The self-care industry, with its sleek marketing, promises to deliver personal wellness and happiness to the world. Influencers have poured their hearts and souls into stacks of online content, courses, and e-books that promise to help consumers reach maximum potential, wealth and health! However, beneath this polished facade lies a complex web of contradictions and unintended consequences that merit closer scrutiny.

The Commodification of Care

Self-care, once a radical act of self-preservation and resistance, has been commodified into a consumer frenzy. Skincare routines, wellness retreats, and mindfulness apps are sold as essential tools for achieving an idealized state of well-being. Peace and quiet is apparently up for sale and has become an escape from the otherwise stressful and overwhelming demands of life. But has it deviated too far? Can acts of self-love really be reduced to a series of purchases? Or are we simply bypassing and sidelining the deeper, more intrinsic aspects of genuine self-care, such as setting boundaries, seeking therapy, or nurturing social connections? I personally, along with authors like Alice Cappelle, are not convinced that an investment in my nailcare routine is a substitute for doing the actual work that leads me down the path of exhaustion in the first place.

Individualism Over Community

Not only is there a strong consumer focus, but the self-care industry’s messaging heavily emphasizes individual responsibility for wellness. It implies that if we just buy the right products or adopt the latest trends, we can fix all our problems. This narrative is extremely isolating, assuming that if we invest in our personal brand and style then all our needs will be met. This mentality places the burden of mental and physical health solely on the individual, ignoring the broader social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the way we feel. In promoting a solitary path to self-care, the industry really overlooks the critical role of community and collective support in fostering true wellness. As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no substitute for belonging and connection and that means we have to learn and get better at being in relationships. What do they say, if you want to go fast go alone but if you want to go far go together.

The Illusion of Control

The self-care industry also thrives on the promise of control – control over our appearance, our health, our emotions. Yet, this illusion can lead to increased anxiety and self-blame when the products and practices fail to match the marketing campaign. We simply cannot avoid illness, sadness, disappointment, or bad hair in the morning. These things are not signs of failure, they are a normal part of the human experience and are often much better tolerated when experienced with others in a loving and supportive way. It would appear that this constant chase for the next best thing creates a cycle of consumption that benefits the industry far more than the individual.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Moreover, the self-care industry’s offerings are often accessible primarily to those with disposable income and leisure time, perpetuating existing inequalities. Wellness should be inclusive and accessible. It is about reclaiming space for creativity, expression, connection and rest. The reality is that self-care can be achieved in all sorts of ways together and in communities. We don’t have to spend hundreds on paint-and-sip nights or day spas! We can meet up in a park with our sketchpads, knitting needles, a football, or a boardgame. We can bring a plate and share food, drink, laughter and joy.

Moving Forward: A Balanced Approach

While there is value in some of the industry’s offerings, it is crucial to approach self-care with the pure intention in mind. Authentic self-care should encompass more than consumer products; it should involve self-reflection, community, nature, play, creativity, rest and connection. Together we must therefore reclaim self-care from its commodified version, returning back to simplicity and what matters most – relationships and love.

Sarah x

selfcare helpful or hindrance