Friday, February 22, 2013

Consumerism and being a teen blogger: what to do when your job in an industry is to own ALL the things

Hey everyone! Warning, this is long and feminist-y. That noted, I think this is something really important to note within the polish community. 

I talked about making a post like this before, but I really decided it was time to write it when we had a free day to work in history. Kidding. I decided to do it when I found myself driving to Ulta every week to scope out the arrivals even though I didn’t want any polish, need any polish, or have money for any polish.

Let me start off by saying that I would never go into debt over nail polish. That said, I’m a teenager. A full time senior in high school with no job other than owning my own indie (speaking of which, you should ignore the rest of this post on the evils of consumerism and instead go, uh, consume. Buy my polishes. They’re pretty!). All the money in my wallet comes from my allowance from my parents, which is money that pays for cool things like prom tickets, clothing, and my Starbucks addiction. I get a pretty good allowance and I’m incredibly fortunate to even have any discretionary income, but it’s not enough to supplement a polish addiction.

Nail polish is subject to trends more than most other sections of the fast fashion industry. Yes, the stuff doesn’t go bad, but it goes unused after a time. Just an example: I literally have two dozen crackle polishes. Yes, I have TWENTY FOUR crackles. I’ve used maybe one (and that was a swatch) in the past few months. I probably won’t touch them again. Right now texture is a huge thing but my bet is that passes by next February and then we’re all left with two dozen lumpy polishes in our Helmers.

Everyone gets marketed to. You can’t really live in this society, especially not as a teenage girl, without being told you need this to be beautiful, to be loved, to be pretty. The ever elusive pretty, which may not be what we nail addicts strive for with our polished digits, but it’s what is mainly used to sell cosmetics. I got into polish through a makeup addiction that has its roots in patriarchy. Sorry for the feminist tangent here, but at the age of four I told my mother that she’d be “so pretty, if only [she]’d wear lipstick.” The messages sent by society regarding the way a woman ‘owes’ her beauty start that young. Brands play off of this to sell their stock and we buy into this because, as women, we’re supposed to be pretty. Our value is in our looks and, if you don’t believe me, look at the criticism Hillary Clinton received. Oh, she can be an incredible Secretary of State, but god forbid her hair not look modern enough. We insult a powerful woman by going after her appearance. This isn’t something that happens to men, which is why cosmetics for men have a hard time catching on (yes, I did review Alpha Nail polishes, but how many guys do you know actually sport them?). Cosmetics sell because we think we need them to be pretty and guys know, guys have been told, that they don’t have to be pretty to succeed. Pretty is exclusively for women, and necessary for us as well. I’m not going to tell you that you’re not pretty with or without polish because you don’t need to be pretty. There’s no reason prettiness should be expected of you

I’m part of this cosmetics industry, but I don’t put on nail polish to say “wow, maybe a boy will like this and that’ll validate my existence.” Nail polish, for me, transcends cosmetics (which I do use primarily to look and feel “pretty”) and becomes more of a fun art. I wear red nail polish because I like how it looks, not to attract a male. That said, I’ve received comments before about the impact my polish has on boys and their perceptions of me. I didn’t start doing my nails so frequently to get a guy to like me and I don’t use this blog to tell you that the only way to be loved is if you’re wearing Pure Ice polish (though, let’s be real, there’s a certain amount of sauciness you feel when you’re wearing “Kiss Me Here” on a date). That said, I get polish sent to me for free for a reason and that reason is that companies hope that you’ll see their polish on my nails and buy it. I’m the middleman, intended to gently coerce you into purchase.

This is an industry all about buying. Most women are alright owning a few polishes. Maybe a red, a nude, a pink, and a blue (for when they’re feeling a little crazy, you know). I have overflowed out of my Helmer AND my secondary storage. I’m not sure how many polishes I own, but I’m sure it’s well over 750. And that’s gross. That’s actually disgusting. I buy into the trends (remember Zoya’s Charla and the craze that inspired? Guess who has six dupes!) and wind up with more polish than I could use in a lifetime.

