Do you worship at Pat McGrath’s altar? Pray to the Acne Gods? Practicing a sacred ritual over the sink every morning and evening? Is beauty … your religion? It sounds like a ridiculous, obviously hyperbolic question, only maybe it isn’t. No more. As formal religious practice has steadily declined over the past decade with no signs of recovery (religious nones increased 9 percent and 40 percent of millennials are non-religious), so-called wellness community evangelists rose. You know them. A Harvard study concluded that SoulCycle and Crossfit worked very similarly to religion. Another study by FIT found that 69 percent of consumers find value in purchases that make them feel part of a community. In turn, beauty brands have begun to adopt some of the concepts and language of religion, perhaps not even consciously – and consumers thirsting for connection are eager to partake.
“Religion is mostly a ritual,” Cassie, 26 and an ex-Mormon, tells me on the phone. We like rituals like applying moisturizer after serum and using detergent before either because they make us feel like our actions are making a difference. It works in a similar way to belief – we feel in control. This emotional connection increases the likelihood that we will repeat the action and also strengthens our coping skills when things don’t go quite according to plan. (Say you’ll get a pimple anyway.) And your brain’s response can be amplified by really making room for this ritual to feel special. Brands use the phenomenon of charged language for this. Overloaded terms have meaning and emotional weight designed to produce a strong positive or negative reaction – the way you feel these words is the only reason they’re so compelling.
“You won’t see any results once you do it. There is no miraculous cure for your problem – we say rituals, not miracles. We look at the idea of forgiveness. I’ll take it seriously if you give me $ 69 for a serum, and I don’t want to mislead you. ”Charlotte Palermino laughs as she pulls apart a croissant on the picnic bench across from me. “See how much religious language I’m using inadvertently?” I turned to Palermino to discuss exactly that: the common language between beauty and religion, my first hint that something funny might happen between the two. One third of the new Dieux skin care line, which means “gods” in French, grew up religious in Palermino – her father was an Italian Renaissance professor and she attended a Catholic school. They take his colloquial language for granted.
Now consider that the Cosmopolitan editors give their most popular products a “Holy Grail Beauty Award”. You can shop at Cult Beauty (based in the UK) or Mecca (based in Australia), go to a gym called TMPL and buy candles called Monk and Virgin. Directly to the consumer brand Crown Affair claims “hair care with rituals”. A Westworld-style campaign video sent to the editors of the reprinted Make Beauty leads a guided meditation before being asked if you are ready to “meet your Creator.” The latest product from Dieux? A serum called Deliverance. “We just used a lot of language that happens to be very religious or even sectarian,” says Palermino. And Dieux is building its own cult: Deliverance has a waiting list of 15,000 people.
In addition to managing Dieux, Palermino also publishes its own content on a regular basis. Much of Dieux’s traffic is likely driven by their platforms (they have 167,000 followers on Instagram, more than four times the brand’s amount), which are committed to making their followers meaningful. Not the meaning of life, of course – the meaning of the intricate language used in the beauty industry and on your product labels. On her profile, you’ll find videos deciphering the double cleanse, sunscreens, the non-toxic craze, and face oils.
Has a new religion succeeded without a charismatic founder at the top? Nowadays, brand founders are influencers and, on the other hand, influencers use their platforms to become founders. Aside from the products they make, we care about what these founder influencers wear, how they eat, where they travel, what they donate for – their choices make our decisions easier. And the founding influencer acts as a living, breathing embodiment of the values of your brand. (Author Arabelle Sicardis “On God and Conscious Capitalism”: “If you think there is some kind of barrier between a person and the company they run and own, you can live with that distinction … But we are taught every day that we are what we make, that we are defined by our work. ”Anecdotally, I find that the more inspired a shopper is by a founder’s ethos, the more loyal a shopper is, and much of that inspiration comes from theirs Origin story: what made you start a beauty line?
