Forbes gave People a run for its money in the race to suck up to the president-elect and his cronies this week. The business biweekly published a long, positive profile of Jared Kushner, real estate scion, owner of the Observer, and husband of Donald Trump’s favored daughter, Ivanka. Kushner’s father donated enormous sums of money to Democratic candidates in the early 2000s, but Kushner has seen fit to abandon his parents’ values and hitch his wagon to the authoritarian movement led by his father-in-law. Asked by Forbes’ Steven Bertoni about the friends who have cut ties with Kushner since he began advising the Trump campaign, Kushner sounded blasé. “I call it an exfoliation,” he replied. “Anyone who was willing to change a friendship or not do business because of who somebody supports in politics is not somebody who has a lot of character.”
Exfoliation is an apt choice of metaphor for Kushner, who was recently described by a journalist as having “an eerily flawless complexion.” Surely someone with such glowing skin has ample firsthand knowledge of removing dead surface cells to boost skin’s health and appearance. But Kushner’s metaphor raises more questions than it answers. If losing friends and associates who value equality, tolerance, and inclusion more than social climbing is akin to exfoliation, what kind of exfoliation is it?
As every skincare devotee knows, there are two main types of exfoliation: physical exfoliation (which removes dead cells using the friction from scrubs, microbeads, or brushes) and chemical exfoliation (which dissolves dead cells with acids). The devotees of Reddit’s r/SkincareAddiction community—the leading source of information on dermatological health for lazy people on the internet—claim that physical exfoliation is a violent, harmful process that creates countless tiny tears on the skin’s surface, leading to irritation and infection. Depending on just how angry Kushner and his conscience-having friends were when they parted ways, physical exfoliation might be the right comparison for the process.
But perhaps Kushner’s Democratic friends simply dropped away quietly, gradually, and practically unnoticeably once they realized their former pal was an amoral, power-hungry opportunist? If that’s the case, chemical exfoliation seems like a better metaphor. But was the agent of this social exfoliation an alpha-hydroxy acid like glycolic or lactic acid, which are water soluble and recommended to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles? (You gotta stay youthful when you’re abandoning your principles to help your father-in-law take over the country!) Or did the exfoliation happen with beta-hydroxy acid, also known as salicylic acid, which cuts through oil to prevent acne? The world of New York real estate is known for being pretty oily, so it’s likely a fairly high percentage of salicylic acid was required to separate Kushner from his compatriots who have a sense of right and wrong.
Of course, exfoliation isn’t right for every skin type—some people get better results from products containing retinol, a form of vitamin A that improves the overall health of skin cells and increases the rate of turnover. Certainly, one could see how a dose of retinol would be useful in cases of stagnated friendships in which both parties have essentially lost interest but aren’t ready to let go. But it doesn’t sound like that was the case with Kushner and the friends he lost over the course of the election season. After all, retinol can take weeks or months to work its magic. It only takes a few minutes of reading about Kushner to realize that every decent person is better off far, far away from this man.