Welcome to Consumerism Reports, a recurring series about all my devices. I’d like to clarify that it is NOT a tech column — it’s about spending money to speed up self-transformation, and then buying more stuff when that doesn’t work. And so I have acquired an endless array of devices: from products that promise to make my face look more triangular and the skin around my eyes less purple to ones that shrink specific parts of my salt-logged body. Do any of them work?
Have you heard of the new skincare super-ingredient? It’s an anti-aging hero that supports healthy barrier function. Is it marula oil? No. Is it mandelic acid? No. Is it dangerous and rare? Maybe, depending on what sub-group you identified with in adolescence. The substance of which I speak is “cork,” and the product is made by the finest arbiters of bark in the entire world, Birkenstock.
I’ve long been a Birkenstock wearer. I like how they’re for both grown dudebros and middle school girls who need to quickly change shoes for P.E., and that they’re engineered by German sociopaths. Here’s a picture of me in 2001, rocking the hell out of a pair of Birkies on a dude ranch in Wyoming. That flat ass in a pair of light wash jeans you see in the background is a hired cowboy named Steven, the hottest guy I’d ever seen in my life.
What I wouldn’t give to be this pre-9/11 ten-year-old again, confidently learning to hogtie livestock while wearing jorts and a flirty, carefree hairdo, my feet already nearly size 9.5s. I was so assured. It was the power of the Birks. What if I could be her again… with Birkenstock’s new beauty line?
The $65 Birkenstock Natural Skincare Anti-Stress Serum purports to harness the purest of cork oak extract to “[calm] the appearance of skin redness and [create] a more even looking complexion…Boswellia extract works with cork oak to support healthy barrier function so the skin is better protected against environmental factors like free radicals and pollutants.”
The one-ounce bottle is an attractive frosted glass with a convenient press-top dropper dispenser. I expected the oil inside to have that new-Birk smell, but I only got traces of wheatgrass and turmeric (the latter of which is an ingredient “packed with antioxidants that calm, balance, and give skin a natural glow.” I slathered her on. Yes, I gleamed like a freshly waxed Rick Owens x Birkenstock Boston clog. Yes, I felt vital, like the renewable and reharvested cork layer of the ancient oak genus, which can provide 100 to 200 kilograms of cork during its life, according to the Birkenstock website.
But did I feel like that little girl out west, the one with the lasso and the funky Arizona sandals with the extra-plush footbed? No — and I never will. I’ve lost my innocence forever, hoofed it too far from who she was. And though I may slather myself tip to toe with super sustainable cork juice, I shan’t be bouncing back.
Previously: The $13 Coffee Syrup That Made Me a Genius