Beautiful Brains: The Cultivation of Need (& a Project 10 Pan Update)

On April 12th I embarked upon the infamous Project 10 Pan in hopes of clearing out old, unloved products, making way for future natural beauty purchases, and buckling down on my spending. How am I doing just 2 weeks in? I have actually started to finish up products a lot more quickly than I had anticipated. In fact, I have already hit 10...this is probably because I was already close to pan on some products and that I decided to include deluxe and travel sized products in the project as well. The next time I do a Project 10 Pan, I do not think that I will count these smaller sized products, but for a first go at this I am glad to be rid of all of those random little containers cluttering up my bathroom and makeup drawer. Since it is only 2 weeks in and several are deluxe sized products, I am going to keep up with Project 10 Pan for a while longer.

Using up that last little dusting of loose powder and that final squeeze of conditioner is indeed satisfying. However, this satisfaction does not always curb the desire to bring home some hauls from the store. I will be honest: I caved. A few days ago I placed an order with Zoya for their Nail Polish Earth Day Exchange, which ends April 27th. I justified my purchase by telling myself that this sale was an opportunity to get rid of old polishes in an environmentally friendly way and replace them with half-priced Zoya ones which are free of harmful chemicals. Of course, this is all true, but the bigger reason is that I totally succumbed to product lust. Did I need more nail polish? Nope, but I sure as hell wanted it...bad.

But let's consider that my polish binge might not simply be a moment of personal weakness but perhaps part of a huge capitalist beauty industry machine that is really good at inspiring consumers to hand over their cash. Of course, I am certainly accountable in important ways- I decided to shop the Zoya site, pick out 9 shades (which are gorgeous, but that is beside the  point here), and enter my credit card info. Yet, my individuals decisions, options, and desires are under the supreme influence of the beauty industry. I call this the cultivation of need.

The cultivation of need happens in a variety of ways. First, consumer culture promotes the notion that we are what we purchase. We often use the products we consume to display what kind of person we are. Brands are totally in on this, and cater to certain identities and niche markets. Are you an Urban Decay kind of girl or MAC? Hot Topic or American Eagle? Where we shop and what we buy has a lot to do with how we construct and communicate our identities. Secondly, I feel like the beauty cosmos knew that I started Project 10 Pan, because every time I open my mailbox or check my email I am bombarded by advertisements and tempting coupons. On the daily, Sephora, Ulta, Hautelook, Cherry Culture, among others of my frequently shopped beauty supply sources reveal new products and offer limited-time discount codes. My point is that the beauty industry is incredibly provocative and cunning in that it has mastered the ability to make their consumers feel elite in the interest of reaping profit. For instance, we can be Beauty Insiders at Sephora, indicating that we are the privilege lot that has special access to sweet deals and exclusive products. Moreover, limited time offers and coupons and limited edition shades and collections convince us that we must buy now. Rationally, sales will come again, and MAC will always have future collections, and dupes are pretty easy to find. Yet this marketing ploy creates a sense of necessity and urgency in buyers. Lastly, the cultivation of need often constructs a problem for or insecurity in the consumer, and then offers a solution to this problem or insecurity in the form of a product. We feel like we need a particular product, although we may have others already that perform similarly. Our needs and desires, if we aren't being critically aware and conscious consumers, are largely constructed by the beauty industry.

Am I saying that us beauty fiends are victims here? Certainly not. But sometimes we are blissfully ignorant. We hand over our credit cards willfully, but it is worth taking a minute to step back to take a hard look at the beauty industry that we support. It is really easy to get sucked in and completely consumed by the beauty industry. Does this mean that our whole lives should be a giant Project 10 Pan-like spending ban? No. But I think we could benefit from becoming more critical and thoughtful consumers.

On a lighter note, what polishes did you pick up during Zoya's exchange? I grabbed 9: Creamy, Marley, Jancyn, Dove, Gaia, Faith, Willow, Buffy, and Casey.

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