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 • Opinion  • Columnists  • The Beauty Debrief  • Let’s Be Honest: We Have an Overconsumption Problem in Beauty 

Let’s Be Honest: We Have an Overconsumption Problem in Beauty 

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Main image – Sergefilimonov/Stocksy

Welcome to The Beauty Debrief where beauty editor and nail tech Tori Crowther shares her musings on the latest beauty trends, buzzy treatments and misinformation. Today, she’s exploring hyperconsumerism in beauty; looking into how social media, haul culture and unrealistic routines could be perpetuating the industry’s problem. 

I’m going to go ahead and say it: Newness in beauty right now is the definition of reinventing the wheel in an effort to make us buy, buy, buy. 

Count how many lip balms/oils/glosses/sticks you’ve got stashed in your various bags, possibly your car, probably your desk desk, I’m guessing also your bedside table, oh and a couple of your coats or jackets for good measure. Go on… count ‘em. There are probably more than you can fit in your palm, right? 

I know this is certainly the case for me. Granted I’m a beauty editor so it’s literally my job to have and try beauty products, and I also get them for free. But that aside, I definitely had more lip products than I could ever need and yet I still wanted to buy more. 

Despite knowing all the marketing tricks in the book, I still find myself wanting the latest hue or limited edition lip oil from a brand that I already own. Want to know the real kicker? Lip oils don’t hydrate. Despite being a full-grown adult knowing full-well that a new colour won’t change my life enough to warrant buying it, do I still want it? Yup. Not exactly the worst vice, but with everyone doing the same… we find ourselves in a situation of excess. 

The biggest factor in what I feel is an overconsumption ramp-up lies with the beauty companies themselves. The churn of beauty products right now is unlike ever before. I thought it was bad in 2020, then 2024 came along. 

 

Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

 

With investors demanding growth, more is more has become the strategy for most beauty brands today. You might not realise how much control investors (and retailers in some circumstances) have in dictating the decisions of new product development, timelines and the sheer number of launches. If I wasn’t privy to that info, I’d have no clue either. 

The problem with this is that those same beauty brands promising to solve those problems you had are now creating new ones with the sheer number of items they’re selling to you. For the most part, they’re all following the same trends, too. 

Not only does this create a cycle of hyperconsumerism, but it also makes the industry full of brands indistinguishable from one another. Honestly? It’s boring. Both for you as a consumer and for me as a beauty editor writing about it. 

First it was complexion enhancers (à la Flawless Filter), then lip oils (the hundreds and hundred of dare I say it, identical lip oils), and now it’s bronzing drops. One brand’s product goes viral and all the rest follow suit. My job as a beauty editor now feels like it’s not so much reporting on new innovation but more trying to find the point of difference between all of these samey products. 

Will the carbon copies be popular for years and years to come? Probably not. Will people use those bronzing drops until the very last drop (pardon the pun), even if another more seemingly exciting bronzing product comes to market? I very much doubt it. The aim of the game is speed and as someone with a front row seat of it all, I don’t think it’s serving you as a consumer. 

Let’s not forget that we’re far more aware of what everyone else has than ever before. My take? It’s causing us mass FOMO.

Prior to social media, we just weren’t privy to what other circles outside of our day-to-day (let alone our country) were buying or doing. Now, we’re getting a front row seat to what the entire world is up to and buying. Better yet, what the mega rich are buying. With each scroll, we’re beginning to think that £500 weekly Costco fridge restocks and £1000 ‘refill my guest bathroom beauty products’ videos and habits are normal. Being far more aware of those around us, watching the daily lives of people using products that we feel will enhance our lives, gives us a warped sense of needing beauty products.  

And on the topic of social media, we’ve got to talk about haul culture in general. According to the biggest TikTok beauty influencers, products no longer need a single drawer in a bedroom reserved to keep them organised, they need to be housed in an entire room — with a professional organiser come label everything to boot. 

@aminaoui

Unless you get cold showers, ditch the bathroom shelfie and opt for a bedroom shelf! #skincaretips #shelfie #skincareshelf #skincarestorage

? Water – Tyla

A quick scroll on BeautyTok and you’ll see a stash worth tens of thousands needing organising, a pretty restock haul (because God forbid one runs out without a replacement stashed away at home), and “TikTok made me buy it” reviews. More recently, we’re seeing people base entire makeup and skincare routines on the colour palette of the product packaging alone. This means having the same product in at least 7 different colours just for the sake of an aesthetic. 

It’s the same in the beauty editor world. We’re aware of who is getting what first and the lavish routines someone else has. Bathroom shelfies become a kind of social currency. The more elaborate, the more followers, and the more followers the better the expertise, right? 

The one thing all of this has in common… unrealistic. 

It’s unrealistic to our actual lifestyles and unrealistic to our wallets. Not to mention, ruining the planet with unnecessary waste. To make things even easier for us, we’ve now able to buy all of the stuff we see on TikTok, right in the app; an impulsive spender’s nightmare. 

It’s something I battle with a lot as a beauty editor. Ultimately, I make a living from testing and cutting through the noise of an industry. But I hope that the job is more about deinfluencing than influencing. And most importantly, impartially. I am never paid, nor bribed to talk about the brands and products I think are truly worth your time and money. I hope helping you make smarter choices instead of blowing your budget on something promising the world but inevitably being disappointed. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though — I promise! There are already movements in motion to help tackle this overconsumption, like hashtags #SlowdownBeauty, #ProjectPan, #NoBuy, #LowBuy and the slightly older “shop your stash” where you use up what you have before buying anything new. 

I’m excited by KraveBeauty’s ‘Anti-Consumer Consumer Grant (ACC Grant)’ launching last year, which aims to help support content creators who are dedicated to sustainability. Side note: *Pretends to be shocked that it isn’t the large orgs putting in the effort*. 

I’m also happy to see TikTok creators like @DepressionDotGov posting hilarious videos stitching videos that are the height of overconsumption highlighting just how ridiculous some of these trends have become. 

@depressiondotgov

Replying to @Kyrie Mae I love that!! I definitely feel better when I have more of a financial cushion. Here’s some #garbage to avoid #deinfluencing #overconsumption #keychain #selfdefensekeychain #keychainscoop #mysteryballscoop

? original sound – DepressionDotGov

Look, this isn’t to say we can’t ever enjoy new beauty products. After all, this publication is a group of beauty lovers too. But to enjoy beauty or be an enthusiast doesn’t have to mean excess. Often, our signature style is more about what we say no to than what we say yes to — because at the end of the beauty, you don’t need any of it. Plus, aren’t we all a little bit bored of someone online being ‘obsessed’ with every single product they talk about? 

 

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Contributing Beauty Editor

Tori Crowther is a beauty and health journalist and qualified nail tech. The former beauty editor of Popsugar UK, Tori regularly write for titles like Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Women's Health and is Contributing Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she's not interviewing derms or writing features, you can find her seeking out the best coffee outside of London.

Expertise: Nails, skincare
Education: Nottingham Trent University
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