What does true beauty look like? Does it mean having plump, curvy lips or perfectly smooth skin? Is it bright, sparkling eyes and long, luscious eyelashes?
Is it defined by the women we see in television, magazines and movies?
I think many of us know what true beauty is—what lies on the inside of a person, and not on the outside; but I think sometimes in the rush of things, we forget.
So several of us Collegiate ladies decided to do what some women might call “The Unthinkable,” and pose for a few photos without our “face” on. Because despite what most popular magazines and television shows might portray, we know that true beauty lies within the character of a person’s heart; and we know you do, too!
Beauty’s long history
Did you know? The application of makeup on women, and sometimes men, spans as far back as ancient times. Egyptians used to paint their eyes with a dark mixture called kohl. The Greeks and Romans used ground-up minerals to cover their faces. And from the Middle Ages until the 19th century, women gave themselves a fair, pale look with a white mixture called ceruse.
Makeup = $$$
A study conducted by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) found that women in the U.S. spend around $7 billion each year on cosmetics alone.
This breaks down to an average of $100 a month per person. According to financial blog MintLife, added up to a lifetime of use, the total amount shelled out by just one woman could be as much as $15,000.
The ugly side of makeup
What are some of the pros and cons of wearing makeup frequently through our lives?
The benefits of cosmetics, or lack thereof, are widely debated in the fashion and medical communities. Some foundations and powders contain SPFs that can help protect the user’s skin from the sun’s rays. However, some debate the effectiveness of this method and caution that regular protective measures should not be replaced.
Makeup can also help some women feel more confident to face their day. Yet while some women see this as empowering, others see it as a sign of dependence that fosters insecurity. It is up to each woman’s relationship with herself and her body to determine how she feels about using makeup.
As for the cons, it is no secret that wearing makeup can have an unintended consequence by clogging pores and possibly creating blemishes. This creates a vicious cycle in which more makeup is applied to cover the blemishes, which in turn causes more breakouts.
Specific types of makeup labeled as non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic work to reverse this problem by containing acne-fighting ingredients in their formulas.
Of course, not every woman has this type of reaction to cosmetics. But for those who do, it also helps to alternate with makeup-free days or, if that’s not possible, to take the layers off as soon as possible each day.
In some rare cases, facial products can cause an allergic reaction. This is mostly due to the chemicals found in those items. Some of these irritant-causing ingredients include parabens, phenoxyethanol, and formaldehyde, so it is important that women who are prone to an allergic reaction look for these ingredients listed in the product’s information.
Speaking of chemicals, did you know that on average women expose themselves to 168 different ingredients in their beauty products on a daily basis (depending on how many they use), and that many of these ingredients have been linked to cancer? Short-term exposure to these products keeps cancer risk low, but long-term exposure (over years and years of consistent use) puts women at a higher risk for developing reproductive or neurological damage that could lead to active cancer cells or other problems.
And finally, though it is not 100 percent proven through accurate testing, many skin care professionals believe that the long-term use of makeup can actually age the skin.
In a feature on “The Doctors,” Annie Chiu, M.D. dermatologist, helped explain why: “Makeup forms a barrier over the skin, which ends up locking in irritants and locking out moisturizers. This exacerbates redness and irritation, increases pore size, deepens wrinkles—all those things that make our skin appear older.”
To combat this, she emphasized the importance of washing the face thoroughly and moisturizing properly before bedtime.
Time spent wisely?
The average time spent on getting ready each day varies from woman to woman, but research shows that most women spend anywhere between 27 minutes to over an hour getting ready for the day—all just to feel prepared enough to walk out of the house!
How much does that add up to over a lifetime? One study conducted by the UK-based beauty brand Nephria found that women spend up to three years of their lives in front of the mirror. Nephria broke down the most common daily ritual: “The survey found that before a big night out, women typically spend 22 minutes showering and shaving their legs, seven minutes moisturizing, 23 minutes drying and styling their hair, 14 minutes doing their make-up and six minutes getting dressed.”
I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like my daily routine. In fact, it’s why I’ve taken to showering at night to save myself a bit of time during the mornings!
What could we do with all that extra time instead of sitting in front of the mirror? Oh, the possibilities are endless! On the top of my list is divulging in a good, healthy breakfast and some strong coffee (or maybe getting some extra sleep!).
The science behind makeup
Makeup can be used to achieve a variety of different looks, but in general, there are several underlying goals that usually stay the same: to make the eyes look bigger, lips fuller, skin more even-toned and cheeks more pink.
Why do we tend to go for this look? Why not do things the opposite way, say, by making our lips look smaller and our cheeks more pale?
A study conducted by Richard Russell, a psychology professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, helped bring the answer to light: according to Russell’s observable data, the effects of makeup mimic and exaggerate the subtle visual cues of femininity, fertility and youth.
Russell’s study found that the darkening of the eyes and lips increased the overall perceived femininity of the face, and the reddening of the lips and cheeks mimicked the effects of increased blood flow in a woman’s body when she is near ovulation and more likely to be interested in the act of reproduction.
In addition, applying foundation onto the face to hide blemishes, wrinkles and other imperfections made the face appear more youthful and healthy, since clear skin is often a sign of youth and good, healthy genes. All of these factors add up to increasing the level of perceived beauty in a woman’s face.
Yet the key word here is “perceived.” As writer Christie Wilcox put it in her article about the topic, “(Makeup) works because it’s a darn good lie.”
Regaining a balanced perspective
It is definitely okay to put effort into your physical appearance! Doing so can be a fun and rewarding activity, whether it helps you boost your confidence in a healthy, balanced way, or gives you a creative outlet to express yourself. But more so than that, it is important to accept yourself for who you really are, on the inside and outside.
Should you start going without makeup more often, or cut back on your cosmetic routine? That decision is up to you! Yet it is important to know the facts and, if you do wear it, to do so because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.
No matter what you decide to do, dear reader, know one thing is for sure—you are beautiful just as you are, inside and out!
Raider Women Talk!
We recently conducted a survey on campus asking Raider women about their cosmetic habits, and what their perception of feminine beauty is. Here are some of the results:
Out of a group of 50 randomly polled women, ages 18-29, 40 said they wear makeup several times a week or every day.
Most (around 40) said they would leave the house without makeup on, but several said they either weren’t sure or simply wouldn’t.
- 44 said they think society places unrealistic beauty expectations on women.
- 33 said they think women who wear makeup are viewed as more professional.
- 42 said they think we place too much pressure on physical appearance.
Yet despite this pressure we sometimes feel from society to look “made up” or look “our best,” each of these girls seemed to have a healthy perspective of what true beauty is.
Here’s what a few of these ladies had to say about how they define beauty:
- Beauty is what’s in your heart!
- True beauty is how you act as a person. You can be beautiful on the outside, but when you are a horrible person, it makes you look ugly.
- Being comfortable in your own skin.
- Being confident in yourself!
- A great personality. You can be defined as an “ugly” person on the outside, but be very beautiful on the inside.
- Beauty is to just be yourself. Every girl has their own shine, their own colors… Sometimes when I wear makeup, I feel like I’m hiding behind a mask. Girls shouldn’t hide behind a mask. (They should) Show their true selves.
- I think everyone is beautiful in their own way. The only thing that can make a person ugly to me is an ugly attitude or personality, which is by choice. Beauty is within. Being yourself is more beautiful than trying to be someone else.
- Being nice and kind to people. Helping them without looking for self-interest. Reaching to people in need.