There’s a Tiktok prompt circulating online that asks users to share the media media trope they can’t unsee. For Beth Wawerna, Fender’s Director of Brand Copy by day and frontwoman of the rock band Bird of Youth by night, that’s night lotion. Though she’s not on Tiktok, Wawerna runs an Instagram page exclusively dedicated to screenshots of TV and movie characters lotioning themselves up at night. “I tried looking it up online to see if anyone else had noticed it, and when I didn’t see that much written about it I started the account,” she explains.
Wawerna’s been sporadically posting on Night Lotion since 2015, the slow cadence a direct result of her subject matter’s nature. “One of the special things about night lotion is that it has to find you,” Wawerna jokes over Zoom. “It’s not like I’m going back and rewatching four seasons of This Is Us to find it.” She also holds specific criteria for what qualifies as a night lotion moment. Of course, the setting needs to be nighttime. Usually the applicator is a woman. And it’s always used as some sort of emotional touchstone.
“My favorite night lotions are when it’s a couple, fighting,” says Wawerna. Angry Night Lotion is rubbed in fast and furiously, with a focus on the upper body and elbows—a position that mimics the closed off, anxious body language of crossed arms. Adds Wawerna with a laugh, “Has there ever been a moment in your life when you’re arguing with your significant other and think, now would be a good time to pump out some Jergens?” Then there’s Sad Night Lotion, used as a cue for contemplation. You can probably picture it: the main character’s staring into a mirror, slowly massaging cream into her face and neck. There’s Sexy Night Lotion—Wawerna cites Miranda slathering her legs in lotion while having phone sex on Sex and the City as a good example. And finally, Unstable Night Lotion, or lotion used to signal a woman is “actually unraveling.” For example, in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, you don’t need to watch Judith Light (as Marylin Miglin) glopping on white goop to know she’s going through shit.
Once you’re aware of it, you might start to notice night lotion moments all over the place. That’s why Wawerna keeps a tip line on her page—in the address’ inbox, there are nearly 40 references she’s yet to post. “I honestly don’t know why this trope is all over the place,” thinks Wawerna out loud. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s laziness, or if these scenes were mostly written by men, or if the hands add visual interest.” The mystery is probably why it still holds intrigue for her, over five years later. But one thing is abundantly clear: women just don't use lotion this way in real life.
“I never apply leg lotion sitting on the bed,” Wawerna muses, “and if I do apply lotion the second before I get into bed, it’s gross and sticky and weird.” A quick poll on Into The Gloss’ Facebook group shows most women agree—in fact, around 90-percent of responders said they apply lotion after a shower, not in or right before bed. If you sleep in cotton or silk, applying lotion before bed is an easy way to completely negate its purpose right away. Plus, you’re more likely to find a big bottle of lotion on a teenage boy’s nightstand than an adult woman’s, and in real life, the way one rubs it in is not a window to their soul. “I’m putting on lotion because I live in LA and my elbows are fucking dry.”
Wawerna emphasizes that her goal with the account is not to make fun of real women and their lotion habits. Instead, she aims to highlight one particularly odd way women written for the screen tend to be a little wonky. “I don’t apply lotion this way,” she asks me at the end of our call, “do you?”
Photo via ITG