When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted her skincare routine on Instagram last week, the internet immediately lit up. Some heralded her down-to-earth-ness, a breath of fresh air and personality in what can be a very stagnant world of politics. Some decried the posts, claiming that it detracted from the seriousness of her role. Others were just simply happy she shared her tips. (I mean, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, we can all agree on this—the woman has great skin.)
Greater implications aside, I wanted to know: What is a day in the life of AOC’s epidermis like? To be honest, pursuing this story was a lazy move on my behalf. Her routine is basically the same as mine—that is to say, not very involved: taking off my makeup, washing my face, toning, moisturizing, putting on a mask every now and then, using sunscreen and minimal makeup, repeat.
It turns out that, as far as self-care routines go, we have a lot in common: She’s a big fan of having a separate wardrobe for work and lounging, which, as someone with as many pajama sets as a retired divorcee in Palm Beach, I fully endorse. And I, too, follow a vegan-ish diet: I try to eat as little cheese and dairy as possible, but, like monitoring my oxygen intake or keeping my cells from dividing, it’s hard.
And just like Ocasio-Cortez’s mom, my mother also used to berate me for touching my face, prying my fingers from my chin like they were nails in a board. She even used to call me at my first job post-college and nag me to sanitize my phone speaker so I wouldn’t break out. Yes, you’re coming to the correct conclusion—AOC and I are probably long-lost sisters separated at birth.
It makes sense, then, that nothing earth-shattering happened after giving my pores the AOC treatment. It was pretty much business as usual, and I didn’t wake up one morning ready to dedicate my life to progressive politics or with a burning desire to don a white pantsuit and take on the establishment.
After a week of Ocasio-Cortez-ing, I still just looked like me, although I did follow her lead and wear highlighter, which made me look like a dewy cherub glowing post-sauna, and the gold hoops-and-red lipstick combo, which gave me a certain mystique, like Annie Leibovitz might pop out at any second and photograph me against velvet drapery. I also followed her lead and decided not to wear makeup for a weekend, which was great. (I did this while camping outside of Charlottesville, which made me momentarily worried someone would mistake me in my makeup-less state for Bigfoot and try to tranquilize and taxidermy me.)
All this aside, what was most revealing actually had nothing to do with my skin at all—it was the response to Ocasio-Cortez’s posts. Of course, plenty of people were glad she’d posted her skincare tips, but there were also many on social media who thought she was downplaying her seriousness as a politician by doing so. A male politician would never do something like this, said some. I don’t care about her skincare habits; I just care about her policy, said others.
Don’t get me wrong—I certainly believe there’s a burdensome and unrealistic amount of pressure on women to maintain physical appearances. Comparing the shit in my medicine cabinet to my boyfriend’s makes my brain pulse like a forest fire (and that’s a whole other essay for another day). But the fact that people, especially women, would give Ocasio-Cortez flak for sharing her skincare routine—well, I find that ridiculous.
Why must a woman interested in policy automatically be disinterested in her pores? This reductive assertion perpetuates the myth that women are only legitimate when they fit neatly in a certain role: namely the one displayed by stodgy, older male politicians who apparently were born pore-less, like smooth, filibustering seals (although, my apologies to you, Mitch McConnell, if you are actually a fan of Korean beauty products).
This is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 20s, and one it seems AOC holds close, too—that taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for others, too. You’re happier, more productive, more balanced, more centered when you’re prioritizing your health and needs. And let’s be real—if anyone needs to be prioritizing this, it’s members of Congress. Consider this an invitation to any Senate or House members that need to decompress post-State of the Union tonight: My apartment door is always open. I’ll have the jade rollers and clay masks waiting.