Sheet masks are a scam

But you'll have to pry the retinol night serum from my cold dead hands!

Picture the scene; you’ve lit your scented candle, made yourself a mug of hot chocolate or coffee (maybe you’ve poured a glass of wine, if that’s your thing) and are about to curl up on the couch with a book or the latest must-watch Netflix series when you decide to add some skincare to your evening of relaxation. So you reach for a sheet mask because you have four or five of them that you should probably get around to trying. Maybe that’s just me!

Tearing open the packet you’re met with a mask so full of serum that it’s slimy or so dry that you can’t imagine it restoring your skin in the 15-20 minutes the instructions claim will give you a brand new face. Looking at the mask you wonder if it will cover your entire face. Do those hooks for behind your ears ever reach people’s actual ears? Whose nose is placed there? Who doesn’t love a good injection of serum right in the eye because the under-eye folds are never under your eyes. Maybe my face is weirdly shaped!

After more minutes than you’ll admit to should you ever be asked, you manage to unfurl the sheet mask and place it on your face in a manner similar to, but not quite the same as the instruction diagram. Now comes the relaxing part, while it works its magic! Except every time you so much as blink the mask starts to slip. As you push it back into place, you have to decide between enjoying your drink, being able to see your TV/computer/book and having “perfectly hydrated” skin. Multitasking is not an option in the land of ill-fitting sheet masks and all sheet masks are ill-fitting.

Here’s the thing, sheet masks are a scam. They serve absolutely no purpose other than to frustrate you. An unpopular opinion judging by the amount of sheet mask selfies on my Instagram feed, but the skincare hill I am prepared to die on.

Looking for skin that’s more hydrated? Try a serum containing hyaluronic acid. It’ll do a much better job and involve a lot less hassle. Looking for something to help with the odd hormonal blemish? Try salicylic acid or a clay based mask. No need for sheet masks.

Skincare as a concept has gotten a lot of attention over the last 12-ish months. From people turning to it as a coping mechanism, to others believing all skincare is a con or that the best skincare trick is being rich. An industry that tells women and it is mainly women, although the skincare revolution for men is on the way if Frank Ocean has anything to do with it, they need to look brighter, younger, plumper, and smoother is obviously a tool of the patriarchy. That won’t stop you having to pry the retinol night serum from my cold dead hands before I give it up because, well, I’m a mass of contradictions and I’m OK with that.

Enjoy this newsletter? Tell a friend to subscribe here. Come say hello on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

Never be the most feminist person you know

We learn by doing, so it makes sense that we’ll get things wrong along the way.

I read an interview with feminist writer, theorist and professor Cynthia Enloe last year where she talked about everything from publishing her ninth book to sexual harassment and the importance of feminist collaboration. I won’t lie, I wasn’t familiar with Enloe’s work before I read Laura Bates’ take on her but the thing that stuck with me was Enloe’s advice to activists: “Never be the most feminist person you know. That’s not going to get you far. You need to have people around you who are differently feminist or more feminist than you are. It’s only depressing if you’re doing it all by yourself.”

It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s a thought that embedded itself in my brain and wouldn’t leave. Not being the most feminist person in the room means you have the support of other feminists. It also provides the opportunity for learning, which can be invaluable. At least it can provide that opportunity, whether specific groups, meetings or organising spaces are open to helping people learn is often difficult to judge.

There was a time when I didn’t consider myself a feminist, which I guess made me the least feminist person in most rooms. I’ve written about changing my mind and finding my way into feminist spaces through my work with pro-choice groups. I haven’t always been pro-choice, so I arrived pretty late to those spaces.

I’m lucky I showed up when I did. Social media was still a place you could ask questions and receive thoughtful answers no matter how feminist 101 your questions were. I was given time and space to grow, which social media isn’t great at these days.

Maybe what I’m trying to say is; I’m tired of the one up-manship associated with being a feminist online. I’m tired of the need for people to get everything right first time. I’m more interested in doing the work and other people who are doing the work because that’s what feminism is, work. We learn by doing, so it makes sense that we’ll get things wrong along the way. I know I have plenty of times. I’m still learning.

I’m not talking about people who refuse to take feedback onboard. If people are gracious with their time, knowledge and experience and someone still doesn’t want to know, that’s a whole other issue. I don’t engage with people whose feminism is transphobic or racist and they have no intention of changing it. I understand the need for getting the head down and organising with people who are all on the same level. I don’t think calling people out for shitty behaviour is infighting, trolling or tearing other women down. I do think calling people in sometimes works better.

How do we balance experienced activists getting things done, knowing when to call in versus call out with inexperienced people getting involved? How do we share the load?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m open to having the conversation. Maybe that’s the best place to start.

Enjoy this newsletter? Tell a friend to subscribe here. Come say hello on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

New Year, New You...Maybe

Because 'I am a work in progress' isn't as catchy!

I have a complicated relationship with the New Year. I’m not alone in that. When I drank, New Year’s Eve was full pressure to make sure I was having the best time at the right party. Now that I no longer drink, NYE is about trying to have fun while being surrounded by drunk people. Easier said than done. So much so that I stayed home on Monday and was in bed before the clock struck midnight.

This is point where I tell you I’m not an alcoholic. That is what most people assume when I talk about giving up drink because that’s how messed up our view of alcohol is; the only reason someone wouldn’t partake of a tipple is due an addiction.

If your social media feeds look anything like mine, they are full of people talking about the pros and cons of New Year Resolutions. More accurately, they’re full of people either sharing their resolutions or telling us why New Year Resolutions are bullshit. January 1st is just another day after all. What if yesterday was simply a day like any other, but also one where people felt  comfortable dedicating time to focus on what they want from life?

I’m not talking about diet culture and the media that told us to indulge ourselves over Christmas now insisting that we immediately shed that weight or risk failing at being our best selves. Diet culture is toxic, weight is not an indicator of health, diets do not work and wellness is used to sell us so many different things that it has become meaningless. That doesn’t mean you can’t exercise or eat differently than you usually do. It does mean we should interrogate the societal structures that lead us to finding our self-worth in how we look or assuming that there is a one size fits all definition of ‘healthy’.

I’ve a terrible track record at sticking to the few resolutions I have set myself over the years. The only one I’ve managed to be consistent with is using up skincare products and make-up before purchasing new ones. Even with that, I’m not religious about it. My recent panic buy of three tubes of the Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet lipstick in the shade Personne Ne Rouge! is proof of that. It is the colour I wore on my wedding day and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find.

In a bid to get better at them, I switched from resolutions to goals a couple of years ago. I reasoned that longer term aims would be better than quick-fix solutions. I didn’t fare much better. I’m a list writer. I love a fancy notebook and a good pen. But the arbitrary date for making plans does not work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t for me. That is not a failing.

This year I’m focusing less on ‘New Year, New Me’ and more on accepting that I am a work in progress. If only the latter came with a catchy slogan!

Enjoy this newsletter? Tell a friend to subscribe here. Come say hello on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Welcome to the Wednesday Letters

Weekly essays, by Paula Dennan, about feminism, activism and figuring out who I am.

New Year, New Newsletter. That’s totally the saying, right!?

Welcome to the Wednesday Letters. I’m your host, Paula Dennan. For those new to my writing, I’ve blogged on various platforms as Cornflakegirl’s Musings since 2011. What started as a place to write about my love of all things beauty related has developed into a blog about books, feminism and life.

With the Wednesday Letters I want to explore new writing styles, both non-fiction and fiction. We're talking weekly essays about feminism, activism and figuring out who I am.  Life is complicated, let’s explore it together!

Paula Dennan

Loading more posts…