Destroying Something Beautiful : Lipstick Smashes, Social Media and Conspicuous Consumption

Recently, I asked my instagram followers why videos or photos of destroyed makeup – like the videos where I smoosh lipstick with a palette knife – are so controversial. These images generally cause strong reactions – some people love it, and some people take it very personally. Editor Emily Dougherty, known for blending lipstick colours on instagram by chopping up bullets, even has a disclaimer that all lipstick mixes are saved – to deter angry commenters who unleashed their fury on her for “ruining” makeup.

I could do the same – assure you that I save the lipsticks I mash up or that I only destroy cheap ones or expired ones. But that’s not the point. I don’t think that should matter. I should be at liberty to do whatever I like with my belongings.

The comments I received when I asked about this touchy topic of destroying product were all different, and thoughtful, and I feel very grateful that people took the time. There were two camps, if you will – those who thought it was wasteful, and those who thought it was satisfying. Some left more nuanced comments, like beauty editor Emma Veronica who pointed out that in reality, a lipstick is just a lump of fat with pigments and holds little real value, even if they’re expensive. She also said that human existence is inherently wasteful, that everything we do burns cash, and I think she’s right.

Social media is largely a site of conspicuous consumption. This means, essentially, showing off your spending power. Hauls, shelfies and so on are all examples of this – it’s about asserting status as a consumer. Now, if you’re showing off how you destroy the objects of consumption, it’s essentially showing off how you can drop money on something only to ruin it in the next moment. Personal belongings are disposable to you. However, there’s not the same kneejerk response of anger at, say, people who show off their hundreds of identical nude lipsticks. Those products are just as “wasted”, because it’s impossible to use them all before they go off.

Furthermore, the comment about the actual chemical composition of lipstick got me thinking – what is the difference between a lipstick mixing video and a paint mixing one? The latter is a now-defunct fad on social media, where copious amounts of oil paint are satisfyingly blended with brushes and palette knives. As a recovering visual artist, let me point out that oil paint is, indeed, expensive too – a tube of good-quality ultramarine will set you back a good amount of cash. But people don’t fly into a seething fury over paint mixing videos.

In a way, I think destroying makeup causes such a visceral response, whether positive or negative, because it is a symbol of femininity. It’s so tied up with women and our self image that it’s difficult to distance ourselves from it. For me, mashing up a luxury lipstick is satisfying exactly because it feels wrong – it’s a trespass, a rebellion if I may be so bold. I hold no bars claiming the destructivity of femininity and its trappings – I’m not a woman who will claim that makeup empowers or holds any feminist value, quite the opposite. I know it’s made to hurt and control us.

That’s why, to reassert my dominance, I think I need to commit some sort of violence against beauty products. To prove I’m the boss, so to speak. Is that crazy? Am I overthinking? Maybe a little. But I’m not overthinking any more than the people who get upset at seeing a lipstick destroyed. It’s only makeup, after all. It’s not important. Destroying it leads to no disasters or terrible consequences. But it’s very fun.

4 thoughts on “Destroying Something Beautiful : Lipstick Smashes, Social Media and Conspicuous Consumption

  1. DJ

    Just a coupe extra thoughts on top of my Instagram comments:

    I think the paint mixing videos don’t get the same reaction because there’s an understanding – whether based in reality or not, I don’t know – that those videos are for people who need to “stim” to them, that they are a service for mental health. I personally think lipstick smashes and paint mixes and those videos where people make slimes or glitter jars aren’t any more helpful to one’s mental health than any other self-indulgence thing, but that’s the distinction I think sets the paint mixes apart. They’re seen as “therapeutic”, where lipstick smashes are not.

    With regard to wasting fifty million nude lipsticks, many people just don’t subscribe to the idea of makeup expiration dates (especially if that makeup was expensive) and you also have makeup collectors now so it may not seem like those lipsticks are being wasted to those people, even if they’re not being used.

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  2. Laura

    I’m so glad you wrote this, the topic is so fascinating.
    I honestly didn’t even realize the separation between even my own reactions to “wasting paint” and “wasting make-up” although I’m personally well aware of the cost of high quality oil paint.
    Make-up is marketed as something that should be personally pleasurable to use, how is this kind of pleasure not palatable?
    It’s not even inherently anti-consumerist or anti-capitalist, how can it be so threatening?

    Reply

  3. Linnea

    Jag har iofs inte reagerat negativt på några sminksmetarvideos, men när jag tänker på min egen relation till beautybloggar är det ju mycket så att man bara sitter och drömmer och längtar efter alla dessa produkter som visas och som man inte har råd med. Jag älskar ju skönhet och tycker om att läsa det som bloggas kring det (jag är ju här liksom), men det finns ju en anledning till att företag skickar ut pressprover. För att det väcker ett sånt stort ha-begär hos den som får se det. Så jag tänker att det är som att se ett riktigt fint läppstift vaskas när man vill ha, men inte kan få. Tror folk hade reagerat om de tänkte på att alla stora samlingar läppstift måste slängas förr eller senare för att de blir dåliga, men det är inte lika in your face. Och tror folk hade känt samma ilska över att tänka på alla kläder som bränns varje år när de måste leva på nudlar för att köpa ett drömplagg osv. Jag gillar ändå att folk blir arga över slöseri, önskar att de kunde rikta den åt rätt håll bara. En kreativ bloggare är inte det.

    PS. Har aldrig stött på fenomenet färgsmetar-video! Men jag tänker att färg blandar man ju av praktiska skäl? Det är som att se nån blanda foundation typ. Eller blandar de bara ihop dyr oljefärg och häller ut det i vasken? För det blir jag nästan kränkt av, hähä.

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    1. Saffron

      Åh är det sant att du inte sett färgblandarvideos!! Det var mer poppis typ 2016-17 men nej färgen används inte, de blandas inte för något särskilt utom att se fint ut på ig (ofta har de tex i metallicpigment eller glitter). Det är extra poppis med typ autister och ångestpersoner för att det är lugnande o typ lite meditativt.

      Och ja jag blir faktiskt lite irriterad av hysteriskt stora sminksamlingar men det är mest för att det inte handlar om annat än konsumtion? Typ om ens smink behöver ett eget rum behöver man hjälp!!

      Reply

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