Off-Third: The cosmetic case for mask mandates

The second-best university in New York City has lifted their mask mandate. As the No. 1 school in the city, we need to stand our ground.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

Although Columbia will be lifting its mask mandate on March 14, NYU needs to maintain the mask policy to keep its students’ judgmental facial expressions and stress-induced acne out of the public eye. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Sydney Barragan, UTA Publishing Editor

Columbia University announced last week that indoor masking will be optional on its campus starting March 14. Since we typically do what the other, worse Ivy League school in New York City does, NYU students could reasonably expect a similar announcement in the coming weeks. But we must dare to do the unspeakable — urge our university to not simply copy Columbia’s policies. We need to go against the crowd, as we are the No. 1 school in New York, after all.

Masking indoors is absolutely essential because I need to keep my judgmental facial expressions and stress-induced acne out of the public eye. Masking has no relation to slowing the spread of  COVID-19 or anything, since students can be found making out with strangers at rooftop parties and forgetting all about social distancing at Phebe’s. 

College is stressful in general, but midterm season is a whole other beast. My skin has paid the price for my lack of sleep, skipped skincare routines, and constant state of stress over assignments that continue to pile up. It’s gotten to the point that even concealer or strategically placed turtlenecks are no match for it.

I know that many of my classmates wouldn’t blink over spending $25 on the snail mucin — a product literally made from snails — that claims it can fix any and all problems, or the $70 Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser, but I simply refuse to open my wallet for that. Why spend money on these products when I can just hide behind the reusable mask that I haven’t washed in two weeks?

I’ve saved so much money on my existing products too; I only need half the amount of foundation and moisturizer I normally use. I only need a dollop of self-tanner, which I only use so people don’t think I’m lying about being from Southern California. And I don’t even need to use that definitely-not-expired travel-size bronzer I’ve had since seventh grade, since my mask so perfectly hides my cheekbones. 

There is nothing wrong with acne, nor is there anything shameful about going barefaced like the concrete jungle queen herself, Alicia Keys. I, however, feel a bit of pressure to put more effort into my appearance. Half of my class walks in like they just left a runway and the others look like they’re going to pull a Gisele Bündchen and get discovered at a McDonald’s. With masks at least, the playing field is a bit more even. 

I am too tired and overworked to focus on rewiring my brain to accept the presence of acne and embrace the beauty of an au naturel look — it’s not easy to unlearn 18 years of growing up near middle-aged housewives who look barely over 21. I can’t juggle a double major and tackle the beauty industry all at once. Something has to give. 

So for now, I will cave to makeup conglomerates and societal standards. I will advocate for the continued presence of masks to hide my blemished skin. COVID-19 is a pretty big deal, but I’m more concerned about the global crisis that is my public appearance. 

Ask not what masks can do for health, but what they can do for vanity.

Off-Third is WSN’s satire column. Views expressed in Off-Third do not necessarily reflect those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Contact Sydney Barragan at [email protected].