The cosmeceutical face: time-fighting technologies and the archive

Document Type


Publication details

Cooke, G 2009, 'The cosmeceutical face: time-fighting technologies and the archive', Transformations, Issue 17.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed



In this paper I will discuss the implications of cosmetic "anti-aging" technologies and their marketing discourses for an understanding of the human face as a kind of archive, as a repository of time and memory. I will do this in relation to the writings of Bernard Stiegler and Jacques Derrida. While neither Derrida nor Stiegler talk at any length about the face or about cosmetics, their writings on the archive, temporality, and technology as "tertiary memory," illuminate the questions that revolve around the anti-aging industry's relation to time and the face, in a particularly appropriate manner. With reference to these writings, I will argue that cosmetic anti-aging technologies - frequently understood and marketed as "cosmeceuticals" - constitute the face as an archive at the same time that they work to limit the functioning of the face as an archive. This constitution of the face as archive occurs in the context of the beauty industry and social expectations about gender, youth and beauty; in the context of medical and technological developments related to the anti-aging industry; and in relation to real-time tele-technologies and the technologies of memory, which are intrinsically related to temporality and archivization. In an era characterized by, on the one hand, a massive industry of anti-aging biomedical and cosmetic interventions into the effects of time and aging on the human body, and on the other, by the profusion of digital technologies of real-time reportage and recording and information storage and retrieval, and by the concomitant "crises" of format obsolescence and archival preservation brought about by the speed of development and dissemination of such technologies, cosmeceuticals, ironically, preserve the face by not preserving it....

Find in your library