Which of the following headlines is made up? 1) “Is Face Slapping the Secret to a Youthful Glow?” 2) Is The Corset Diet The Best Way To Lose Your Baby Weight? 3) Meet The Fire Facial: The Latest Thing To Set The Beauty World Alight. The answer? None of them. They’re all true. Yup, all of them. Even the one that involves soaking a towel in alcohol, adding a daub of mysterious beauty elixir, draping it over the body and setting it ablaze. That one’s called Huo Liao, and is big in Japan. Perhaps the English translation is Are You F*cking Kidding Me.
Not that you care, for you are above such stupid, ridonkulous beauty gimmicks. You are sensible... aren’t you? Although nobody seems more sensible than Drew Barrymore, an actress who lived fast (child star aged three, rehab aged 12) but came out the other side far older and wiser than her years. Yet here she is on Instagram, raving about a Hancure “zombie” face mask that sounds more like torture than treat. “You paint it on with a brush. It starts to dry. It pulls. It gets so tight that it literally pulls your face. But it makes you look so fresh when you wash it off. And it’s so effective. When you take it off you are 10 years younger.” No matter that the accompanying pic of Drew wearing said mask makes her look as though she has an acute and terminal case of greyscale (if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll just have to trust me that this is *not* a good thing) – she still claims that the mask has “changed my life”.
Zombie face masks are just one of a number of new at-home beauty trends whose pain credentials are a selling point. A cursory look on YouTube reveals hundreds of videos in which women (and a few men) writhe around in agony while attempting to remove some rancid-looking charcoal face mask or other. The particularly extreme ones have racked up millions of views.
For the sake of my sanity, I’m assuming that people are watching these videos because they are funny, as opposed to because they like watching others experience pain. Either way, we’re firmly in an era when what was once a private ritual has become a public performance, just like our #makeupfails and our #fitgoals. What a truly perplexing time to be alive.
Gwyneth Paltrow espouses the virtues of her $125 Goop Exfoliating Instant Facial. “Wait up to three minutes and feel the burn” she says with what sounds suspiciously like glee
The concept of “no pain, no gain” is nothing new. It came to prominence around 1982, with some crediting the expression to Jane Fonda, who uttered it in her seminal eighties workout videos. Jane Fonda is my god: if she says that muscle soreness proves the effectiveness of a workout, then who are we to argue? But there’s a difference between feeling the burn after a gruelling yet ultimately life-enhancing session at Soul Cycle and hurting yourself for no good reason during the application of a face mask. Not that this has stopped Gwyneth Paltrow from espousing the virtues of her $125 Goop Exfoliating Instant Facial. “Wait up to three minutes and feel the burn” she says with what sounds suspiciously like glee. Meanwhile, on amazon.com, a considerably cheaper peel-off facial product called Cucnzn Suction Black Mask ($7.29) has been selling in droves, largely on the basis of reviews trumpeting how sore it was to use. “The most painful thing I have experienced,” wrote one user who gave it five stars. “Be prepared for tears to pour down your face,” wrote another who also gave it a five star review. You may be relieved – or, who knows, gutted – to learn that this product is not yet available on amazon.co.uk.
Each to their own and all that, but it’s hard to understand why anyone would put themselves through pain for kicks, not least in the name of beauty. The moment I found out I could shave my legs, it was game over for epilation, IPL and that weird mitt you used to sand yourself down with in the nineties that – mercifully – doesn’t seem to exist now. Okay, so shaving might make the hairs grow back darker and thicker but who cares? It’s quick, cheap and painless. As I type, someone has sent me an email about an amazing new treatment for kninkles -– no, me neither – involving a fraxellated erbium treatment head – again, no, me neither – that burns away those pesky wrinkles on your knees. Apparently, the process is “uncomfortable”. You don’t say.
This might be an unfashionable point of view, but you don’t have to suffer to be beautiful: it’s just a trick played by the beauty industry to sell us things we often don’t even need. It’s a negative message to send to anyone, not least impressionable young girls who are arguably most vulnerable to the idea of self-improvement. You can keep your zombie face masks, frankly. There’s too much pain in the world already.