Columns, Opinion

Pretty isn’t pretty: behind ‘natural beauty’ | Mad Women

Natural beauty is all the rage. We’re rocking the bare skinned look. Goodbye full coverage foundation and false eyelashes, and hello skin tints and lash extensions. Goodbye dramatic eye shadows and deep contour, introducing under eye creams and facial filler. We’ve made a dramatic shift in our beauty standards since the 2010s, but is au natural all the better or are we just exhausting ourselves more than ever to achieve picture perfect beauty?

Samantha Sanders | Graphic Artist

The last major beauty standards shift happened after the COVID-19 pandemic. As people stayed home, they got more used to their faces, and because of masks, the heavy makeup looks that were once popular became uncomfortable and unnecessary. Post-pandemic, people started to embrace natural beauty, opting for a better skincare routine rather than a top of the line makeup routine with heavy foundation and thick winged eyeliner.

Skincare brands such as Glow Recipe, The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant sky rocketed into popularity. These products are shared amongst social media platforms, primarily TikTok, with success stories and glowing, smiling faces recommending audiences to try these products for themselves. Although many dermatologists recommend keeping our skincare routines simple, the trend cycle says otherwise. We try product after product without waiting for the results from the last one we tried, resulting in more harm than good for our skin.

There’s underlying ageism that comes with this beauty shift as well. Many skincare routines shared on social media have “anti-aging” plastered all over thumbnails and captions, with many of the creators being as young as 14 years old. Aging is seen as something that should and can be avoided at all costs, especially for women, so they stay in pristine condition. In actuality, it is such an amazing privilege to age and let time pass by. Your internal beauty and the beauty of life is so much more important than outward appearances.

We become impatient so easily when it comes to beauty. We can’t wait another moment for our pimples to clear up and our wrinkles to smooth out. Social media has made us so aware of problems with our looks that we never even thought were problems, like face symmetry and even the canthal tilt of our eyes. We get bored and complicate our beauty routines even more, incorporating facial rollers and gua shas and making sure we apply creams upwards rather than downwards to avoid dragging the skin. 

There’s also a cult of false confidence. We are constantly told to love ourselves and love the bodies we are in, yet we are told to contour our nose a certain way. We’re told to embrace our acne and blemishes, but in the same breath, we are sold acids to smooth our skin out. It truly feels like a lose-lose situation when we are trying so hard to be confident but are still fed the lies of the beauty industry.

Dermal fillers have become the go-to in the stride to achieve the au natural look. According to Fortune Business, the filler industry in the United States was valued at around $5.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach at least $9 billion by 2030. 

The most popular procedures are usually Botox, lip injections and fat dissolving fillers. They are heavily marketed and praised within social media circles, and many popular influencers are very honest with their audience about procedures or even surgeries they have had done. You can choose to do whatever you want with your body, but today’s culture has made fillers seem like a basic necessity rather than an enhancement choice. 

Beauty is seen as a status symbol and biological advantage. It coincides with fortune and fame. We obsessively watch celebrities’ get ready with me videos and want to copy their high end skincare routines. We fail to recognize that these high maintenance routines are achievable for them because of their wealth and status.

They have the money to invest in these products that most people do not. They have the time to invest in a 20-step skincare regimen and the occasional facial and visit to the dermatologist that many people don’t have the privilege of as well. This fact is continuously glossed over, and we are beating ourselves up for it when it is not our fault in the slightest.

We see beautiful people and think they are effortlessly gorgeous and their lives must be perfect. A simple glimpse through our social media feeds would say otherwise. There is constant pressure on looking our best, but looking natural and effortless. It’s all a façade. It’s time we take a break from the regimens and figure out what makes us feel beautiful.

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