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The beauty of "beauty"

POSTED AT 10:21 PM ON May. 3, 2012  (UPDATED AT 12:00 PM ON May. 4, 2012)

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I’ll admit the word “beauty” does sound kind of vain. To most of the world, beauty conjures up an image of a beautiful face, a beautiful body, a beautiful person. What makes us beautiful, anyway? But I’m not talking about anything quite this philosophical.

The beauty I’m talking about is more than skin deep. It’s the entire beauty industry: makeup, hair, nails, lotions, potions and serums we curate for our specific beauty regimens. Products that make us feel prettier, happier and more glamorous.

It’s this “self-improvement” quality that gives beauty a bad rap. Sure, it’s okay to wear a little makeup, but God forbid you wear it every day. And if you don’t wear makeup, you win some sort of prize.

Magazine interviews with stunning movie stars almost always point out how the actress shows up without a single swipe of makeup. Even if this isn’t entirely true, writers tell us these tall tales in an attempt to humanize the goddesses of Hollywood.

I always wonder if there is actual evidence that women like reading this sort of thing. Personally, I would rather read about Scarlett Johansson’s daily makeup routine or her favorite lipstick before reading the gut-wrenching “truth” that she doesn’t need a single product to look stunning. Claiming she wears no makeup isn’t humanizing her; it’s putting her up there with God, cupcakes and other utterly perfect things.

The truth is that every woman cares about beauty. From a tween’s first Lip Smacker chapstick to your grandmother’s umpteenth bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Opium, every woman has her beauty moment at least once a day. Even those women who proudly claim they don’t wear a lick of makeup still wash their hair with their favorite shampoo and carefully choose a scented bar of soap from the drugstore. It all goes back to beauty. We do these little things to make ourselves look and feel better.

And what’s so bad about that?

I’ve heard time and time again that women who wear makeup every day are just “vain” and “insecure,” that they need to hide behind Bobbi Brown and Clinique.

I could easily rebut this by saying those girls who incessantly pride themselves on not wearing makeup are hiding behind the real shield. They’re insisting they don’t buy into beauty campaigns or feel the need for a little mascara. They’re just above it all and somehow better for it. If that isn’t dehumanizing, I don’t know what is.

Instead, I see beauty as something that connects women. It humanizes all of us, in a way. We look different and want different things — even skin, thicker lashes, a brighter lip — but these things bring us together.

Despite what people might tell you, nothing about makeup is vain or conceited. You don’t lack confidence just because you swirl blush on your cheeks. Beauty is deeply personal, and when I see women bond because of something like the perfect shade of pink lipstick, I’m instantly reminded of this.

­— emfarra@indiana.edu

 

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