looking back at women’s. The inspiration is mutual.

A fresh swap of priorities is emerging. And this swap is being driven by the same prioritization: self-care.

For women, that means less obsession, and for men, that means more attentiveness towards their body’s needs.

On average, over half of men have admitted to quietly using their partner’s skincare products. Meanwhile, women have been mentioning “men” +73% more in r/Beauty since 2019.

Men want what women have.

And women want what men have.

Ultimately, what these shifts reveal is a future of blended health and beauty. This is beyond just health-conscious ingredients, but a mindfulness of the tie between aesthetics and wellness. From thinking about the outside, to now: inside.

As gender binaries are rightfully questioned, gender expectations will fade. Beauty will become deconstructed: male beauty and female beauty will blur to simply thrive as beauty… or rather, just self-care.

Mental health plays a clear role here. With an anxiety crisis abound, the self becomes prioritized over the audience. How we feel about ourself is just as important than how we look to others.

Wellness is what’s beautiful.

From: Self-Deprecation in Beauty

To: Self-Care in Beauty

Only once we feel good, can we then feel confident.

And after all, isn’t that what the beauty industrial complex sells?

Matt Klein is a cultural theorist and strategist analyzing the psychosocial implications of our technology to consult on business decisions.

--

--

Matt Klein
On Advertising

Cultural Theorist + CyberPsychologist + Strategist. Foresight Lead at Reddit. Newsletter analyzing the overlooked: ZINE.KleinKleinKlein.com