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The Ritual of Skincare: On Self-Love and Modern Magic

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To me, the health and vitality of my skin is imperative. Have I been indoctrinated into the cult of beauty that Western society has foisted upon me and millions of other women? The beauty industry specifically indicates to women that their skin must be flawless, dewy, blemish free, and ageless. Even in Elizabethan England, centuries ago, women were expected to powder and rouge their faces.

Historically, makeup was made with lovely poisons like arsenic, lead, and mercury. Even Queen Elizabeth doused herself in ghostly white powder, lest she show her crumbling and greying face. Her physical condition was a symptom of poisoning due to her heavy makeup use. Women were literally dying for their beauty all the way through the Victorian era.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England 1558-1603.


Advertisement for Ammett’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers, 1890’s.

Hands damaged by arsenic dyes, lithography from an 1859 medical journal. Credit to Wellcome Library.

Modern standards aren’t as pernicious and, luckily for us, not as deadly. Instead, skincare is designed to plump, soften, resurface, and hide our humanity and our lives which are represented by the age and wear of our faces. But what if skincare could be weaponized; what if we could make it magic? Taken away from the beauty industry and into the hands of women, femmes, and witches alike, to craft into something both figuratively and literally protective.

In skincare I found something to love about myself. My teenage years were blessed with mild breakouts, soft rosy cheeks, and perfectly smooth skin. When I turned 19 I was amidst a troubled and violent relationship. My face gave way to gnarled, angry, and painful cystic acne. For the next four years, my life was a churning maelstrom of self-hatred and countless useless skincare products. The only relief I found was hormonal intervention by way of birth control. When the storm that was my acne finally cleared, my skin was yet another horrible reminder of my past relationship, my own struggle with mental illness, and of course, my acne.

I threw myself headfirst into loving myself about two years ago. I moved from the desolate and lonely Midwest, where I had lived for two years, plopped myself in Seattle, and promptly fell in love. In finding someone who loved to love me, I learned to love myself. The first thing that changed in my life was my skincare, oddly enough. I banished the products boasting of their ‘powerful ingredients’ and promising effectiveness. I pored over countless articles and books about the best, most gentle way to treat and love my skin.

I lucked into a job with a certain naturally inspired cosmetics company that is a powerhouse in the bath bomb industry, and the rest was history. I found comfort in things like rose oil, honey, moringa oil, and banana. They were gentle to my skin and brought about such restorative effects. Things that seem so banal, and edible, to the everyday consumer absolutely fascinated me. Learning about emulsifying ingredients, soothing components, and the magic of products free of synthetic preservatives pushed me even further into the craft.

My second Christmas season with LUSH, November 2015.

My skincare routines always center around focusing my intent towards self-love and preservation. I use products rich in cold-pressed juices and oils, fresh citruses and soothing florals. The products I tend to use come from my job at, you guessed it, LUSH Cosmetics. Not only do I have a pretty sizable discount, I find that the simple but effective products work best for skin. I don’t want to hunt through ingredient lists searching aimlessly for one or two natural ingredients, and almost all of LUSH’s quantitative ingredients are natural. This fact makes LUSH the evident winner, thusly I use their products more than any other brand.

My day starts with freshly made, lather free, mildly polishing cleanser with natural exfoliants like ground polenta, almond meal, even finely milled sugar. I usually prefer Let the Good Times Roll Face Cleanser, as it hydrates my face with luxurious corn oil. Most days I will smother my face in a protective mask of honey, fresh papaya, and rose, called The Sacred Truth. Not only does it hydrate and invigorate my skin, but its intention is placed like a protective crown upon my brow. My moisturizer is always thick and nourishing, willing me to be soft but independent throughout my day. I use the moisturizer Gorgeous,¬†and though it’s the most expensive product LUSH has to offer, the formula contains products like Queen of Hungary Water, better known as rosemary-infused vodka. Its given name was derived from a Hungarian queen whose fascination with its toning and anti-aging properties was clearly enough to be named for her. Gorgeous also contains myrrh resinoid, a vital ingredient in Egypt’s mummification process.

These products won’t work for everyone. And that’s not how skincare should work. We are all individuals, and if we are so profoundly different from one another, why do we continue to treat society’s faces like they all need the same products? It’s why I encourage everyone to learn what your specific skin needs and loves. The magic of skincare not only lies within the ingredients, but in the intrinsic connection between our own chemical makeup and nature. To learn your skin like you know your own palette for food is essential to unlocking the magic within skin care products. Start small, maybe learn to brew your own masks, serums, and oils. View your work like a ritual. Place purpose in the properties which will not only enrich your physical body, but feed the love you have within yourself. Make magic of the mundane, something as routine as cleansing your face, can transform your own self esteem and bring power to part of your life in which you feel you have tenuous control.

Skincare obsession is not for everyone. For me it brings about empowerment and strength in my life and in my beauty regimen. I will always be armed with this knowledge, and it has surely become a craft for me. Through the physical protection of skincare, I will protection to the aspects of myself that are more than skin deep. I encourage every darkling of every kind to follow me into the realm of what I now like to call Skin-craft. Let knowledge be your guide and never let your thirst be quenched.

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About The Author

With a love of all things morbid, Leah Isabelle has tucked herself away deep in the Olympic Forest of the Pacific Northwest. She delights in horror comics, being Death positive, Halloween as a religion, and worshipping Peter Steele. You can follow her on IG here.

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