Breaking Down Beauty Standards

What is beauty, anyway?

If you look up a definition, you’ll find that it is…
a combination of qualities, such as shape, color or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.

Which brings another question to mind: Whose “aesthetic senses” should it please? Once we’ve jumped into this rabbit hole, the questions are nearly endless.

If you’re a woman reading this, you already know how damaging beauty standards can be. We’re constantly bombarded with images of near-perfect-looking women and subtle advertisements that suggest we’re just not quite…enough.

Buy this product to tame your frizzy hair or this one to avoid any signs of aging or this other one that guarantees you’ll drop 10 pounds in 24 hours—or some other equally insane-sounding result.

There’s nothing wrong or shameful about wanting to look and feel good. But maybe your beauty ideal isn’t what you see on TV or in magazine ad campaigns, which is OK, too. There shouldn’t be (and in my opinion there isn’t) a one-size-fits-all standard.

Yet, every year, we spend much of our hard-earned incomes on a variety of beauty treatments, from new diets to laser hair removal. And I’m not exempt. It’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to clean-up my own beauty routines, habits, and standards.

  • Late 2016 into 2017 is the first time, in nearly a decade, my hair has been 100 percent its natural color.
  • Recent years have also seen me wearing my glasses more often than not, rather than contacts every.single.day. Note: My eyes are much happier!!
  • I participated in No-Shave-November (didn’t totally hate it) and have made some major changes in this area of personal care.
  • Around 2014, I stopped washing my hair every day and have had some of the best hair of my life ever since.

Contrary to all of that, I started cosmetology school in November 2016. I do, thoroughly, enjoy doing hair and am interested in the beauty/fashion industry. But my time there was short-lived and I eventually decided to leave. Here’s why…

Although I loved learning to cut and style hair, I discovered very quickly that I was allergic to something to in the school’s product line. After shampooing, applying styling products and consistently running my hands through hair to clean and style it, the backs of my hands—particularly around the thumb and knuckles—would be red, dry and very itchy. While minor, this really made me stop and think about whether this was the right path for me.

I, primarily, use natural/homemade products at home. This has, apparently, resulted in my already-sensitive skin becoming more sensitive to highly fragranced or sulfate-laden products. If I knew these products caused a reaction for me, how was I ever going to sell them to someone else? Better yet, why would I even try to if I didn’t stand behind them?!?

Don’t get me wrong, the products are good. They work well and do what they’re supposed to. But if know there’s an alternative that works just as well or better, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend anything else. What it really boiled down to, for me, was a clash of values.

I don’t believe we should all look the same, act the same, or dress the same. I choose natural, organic brands because I value my health and that of the Earth. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should all be bronzed, blonde, or buxom. And feeling like a large part of my job as a stylist was going to be to “sell” these ideas to other people felt, well, gross.

Featured image by Manu Camargo/Unsplash.
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