Sometimes a brand arises from expertise and perspective. In her Top Shelf five years ago, Bobbi Brown told ITG that before she launched her no-make-up makeup line of the same name, “nobody had made a great collection of processed, natural-looking makeup. Lipsticks that just looked like there were no lips. ”But as the market flooded, the missions got higher and the founders began to use their brands to offer another aspect of the religion: purpose.
In one particularly dramatic report, Beauty Counter founder Gregg Renfrew (who, philosophically, is probably the complete opposite of Palermino) said she began to concern herself with personal care product safety after “our nanny was diagnosed with cancer and she was mine Poor died a few months later. “The company she built ensures news, but more than that has an implication: when you care for your loved ones, you need to make sure their beauty products don’t hurt them. One such Call-to-action is critical to BeautyCounter’s direct sales model, where consumers can sign up as brand reps and sell the products (and ethos) independently. Not only are they motivated by an end result, but they are emotionally inspired to get the word out. Speaking to an evangelist for “clean beauty” feels w ie “saved”.
For many, especially in cities where you may not be able to stop by your neighborhood creed or shop Clean At Sephora, interacting with a friend of a friend who is a beauty counter representative could be your first introduction to “clean” beauty . In another interview, this time with Vogue, Renfrew emphasizes that “most [consumers] They don’t even know what they don’t because nobody tells them – the entire beauty industry is built on secrets. ”For the founder of a religion, it is part of the move to claim a miraculous revelation or exclusive access to special information. Renfrew does both for beauty, and it’s undeniably effective: beauty counter shoppers are fervently loyal. But beyond that, they also feel charged with the intention of moving the message forward. At the end of last year, the company had 74,472 consultants on its direct sales program.
Do you remember Cassie from before? She tells me that beauty brands like Beauty Counter (and multilevel marketing models like Young Living and Lipsense) are very popular among Mormons – she even attended one for a minute. “I think it has to do with Mormon women’s interest in beauty and being able to do jobs while they’re still at home,” reveals Cassie. “But we are also trained from an early age to proselytize and look for missionary opportunities.” For Mormons, beauty is firmly anchored in their practice: in 1847, Brigham Young instructed his followers if they wanted to be happy and prosperous, “Their gardens To beautify your homes, your farms; beautify the city. “There are more plastic surgeons per capita in Salt Lake than in LA, and in the opening episode of” The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, “achieving perfection is called a” Mormon pastime. “If you watch the show , you know, the Salt Lake-based medical aesthetic practice of housewife Heather Gay is valued at $ 20 million, which means that in Mormon America, beauty is big business. Faith and facials go together naturally, like lost ones Socks that can finally be paired again – they echo one another.
Despite leaving her church, Cassie admits that she misses certain elements of the faith. “I’m a believer so I had to somehow replace it with something.” After a pause, she adds, “For some people, the structure, doctrine and fellowship of a belief just makes them better people.” When I asked Palermino if she thought there was a positive side to the religious tendencies of beauty she needs a moment before answering. “Ultimately, churches can bring people together. You are doing great things for the community. ”I think of how last year even small beauty brands raised themselves for social causes, set aside donations and started mentoring programs. I am thinking of the work of diversity and inclusion in marketing – so many more people can see themselves in beauty advertising now, see that even if they don’t belong anywhere else, this is where they belong. I think of lasting friendships that have developed across continents around beauty. And I know she’s right.
Sure, it’s impossible to ignore the implications of a capitalism-based “religion”, and partaking in beauty can feel very like indulging in something. ($ 36 for a paste that erases evidence of unfortunate acne picking and gives me a new, clean slate? Someone in the early 1500s would have had a problem with that!) But another time, paying my tithing to be part of the. being community feels worthwhile. I have trouble making friends and beauty lubricates those experiences so I can feel part of a group. (With shallow cultural and religious roots and no tendency towards spirituality or even fitness, this is a new feeling for me.) The storytelling aspect of beauty, the fact that it can act as a link to people of different origins, is the reason for this Website was founded in the first place. And in that sense the Church of Beauty is not sinister – at least it is interesting. At best? Bubbly.
Photo via ITG