Beauty Product FOMO: It's Real


Every skincare routine is a journey. LOL, JK—products are products, marketed for our consumption by skincare "need" and we absolutely buy into them. A dozen moisturizers, 14 serums, and five ceramide balms later, we're wondering how we got here. Or where it ends. When does the search for the One Great Product end and a civilized and consistent skincare routine begin? Glossier's UX Designer John Kim has been thinking about this lately, and he's got a name for it: Beauty Product FOMO.

I am a beauty product polygamist. In addition to a Top Shelf, I have a bottom drawer and shower caddy full of half-filled jars, each promising my best skin and not delivering. The last things I bought, in no particular order, were:

This is because I follow hundreds of beauty blogs, Instagrams, and Youtubers, and I have a designated list for “Products to try” in my iPhone notes app. For the life of me, I can't stick to one daily routine and be happy with it, no matter how many new products I buy. I'm living in a constant state of Beauty Product Fear Of Missing Out—or consumer FOMO, as I'm calling it. Not a clinical disease, but problematic nonetheless. I'm in my mid-20s—a working professional in New York City!—but if Kylie Jenner tells me that Nivea Mens Sensitive Post Shave Balm is my new favorite product, God dammit, it is. And the cycle continues until I'm broke.

So during a facial last month, I asked my aesthetician Stephanie Lauren Brown what new products I should be using if I were to stick to just a handful. She asked me what I wanted to improve, which should have been easy to answer. I’m relatively young and healthy, and I'm grateful to have never had intense acne. I couldn’t think of a single thing—I just wanted to gleam. She mentioned that I was changing my routine more than I should. "We [want] things to work immediately, but our skin needs time to regenerate," she told me. Skin has its own exfoliation process that happens generally every 30 days, and as we age, that process slows down. Stephanie advises consistency to get the most out of a product. "On average, you won't see results until six weeks."

OK, fine. Heeding her advice, I stuck to one routine for the whole summer (RIP). Out of the five cleansers, seven serums, eight creams, 20 face masks, and countless unopened samples, I narrowed it down to a solid group to target my acne-prone summer skin. To cleanse, I used Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser followed by Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 to tone and exfoliate. My serum of choice was Image Skincare Ageless Total Pure Hyaluronic Acid, which is super hydrating, sealed with Glossier Priming Moisturizer. For eye cream, I used RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream—I'm told I need retinol, so it's a safe bet. That's it. For three months, every night, I'd apply the same five products in a row while I watched Gilmore Girls.

And you know what? It sucked. While there was comfort in sticking to something, I was missing the experimental part—opening up my medicine cabinet and asking myself, ‘So, how is my skin feeling today?' I missed diagnosing my skin and finding solutions to my problems. Playing chemist on myself, I realized, was what I really enjoyed about beauty—not the results. I'll probably never stop asking friends for recommendations, reading magazine reviews, or swatching new creams. I have to learn to enjoy it and stop beating myself up when every pore is not perfectly tight. Beauty is a hobby. Happy is better than perfect, right?

—John Kim

Photographed by the author.

Next up: the proper way to care for your skin when your skin is post-acne but pre-aging. This is your guide to skincare in your 20s.