A little less than a year ago, I began to consider the relationship between shopping and emotions. In the thick of August heat in New York City, I was plagued with the mother of all breakouts. It wasn’t the first time that the muggy and sweaty conditions of summer in the city had left me with tears-inducing, self-esteem-bursting acne. I had seen this movie before. Pimples that hurt when I touched them, bled when I washed my face, scarred when I spent too long in the sun. There was no real short-term remedy to my acne — all I could do was smother my forehead in prescription cream before bed, drink water, and keep washing my face (not too much, the dermatologist warned).
One day during this seemingly endless breakout, I went into the bathroom at work and looked at myself in the mirror. I hated what I saw. Between the blemishes and a too-shiny complexion, my T-zone was a mess. That, coupled with a feeling of unjust boredom that hits all entry-level workers when they remember that not too many years ago, they were riding out their summer weekdays lounging at a pool, not glued to a computer screen in a fluorescent-lit office, made me cry. To be honest, it may have also been the immediate days before my period, and I was extra-sensitive. No matter, a midday meltdown ensued and I had to take a literal walk around the block. As I was walking through my office’s downtown neighborhood, I passed Sephora.
Realistically, I didn’t need anything from Sephora. I was trying to wear no makeup in an effort to keep my pores as unclogged as possible and all of the beauty emporium’s skin products were far too mild and over-the-counter for my skin. I went in because I love Sephora. I love the idea behind it: A place dedicated to beauty, from novel nail polish to Kardashian contour palettes. Sephora is magical and fun. Its inventory is made up of products whose sole purpose is to elevate one’s natural beauty.
I really needed a cosmetological pick-me-up. I couldn’t fight my acne anymore, I had to accept its tainted spot on my face while the pills and creams did their work. I needed something that would elevate my natural beauty, not hide my pimples. Where could I go? The foundation section was off-limits, that would do nothing for my skin. The perfume section is always a must-visit in my book, and I admit to occasionally stopping at Sephora to spritz myself before meeting someone. But I was in the mood to shop and I had that feeling that my mood would get better if I shopped. Perfume is a sentimental investment piece, so I wasn’t going to impulsively buy a bottle and walk back into work smelling like roses. I could buy nail polish, but then I’d have to paint my nails and I’m bad at painting my nails. Concealer is more of a need than a want.
I ended up in the eye makeup section, where I played around with some shadows and liners before stumbling upon mascara. Mascara falls pretty low in my makeup foodchain. I have naturally thick, black hair and my eyelashes need an extra touch of fullness only if I’m going for a dramatic night-on-the-town look. Since I don’t regularly wear it, I’ve always gone the drug store route. But there I was, staring at a display of Chanel and Dior mascara and thinking how badly I wanted it. Full, long-lasting lashes? Sign me up! I didn’t know what “buildable volume” meant but it sounded alluring. In my hormonal, impulsive spree, I completely believed that this mascara would make me beautiful.
Although it was far more than anything I’d ever paid for mascara, I bought it and walked back to work feeling triumphant. It put me in a good mood. Sure, there was still a war zone on my forehead, the humidity wasn’t going to break anytime soon, and I hadn’t acquired any vacation days, but at least I had volume-boosting mascara.
I call it the Sephora Effect. It’s happened to me both before and after that day, but it was the mascara purchase that put a name to the feeling, occurrence, whatever you want to call it: When you’re in a bad mood and feel like nothing is going right, all you have to do is walk into Sephora, where you’re surrounded by things that you don’t have to try on in a fitting room. Sephora is the great equalizer for shoppers because there’s something for everyone, no matter your skin type or budget. It’s a source of instant gratification and of the conviction that whatever you buy will make you look and feel better. Is there anything that makes you feel more pampered than that?
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