28 February 2023

From Buffalo Bill to Tonya Harding — Here’s a rundown of cinema’s strangest beauty routines

Ever wondered how Patrick Bateman got that just-got-off-a-murderous-9-to-5 glow, or how the ‘skinification’ of Buffalo Bill inspired one of beauty’s hottest trends? HUNGER explores the beauty routines of cinema’s most complex characters, and what we can potentially learn from them…

Buffalo Bill’s ‘Skinifcation’

The antagonist in Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill, could have been one of Instas top beauty influencers had he not chosen the career path of, you know, murdering. Caught up in a web of extreme vanity, the beauty routine of Bill is framed by the music of Q Lazzarus with ‘Goodbye Horses’, and no better soundtrack could have been chosen for the groovy underground self-tape of one of cinema’s most gruesome killers. In the scene, he begins to pamper himself whilst his victims scream from below. He starts by filling in his brows from an old messy eye duo, adding in some dangly nipple piercings, and showing off his uber-trendy patchwork style tattoos. Had this scene been taken out of context, it could just look like any other day for an edgy creative on their way out the door. He then applies his lipstick and says “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me. I’d fuck me so hard”.

And whilst there are definitely some takeaways from Bill’s routine, including the difference an extreme dose of self-loving can do, he really comes into his own with the process of ‘skinifcation’. Fondly dubbed so by the beauty industry, the term refers to using products to make one’s skin look as natural as possible – a no-makeup makeup vibe. Buffalo Bill, however, took this one rather literally, as he kidnapped young women to skin them and create a ‘woman suit’ out of them. Not only that, but he really hates dry skin season, as he forces his victims to apply lotion to keep the skin plump and smooth ready for his wearing. We all refer to our skincare routines as rather ritualistic, and like to ask ourselves, ‘is having a 10-step skincare routine really a crime?’ Well, for Bill here, yes it is. 

I, Tonya have used too much blusher

In the 2017 film I, Tonya, Margot Robbie stars as troubled American figure skater Tonya Harding during her role in the ‘94 assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan. After battling with a lot of inner turmoil, Robbie, playing Harding, plonks herself in front of a mirror and tries to paint on a smile and stay beautiful for her sport despite everything she’s going through. In the deafening silence, she stares directly at herself and purses her lips in frustration. Her eyes and lips are coloured with a deep shade of purple and her frizzy blonde hair is scraped back into one single braid. She grabs a chunky blush stick and aggressively colours the apples of her cheeks with two dark stripes. 

Now, understandably, things have gotten rather hard for Harding at this point, what with her ex-husband and the assault, etc. She’s reached peak stress and is prepping her skin to add blush, and ends up going a tad bit overboard and incessantly starts blending with her fingers. She then smudges it across her forehead and starts crying her eyes out. We’ve all been there. She throws her head in her hands and then calms down and plasters on a smile, probably aware she should grab a make-up wipe and start over now. In all seriousness, Robbie’s acting shows the breakdown so well that it stirs up some emotion that you didn’t know you could even have towards your blusher. The lesson is, less is most definitely more. (Also that purple eyeshadow isn’t for everybody.)

Marion Silver on the importance of setting spray

Requiem for a Dream is one of those dark and gloomy films that linger in your memory due to its acute observations of hopes and dreams in the face of addiction. For beauty lovers, however, the focus shifts to the beauty routine of protagonist Marion Silver. In one pivotal scene, Silver looks in the mirror under an eerie blue light to paint on her dark cherry red lipstick. With kohl black eyeliner and a pasty white face, she carelessly washes it over her lips as she phones her boyfriend, Harry (played by Jared Leto), who is in prison. He promises he will stay that night knowing he will never come home, and as Silver finally understands, she lets out a single tear. 

“I’m sorry Marion”, says Harry. “I know”, she replies, whilst dabbing under her eyes with some white tissue and staring directly ahead. Dressed in all black with the only colour coming from her lipstick and a slight shimmer of silver eyeshadow, this beauty routine is symbolic of the dreams being broken between their relationship, and the mourning that will come after. Despite being one of cinema’s most accurate depictions of loss, Marion still keeps it together with a single tear, showing her acceptance and, simultaneously, an amazing setting spray (Urban Decay All Nighter perhaps?). Cue our own tears, and the hunt for the same all-day hold spray as whatever she was using in that scene. 

Post-murder glow with Patrick Bateman

The internet has historically been obsessed with the skincare of 80s investment banker, Patrick Bateman. And whilst our aforementioned cinematic beauty routines have a lot to teach us, it’s safe to say the Christian Bale character takes the top draw. American Psycho shows Bateman as the ultimate case of narcissism, with hobbies that include but are not limited to: working out, dining out, mansplaining, hooking up with women, and being super violent and murderous. Despite this, he has quite an admirable skincare routine. “I tie a plastic ice pack around my face and commence with the morning’s stretching exercises,” he says. “Afterward, I stand in front of a chrome and acrylic Washmobile bathroom sink – with soap dish, cup holder, and railings that serve as towel bars, which I bought at Hastings Tile to use while the marble sinks I ordered from Finland are being sanded – and stare at my reflection with the ice pack still on.”

Bateman goes on to chat about his mouthwash, flossing, nailcare, deep-pore cleanser lotion, herb-mint face mask, spearmint face scrub, gel shower cleanser, Vidal Sassoon shampoo, Gurene Natural Revitalizing shampoo for the weekends, Mousse A Rasier, pour Hommes shaving cream, hot towel, Clinique moisturiser, no alcohol aftershave lotion, anti-aging eye balm, scalp lotion, and a wide tooth comb. Phew. A lot to unpack there. Whilst it’s evident that this attention to achieving perfection does not equate to a decent set of morals, his skin does look mega glowy. Just know that if Bateman were around now, he would be a massive fan of ‘slugging’ and the ‘Vampire facial.’

  • Writer Ella Chadwick
  • Banner Image Credit Orion Pictures/ Strong Heart Productions

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