The Vanity Project: What Your Beauty Cabinet Says About Your Vanity

Whether you’re putting yourself together or stealing private moments with a jade roller, chances are you spend some time at a vanity each day. But did you ever wonder what the contents of your beauty cabinet say about you?

In today’s culture, vanity is tied up with a sense of validation that often comes from outside sources: Social media can foster an excessive preoccupation with how you appear to others. Meanwhile, beauty brands are also using social platforms to target sales, putting the power of media and marketing into the hands of influencers who are helping to democratize the beauty industry.

The standards for what’s considered beautiful are now more fluid and self-determined than ever before. Here, we celebrate people who find joie de vivre in vanity — the models, style influencers and product junkies who give us an inside look at their glamour inventory. For them, vanity is a transformational experience that unlocks identity.

Alexis Henry, model

“I want to appear like I’ve made an impact somehow.”

I work in an industry that puts your body and beauty up for grabs. I hope people see that I, along with many other plus models, am trying to make space for us all in fashion and beauty.”

On her routine: “If I’m having a good skin week, I feel like I can conquer anything. I feel confident with or without makeup. I’m more prone to carving out an hour or two to do a full skin care routine. But if it’s around my period, my skin routine feels like a job to maintain and burden at times.”

Nancy Richer, ballerina and founder of Richer Movement

“I focus more on being than appearing.”

“I have a fluid definition of beauty. I try to just be open to noticing it when it appears.”

Favorite self-care moment: Ballet class and my workouts are definitely my favorite. Bath time is a close second.”

Mars Dixon: model, musician, YouTuber, aspiring screenwriter, dog walker

“My beauty routine feels like two giant middle fingers to people who told me I was ugly growing up. It also feels like a giant self hug because I’m treating myself with the care I deserve.”

“To straight men, I want to appear unf*ckwithable. To everyone else? A comrade, a friend, an ally, approachable, someone who will hold open a door.”

Favorite self-care moment: Seeing how much my face has changed over the years from age and hormone therapy. (I’m transgender.)”

Mariya Nurislamova, CEO, co-founder of Scentbird and Deck of Scarlet

“Being well put together is actually more important to me than being beautiful. As far as inner beauty, I feel compassion and optimism are the two traits that make a person most beautiful.”

“As a CEO, it’s less about how I appear to others and more about whether my communication is clear, conscientious and actionable.”

On her routine:I have a six-step skin care routine that I enjoy tremendously. I use two types of cleansers, an exfoliating toner, a serum, moisturizer and an eye cream prior to applying makeup. It’s quite time-consuming, but the results are well worth it.”

Cristina Gordon, president and founder, C Bee PR

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who doesn’t question herself. She looks in the mirror every day and says, ‘I am enough, exactly the way I am.’”

“I want my daughter to be proud of me. I’ve always had this dream that one day I would overhear her talking to her friends about how amazing and cool she thinks her mommy is.”

On her routine: Everything I do, I do with 100% of my heart. My beauty routine keeps me feeling myself. It’s my special moment in the day when I am not puréeing baby food, breastfeeding or wiping butts. Beauty is such a big part of my life and I never wanted to lose myself when becoming a mom. My vanity has a skin care fridge because I’m very extra. That fridge houses my personalized cream, created using my platelet-rich plasma. Some days if the baby goes down early, I get to indulge in my 20-step process. Most days I reach for a go-to product that’s effective and luxurious.”

Jordan Pacitti, founder of Jordan Samuel Skin

“Beauty is all about energy.”

“Even more important than clothing, a great skin care routine makes me feel complete.”

Favorite self-care moment: “I love massaging my skin and always take extra time to do this as I cleanse.”

Shelly Taggar, owner of The Makeup Show

“Beauty comes from within. We are all beautiful in some way.”

“My beauty routine makes me feel younger and more refreshed.”

Favorite self-care moment: “I enjoy doing masks and skin treatments. Skin is the base of perfecting any makeup application.”

Sal Ali, CEO and founder, Farsali

“Beauty is something that you feel about someone, something or yourself.”

“I wish people would see the real me. Not everyone gets to know you on a deeper level. But overall, I’m happy with however I’m perceived by others because it doesn’t make a difference to who I really am, what I stand for, and what I’m capable of.”

Zoey Grinstead, route setter at Touchstone Climbing

“Beauty is the ability to feel comfortable. I struggled with this as I was coming out as trans. I wasn’t feeling ‘right’ in my skin. Eventually, through messing with makeup and how I dressed, I landed somewhere.”

Favorite self-care moment: Brushing my hair is the best and the worst. I love my hair, but because of the dust and sweat through work, it can be annoying. Overall, when I go through the motions of getting ready in the morning, my mood goes from good to great.”

Sho, style blogger and personal stylist

“I’m definitely that overdressed friend. I love to make people laugh and feel comfortable around me. I’m a vibe.”

“Makeup is not a necessity, and I appreciate my natural features, beauty marks, blemishes and all.”

Favorite self-care moment: I love cleansing, exfoliating and then relaxing with a cucumber facial mask and a glass of wine.”

Sebastien Tardif, Veil Cosmetics creator and CEO

“Beauty is an intangible feeling or impression that we constantly search and long for.”

“I enjoy every step of my beauty routine. It’s almost like a Zen ritual when I’m not pressed for time.”

On his routine: “Each step my routine culminates with the sum, and a sense of happiness, satisfaction and extra confidence. If I miss or skip a step, my routine somehow feels incomplete.”

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.