Issa Thread

Issa Thread

With the advent of social media, it has ironically become harder to gauge when and where our favorite (and least favorite) trends start. Information now moves at unimaginable speeds and facilitates an indistinguishable vortex of stimuli, with neither a beginning nor an end in sight.

And that incredibly existential note, let me get y’all acquainted with a phenomenon that I’m sure you’ve already noticed, or even participated in: skin care threads on Twitter.

While Twitter seems to suck at making money, it does an incredible job at creating and facilitating pop culture. Ten minutes after any piece of news breaks, whether celebrity or political, there are already hundreds of think pieces, comments, and of course memes that contribute to the discourse. At the same time, today’s trends seem to exist exclusively on social media platforms, Twitter being an excellent example. Twitter’s ability to compile, showcase, and promote trends has made certain traits traditionally associated with celebrity status more accessible to us mere lay people. Some of these aspects are designer labels, a snatched body, and most importantly, flawless skin.

I first started noticing this trend this past summer, when I wasn’t distracted by final exams and the fear of failing all of my classes. People who had quite a substantial number of followers-- at least 1,000-- and beautiful skin were often asked by said followers to spill the tea on their skin care routine. Sometimes users would list up to eight different products, explaining what they did and why they worked for their specific skin type; and all of this information was absolutely free. This was a methodology that I could understand: having a lot of followers + being aesthetically pleasing after a moderate amount of Facetune = skin care thread requests; and because almost everything is cyclic, a good skin care thread usually leads to even more followers. Of course, this encouraged other Twitter users to post their own skin care threads, most of these now unsolicited, in aims of upping their follower count.

What at first seemed like an incredibly interesting and organic means of accessing beauty has now morphed into a thoughtless and opportunistic way to gain clout on Twitter.

I’m disappointed, but am I surprised? Not in the slightest.

While the skin care thread phenomenon has taken on a certain image, there are still aspects of it that I appreciate and find incredibly fascinating, especially in this period of time where social media has such a strong influence on how human beauty is perceived. The one concept that I have observed to be especially enduring, from the phenomenon’s earliest stages to present day, is affordability. I believe that this has a connection to the beginning of Twitter, both the website and each user’s personal account. Twitter was created to allow everyday people to connect with each other, and creating an account is absolutely free. Affordability, no matter what, will always be the basis of Twitter, and I believe that we see this homage to relatability and accessibility in the prices of these products. Instead of trying to get their followers to buy the expensive and brand name beauty products that social media often peddles to us, Twitter skin care threads often include affordable drugstore products or cheap natural remedies that one can find at a health foods store. You’ve probably heard of some of the cure-alls like witch hazel, rose water, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and rosehip oil, to name a few. More active lifestyle tips include avoiding stress, which, as a Princeton student, sounds like the most simple-minded and naive thing I have ever heard. But, it’s true: stress makes you ugly.

More active lifestyle tips include avoiding stress, which, as a Princeton student, sounds like the most simple-minded and naive thing I have ever heard. But, it’s true: stress makes you ugly.

Although I’ve talked a moderate amount of smack about these threads, I have to admit that they’ve been impactful in my life as well as for others, I’m sure. Believe it or not, I’ve been using rose water and apple cider vinegar since summer and now the skin on my face is almost one uniform shade of brown as opposed to the discoloration I used to suffer from. While it’s true that they have taken on a mind of their own, even seeping into YouTube for the same aim of gaining popularity, skin care threads are a positive retaliation to a beauty industry that often persuades us into buying pricey products that we probably don’t need. The colloquial nature of Twitter and its users has challenged the status quo of who has access to clear, flawless skin, and the politics of beauty have never been so complicated.

Cover Photo: @Akiladahun1

In text Photos: Via Twitter

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