The problem with blogging and bloggers is that we, the nail polish community, get fed into this loop of new releases and the next big things. The system we’ve created is like a bunch of friends who are interested in each other and each other’s lives, but also always want to have the newest and greatest. I go to Scrangie’s blog, see what she’s wearing and buy it for myself so I can have nails that pretty. If she reviews something and likes it, I trust her review because she’s like me! a polish addict! she wouldn’t lie to me! (not that I’m saying that she would, but there is a lot of false inflation of compliments in this community, especially when the polish was given to the blogger).

I’m guilty of perpetuating the cycle through running my own blog as well as feeding into it in my own way. I buy a lot of polish that I don’t love simply because I feel like I owe you all reviews. I buy things I don’t need so I can keep this blog updated with the latest releases, even though I have plenty of untrieds and it wouldn’t kill you to see a repeat of an earlier manicure. There’s no reason for me to blog (aside from how much I genuinely enjoy doing it), no reason for my blog to have to feature the latest colors and trends, and no reason why I can’t wear a polish twice. But I feel like I have to blog, have to blog NEW stuff, and have to always be blogging things you haven’t seen on me.

So that’s why I go to Ulta every week. I don’t need or want polish, but it’s fast to swatch and then I have a nice, shiny new blog post to share with you all. I feel like it’s my duty as a blogger, which is actually such BS.

Companies love bloggers. Companies love that we feed into the mentality that cosmetics are a necessary luxury, that we promote their goods, and that we are constantly buying them for ourselves. China Glaze and OPI wouldn’t have it half as good if there weren’t nail addicts clamoring for every release hoping that this new shade of blue/green/yellow/magenta is more perfect than the last. We get disappointed a lot, but disappointment means we need to consume more so that we can find perfection eventually.

All of this has a huge toll on our wallets and on our psyches. This more, more, more mindset is costly and reinforces the materialism and consumerism that already runs rampant enough.

I’m trying to only buy polishes I want. I’m trying to think a lot more before purchasing and either let this blog have lull periods or shop my own stash for manicures. That said, it’s no fun to miss out on a trend, so I am on the verge of ordering Zoya’s pixie dust polishes. I can’t tell if I think they’re pretty or I think I should review them.

The biggest thing for me is staying away from sale stuff. I’m very guilty of buying polish because it’s cheap instead of because I want it. I’m also staying away from blogs that post mostly indies because indies inspire a rush! rush! rush! Get it before it’s gone! mentality that I don’t like very much. Hypocritical, as I have my own indie, but true. I own two indie polishes (from a brand other than my own. I own all of my polishes and wear them very frequently because they make me happy) and I’m happy with them, but that’s an industry I’m trying to stay away from on the consumer side.

Next year I may be going to a college that costs $60,000 a year. That’s a LOT of OPIs. I may end up at a state school, which would be alright, but I have dreams far bigger than Oregon and I’m ready to go after them. I can’t afford the colleges that I’ve gotten into or the ones that I’m waiting to hear from. It’s time to start putting more money away, which means it’s time to stop buying all the time and learn to be satisfied with what I have.

This isn’t to say that I’m going on a no buy, it’s just that I’m getting rather sick of being marketed to and I’m getting very sick of falling for it. This is a considerate buy. A ‘think about it before whipping out the debit card’ buy. A ‘I was right in kindergarten with my purchasing system buy’.... let me explain: When I was four, I really wanted a stuffed bunny from Walmart. It cost a whopping $7 (that’s approx 3.5 Sinful Colors, for those that do polish-money conversion), which is quite a big deal when you get $.25 a week in allowance. I decided to wait a week and, if my four year old brain hadn’t been distracted from the thought of the rabbit, to buy it. A week passed and I still wanted it, so I got it. I still have that bunny, and I think it's stuck with me for all these years because I really wanted it and made sure of such before buying it.

Thinking, really thinking, before dropping down money is the way to reduce spending, so that’s what I’m going to do.

I invite you to do the same.

Now, we’re having a free day in history and I have about a half hour left. If you need me, I’ll be researching women’s role in Pinochet’s coup. 


  1. I appreciate this post alot because of the huge amount of insight you bring. I totally agree with your overall idea that consumerism is the driving force behind "nail polish addiction". (At least I'm guessing that's the overall idea). Maybe in the nail polish community we should all only buy colours we really like rather than ones we think will be popular. So to distinguish between popularity and individuality if that makes sense...

  2. I was wondering what the frantic typing in HOTA was all about. hahahha you know who it is.


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