The Thirst Awakens
Looking in the mirror the last few weeks of 2019, I gently poked my finger on my forehead skin like I had seen an Instagram influencer do. I’m dehydrated, I diagnosed, ignoring the irritability and the fatigue that were already begging me to take a few sips of water. Those fine lines (which are something human skin just does over time), felt too big to ignore.
So I poured a cup of coffee and slapped on the first face mask I could find—seeking a surface-level fix for an inside problem. Then, as I went down my daily rabbit hole on social media, I came across yet another one of the “drink water, mind your own business” posts. Turns out, I was, at that very moment, doing neither of those things.
So that’s why my skin is acting up right now, I thought wrongly. But how did we get here? Why, suddenly, are Baby Yoda memes my main reminder to stay hydrated? Let’s discuss.
The Rise Of Skin Care
I was caught off guard the first time I heard that skin care was more important than makeup. Until my twenties, my only experience with skincare products was with a micro-bead-infused face cleanser I had picked up on clearance at Target 😳. I washed my face sporadically and agonized over the acne that plagued my jawline. (Note: I’ve since learned that all skin is perfect skin, and acne does not change your worth or your loveliness).
I relied on my small and inexpensive makeup collection to distract. (I think that’s how I ended up with so many brightly colored gel eyeshadows in the late aughts.) It was another surface-level fix for an imbalance that was much deeper.
“As I joined the ranks of people who clambered for Instagram-worthy skin in the 2010s, [I discovered that] hydration, both internal and external, was the key to a ‘grammable complexion.”
When I began living with other women in college, I discovered that there was a whole world of facial products and routines. And that, in fact, you didn’t have to douse your face in sparkles to get a glow. Imagine!
So as I joined the ranks of people who clambered for Instagram-worthy skin in the 2010s, we heard from celebrities who touted water as their cure-all. We pored over water-drinking before and afters. Face masks became standard (and social media-friendly) self-care instead of a quirky luxury. Hydration, both internal and external, was the key to a ‘grammable complexion. Conversations cropped up about what types of water to drink (La Croix, obvs), and which ones to put on your face (La Croix again?). And who could forget the “glass-skin” moment in 2017?
So yes—water joined the beauty conversation in a big way a couple of years ago. And in 2018, the discussion shifted in a big way from what we were drinking to how we were drinking it.
The Last Plastic Water Bottle
Okay, so we’re years (decades?) away from properly managing our reliance on single-use plastic. But as cute reusable water bottles flood our Instagram feeds in place of frappuccino shots, flaunting our hydration practices has become mainstream-cool.
We’re even getting more conscious about how we sip beyond the bottle. In the summer of 2018, as consumers began to get more concerned about the impact of plastic straws on our oceans and waterways, Starbucks announced it would be disposable plastic straw-free by 2020. One look at the Google Trends for “reusable straws” shows that, in turn, consumers began searching for more sustainable alternatives on a larger scale. Small movements do have ripple effects—especially if they’re amplified loudly enough.
Accessibility is important, though: communities that don’t currently have access to clean water often rely on drinking water in plastic bottles, and plastic straws are essential for some disabled people. (If there’s one big takeaway from the 2010s, it’s that these conversations don’t happen in a vacuum and privilege and accessibility need to be part of the discussion.)
“Has Instagram given us the reminder, through memes, skincare, and #aesthetic posts, to drink just a little more water from reusable bottles?”
While plastic straws and bottles aren’t the only culprits when it comes to the climate crisis, this data is telling—we’re looking for more sustainable ways to hydrate.
In a world where social media has done nothing to help our self-image, has it really helped us become aware of our plastic usage? Has Instagram given us the reminder, through memes, skincare, and #aesthetic posts, to drink just a little more water from reusable bottles? For me, personally, yes. And, bear with me: I think it even goes deeper than that.
The Revolution Starts With Fine Lines
The last of the 80s babies have crossed the threshold into their 30s. This year will see the inaugural 90s kids dutifully and begrudgingly do the same, myself included. We are all getting older.
Millennials are stepping firmly into adulthood and swapping alcohol for water, creating healthier morning routines, and inviting mindfulness into even our smallest habits. As we face some of the greatest emergencies our generation has ever known, we see how important it is to care for ourselves beyond face masks and fuzzy robes. What we need, more than anything, is high-quality H20, so that we can face the challenges ahead at full strength.
This generation of young adults has seen history play out over Wi-Fi and can find the depths of human depravity with a few keystrokes. We’ve inherited so many deeply-rooted issues that, so far, have only been “fixed” with surface-level adjustments.
“We’re looking at the tensions in our country and our communities and thinking ‘perhaps I should volunteer more and take a more active stance on my beliefs.’”
But we’re seeing it. More of us are looking in the mirror and seeing those fine lines and thinking maybe I should drink some more water and get a skosh more sleep tonight. We’re looking at the tensions in our country and our communities and thinking perhaps I should volunteer more and take a more active stance on my beliefs.
Those fine lines are the cracks in the surface telling us it’s time to take action, to look after ourselves, to hydrate. Some people, though, ignore the lines; instead, opting for the same old responses that don’t cause a stir and won’t make much of a difference. Who do you want to be in 2020?
Yes, this is a PSA to drink more water, because social change is powered by small acts of self-care as well as seismic upheavals. It’s also a reminder that to quench our thirst for change, we need to be the ones to bring water, both literal and figurative, to our communities. To repair from within the things that have needed tending all along. A tall glass of water and a resolved attitude are essential parts of our morning routines, now more than ever.
What I’m saying is, the world won’t automatically improve if we all drink more water in 2020. But I will tell you, with confidence, that it will get worse if we don’t.