Photo: SKØN Magazine
There’s an undeniable link between cosmetics and food. Going through my own collection, I find items shaped like, named after and scented like food – primarily sweets and fruits. I have a lip gloss that looks like a cupcake, and nearly every lip product I own smells like vanilla or toffee. The NYX Butter Glosses, which I’ve mentioned before, smell like the caramel syrup you put on ice cream, and all the colours are named after desserts like Black Berry Pie or Strawberry Parfait. I use a lip scrub that looks and smells like strawberry jam, even including little strawberry seeds as the exfoliating grit. You can buy Lip Parfait, Body Butter, Shower Jelly, Milk Chocolate Bronzer, Cheek Soufflé, Pudding Tint, Wine Lip Stains and the list goes on. Companies pride themselves on scenting products to evoke peaches, root beer and even lemon cake and advertise said scents as part of the appeal and profile of their items. Debra Merskin found, in a study of lipstick colour names, that food-related colour names were by far the most common among the 1700+ products analysed. Bite Beauty, a lipstick brand that advertises that all its ingredients are food-grade, has recently launched a lipstick formula named Amuse-Bouche where every single shade is named after food- over 40 lipsticks with names like Sorbet, Kale and Cotton Candy.
photo: James Wojcik
Furthermore, editorials and promotional photos often use food as a theme, cementing the link between beauty products – applied topically – and food that is ingested. Makeup is photographed as food, and food is photographed as makeup. And if that’s not enough for you – why not cookie cutters shaped like nail polish bottles, cakes with fondant makeup bag decorations and molecular gastronomy tools that let you make edible lipsticks. There’s even a youtube channel where a girl makes various “edible” makeup products – food items that look like beauty blenders or eyeshadows. Foundation shades like caramel or vanilla or coffee names your very skin an item of consumption – I’m sure there’s something to be said here about the link between the male gaze and female body as object for male pleasure.
Certain brands, the ones that have more overtly feminine profiles, feature food themes constantly – Too Faced for example. They have blushes shaped like chocolate boxes, eyeshadow palettes shaped like chocolate bars and even palettes inspired by peanut butter and jelly or peaches. Korean brands like Etude house and Tony Moly feature similar lines, Etude House being girlier with cookie and chocolate themed items and Tony Moly featuring everything from eggs and tomatoes to coffee cups and mangos. Food even features as an ingredient – there’s actual cocoa powder in certain Too Faced products, actual eggs in Tony Moly products, and many other brands include things like honey, goat’s milk, citrus fruits or tea. Brands like The Body Shop and SkinFood feature food items as central ingredients in their entire product lineup, from face masks to body lotions.
Photo: Etude House
Despite all this, food and eating is still a difficult topic for women. A lot of us have a complicated relationship to food, eating, our appearance and our self-worth, often denying ourselves that slice of cake because we’re “watching our weight”. Turning a tool for our own beautification into an ersatz source of nourishment makes the whole ordeal rather ironic. You can apply sugar to your lips to scrub them smooth and plump, but that sugar mustn’t enter your mouth. A dessert may be applied topically, never ingested – the title of this blog post was found in an image promoting a cosmetics company!
This shatters the dreamy ideal of cute, light-hearted sweetness that permeates beauty culture, reminding us that we must deprive ourselves of the pleasure and nourishment that is eating in order to become our most beautiful self. Evoking sweets and treats through packaging, naming, and scenting a product is in a way the only acceptable form of contact with those forbidden calories. We’re encouraged to consume, but never at the expense of our waistlines. Lipsticks are ok, but that serving of fries strictly off limits. But then, of course, no form of female consumption is ever truly accepted – they want us to do it, sure, but we’ll always endure ridicule for it. If we’re not allowed food, then at least we can buy makeup – but wait, that makes us stupid and vain. As if that vanity wasn’t forced on us. As if we could disregard our appearance and go unpunished. So, at the end of the day, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t anyway!
So I say this: have the lipstick AND the fries. You can, and should, have your cake and eat it.