I’m up late doing photo research for a makeup piece, scrolling through a popular artist’s photographs on Instagram. Her bone structure is stunning, I think as I keep clicking and screenshotting. I wonder if she’s had work done. Her skin lays so flat against her cheekbones. It’s so tight around her jawline. She’s probably had work done, I conclude.
Browsing the app again before falling asleep, I realize I look at people differently because of my job. I think back to a time when I couldn’t spot hair extensions from a mile away and didn’t know the telltale evidence of fillers. Normal people don’t know the difference between Botox and Dysport, I think as I continue scrolling—face after face, model after model. I drift off and have a dream about my teeth falling out.
You do the math.
Finally recognizing this fact—the way my chosen profession affects me—was like flipping a switch in a dark room. Bright, fluorescent light floods my consciousness every time I think about my under-eye circles, burgeoning crow’s feet, or the size of my lips as compared to someone else's. I'm acutely aware of the way foundation gathers in one fine line on the side of my mouth and, admittedly, have used photo editing apps to smooth it away in pictures. I know exactly where a plastic surgeon would inject my forehead if I had the guts to make an appointment. [Editor's note: I did, ultimately, make an appointment.]
"Everyone has heard 'you are what you eat,'" says Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, executive director at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health. "We can also become what we see, hear, and read. We become immersed in our environments and take on the aspects of our surroundings. In Western culture, we spend a lot of time at and connected to work—so that is one of the environments we can begin to take on."
For beauty editors like myself, when the resources are all there—free injections, procedures, and products—everything is at our fingertips. I think of various treatments as necessities when, a few years ago, I didn’t even know they existed. This immersion makes us, as editors, hyper-aware of the way we look and what, consistently, we could be doing to look better. "This can have positive and negative outcomes," says Dehorty. "In the beauty and fashion industry, you are surrounded by the most beautiful people, best clothes, latest trends, and countless procedures and products to your enhance appearance." He warns, "Left unguarded, an individual working in this industry can be on a never-ending chase for improvement."
That's not to say the fallout is entirely detrimental. As someone who spent her teenage years at tanning salons and lubed in baby oil, I've found a comprehensive education in sun protection and the damaging effects of UV rays to be all but lifesaving. With my learned knowledge of skincare, I’ve been able to reverse damage and appreciate my pale, healthy skin. Plus, my research in the industry has led me to self-tanners that look just like the real thing. Since starting on my career path, I haven’t once wistfully dreamed of a real tan, because I can so easily fake it.
The same goes for issues with weight and food. My access to top nutritionists and fitness experts has allowed for an entirely new stance on wellness—a shakedown of my former neurosis, triggers, and disordered eating. Staying active in self-care practices as part of my everyday responsibilities has been, again, practically lifesaving. I’ve been able to use this job to entirely reappropriate my insecurities, harnessing them as a source of strength and confidence. And the cathartic release of writing them all down, having to organize and reflect upon the most well-disguised parts of me, is a true privilege.
So yes, when it comes down to it, I’m actively affected by the taut, smooth faces of those around me and the celebrities I so often have to research. I’m still offered gratis Botox after cocktails, and I’ve contemplated just about every procedure that boasts favorable results. But in so many ways, the good has outweighed the bad.
"Studies have shown young girls exposed to the original Barbie have desired to be thinner,” says Dehorty. “Well,” he continues, “imagine working with real-life Barbies every day. They key is to drop the comparisons."
Realizing the danger of unrelenting comparison is what allows me to sit at my desk writing about $100 BB cream and the "no makeup" makeup a supermodel swears by—unscathed. And, ultimately, it's a skill that has profoundly aided in my quest to succeed as a human and a beauty editor.