The personal care industry has contributed to the loneliness crisis

Where were you the first time you heard the words “bath bomb”? What about the “10 Step Skin Care Routine?” » Perhaps you have, at some point, canceled plans to “unplug”, drink tea and take some “me time”. Maybe you ordered an assortment of candles meant to combat anxiety and stress or reserved a rage room to exorcise your demons.

A distorted notion of self-care has been normalized to the point where everyday activities like bathing and watching television are now synonymous with the term. Generally understood as the act of lovingly tending to one’s mind and body, a certain type of self-care has come to dominate the last decade, as events like the 2016 election and the Covid pandemic have sparked collective periods of anxiety that has added to existing societal harms. . It makes sense that interest in how to alleviate this unease has continued to grow.

Brands offered potential solutions from the start: lotions, serums, journals, blankets, massagers, loungewear, meditation apps, tinctures. Between 2014 and 2016, Korean exports of beauty products to the United States more than doubled. The Girls’ Night In newsletter was founded in 2017, with a mission to share “night out recommendations and favorites…all focused on a topic that could benefit from more attention right now: night out times.” stop “. YouTube quickly became saturated with sponsored self-care routine videos. By 2022, a $5.6 trillion market had emerged under the guise of helping consumers buy their way to peace.

As the personal care industry hit its stride in the United States, so did interest in the seemingly dire state of social connections. In 2015, a study was published linking loneliness and early mortality. In the years since, a wealth of other research has highlighted other deleterious effects of loneliness: depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive functioning, accelerated cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, higher risk of disease. coronary heart disease and stroke. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has classified the prevalence of loneliness as an epidemic. In 2018, according to a Cigna survey, half the country reported feeling lonely at least sometimes, a number that has only increased.

There is no single driver of collective loneliness on a global scale. A confluence of factors such as smartphones, social media, higher rates of anxiety and depression, vast inequality, materialism and overloaded schedules have been identified as potentially causing the crisis. But a practice designed to relieve us of the world’s ills—self-care, in its current form—has alienated us from each other, encouraging solitude rather than connection.

How Personal Care Became a Commercial Product

Self-care in decades past was significantly less individualistic and capitalist. In the 1950s, self-care was a term used in the context of health care: activities that patients and their families could perform to promote their health and well-being, independent of the care provided by health care professionals. . “For me, self-care is a subjective and dynamic process aimed at maintaining health and preventing illnesses or managing illnesses when they appear,” explains Michela Luciani, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Milan- Bicocca. In this context, self-care can encompass everything from annual checkups to eating well.

In the years that followed, the Black Panthers emphasized the importance of self-care as a political act within the civil rights movement. Through community efforts such as free food programs for children and families as well as free health clinics, the Black Panthers focused on collective well-being. “(This) image of taking care of one’s people and taking care of oneself,” says Karla D. Scott, a professor of communications at Saint Louis University, “evokes the African expression ‘I am because we are.’ : ubuntu.”

For black activists, participating in rituals of rejuvenation was crucial to surviving within and fighting against racist, classist, and sexist systems. This approach to self-care is particularly evident in the work of Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde, who is often referred to in the context of self-care: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence,” a- she writes, “it’s self-indulgence.” preservation, and it is an act of political warfare.

This definition of self-care highlights the importance of engaging with others. Not only do we receive support from family, friends, and neighbors, but receiving communion is itself a form of care. People report high levels of well-being when they spend time with their friends, romantic partners, and children. Social interaction with trusted companions has been shown to help prevent depression. Even chatting with acquaintances and strangers promotes happiness and belonging.

Buy a new eyeshadow, a bullet journal, Botox, a vacation to fill a need for self-care that never seems to diminish

In the late 1960s, wellness entered the lexicon. Beyond simply avoiding illness, “well-being” as a concept centered on the pursuit of a higher level of existence: a more emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual way of life. A wellness resource center opened in California in 1975; nearly a decade later, a wellness-focused newsletter from the University of California, Berkeley, helped legitimize the concept. This model of well-being features individuals, not communities, evolving toward their “ever-higher functioning potential,” as posited by Halbert L. Dunn, who helped popularize the contemporary idea of ​​well-being. (Dunn also includes “basic human needs” – communication, companionship with others, and love – as an integral part of well-being.) The well-being ethos quickly became synonymous with a tainted version of self-care, which perfectly matched well-being. growing fitness culture from the 80s to early 2000s and the concept of “working on yourself”.

The Great Recession of 2008 marked a shift in how Americans view their health and well-being. In his book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela argues that fitness became “a socially acceptable form of conspicuous consumption” in this era when social media and boutique fitness classes allowed people to broadcast their lavish spending on their health. Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness brand Goop was founded the same year, espousing sometimes unfounded health advice and recommending (and selling) “aspirational products that embody and encourage restriction, control, and scarcity,” according to a academic article.

Commoditized self-care was here to stay, reaching mass saturation just as Trump was voted into office. Young people, disillusioned with polarized politics, saddled with astronomical student debt, and exhausted by hustle culture, have turned to skin care, direct-to-consumer household goods, and food and delivery delivery. alcohol – peddled aggressively by companies eager to capitalize on consumers. ‘ stressors. While these practices may be restorative in the short term, they fail to address the systemic issues at the heart of individual despair.

Thus, a vicious and costly circle arises: Companies market skin care products, for example, to prevent the formation of fine lines, supposedly the consequence of a stressful life. Consumers buy the lotions to solve this problem, lather up on their own and feel at peace for a little while. Once anxiety, exhaustion, and inadequacy return, as they inevitably do, the routine begins again. Buy a new eyeshadow, a bullet journal, Botox, a vacation to fill a need for self-care that never seems to diminish.

Because buying things doesn’t solve existential fear, we are then flooded with guilt for not being able to adequately care for our minds and bodies. We simply need to take better care of ourselves, and so consumerism disguised as the practice of fixing something broken becomes another item on the rote to-do list.

Individualistic approaches to well-being promote isolation

This isn’t to say that solitary activities can’t be effective forms of self-care. Many people are easily exhausted by social interactions and find comfort alone in regular quiet evenings; time spent alone is in fact an integral part of a balanced social regime. Conversely, people who are constantly surrounded by other people may still feel lonely. However, when companies present truly revitalizing practices as individualized “solutions” to real problems (like burnout) requiring structural change (like affordable child care), we increasingly turn towards the inside. “I worry that because of the ideology we live in, the rugged individualism,” Scott says, “people feel deficient. It’s deflated.

Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at George Washington University, calls this self-soothing capitalist version of self-care “fake self-care” in her best-selling book. Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program to Redefine Well-Being. Fake self-care manifests itself in two ways: I deserve to splurge on Doordash and binge on Netflix because I’m so exhausted And I’m going to push myself really hard in this spinning class because I have to be the best.

Isolating ourselves by having food delivered to our door comes at the expense of the worker who earns a pittance to deliver that food to you. Our apartment doors literally separate those who can afford to “take care” of themselves and those who cannot. Although this form of catering seems more isolating, the hyper-competitive version of fake self-care is just as confining, Lakshmin says. “They’re not engaging or present,” she says. “They are in competition with themselves.”

While many surveys and reports point to a recent increase in loneliness, researchers lack sufficient longitudinal data to definitively determine whether people are lonelier today than in the past, says Luzia Heu, assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences. at Utrecht University. However, people in wealthier societies have more…

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Gn Health

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