Jessica Cusack on the dangers of overdoing it.
The beauty industry, and the press which surrounds it, can be confusing. ‘Less is more’ we are told from one page of a magazine, but then the next features pictures of female celebrities papped without make-up, resulting in a barrage of criticism for the fact they are too thin/pale/tired, accompanied by explanations for such shocking make-up free behaviour such as drink/drug/marriage problems. This ridiculous (not to mention sexist) journalistic trend sends the same pathetic message to us: we must wear make-up at all times, even if it’s just to take out the bins or grab some milk from the offy. I myself admit that unless I’m not leaving the house, I will automatically have at least the bare minimum on my face: concealer and a bit of blush so I don’t look totally like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family, such is the reality of living in a freezing cold country and not one which gives a permanent sun-kissed glow.
These celebrity critiques filter down into mainstream society instantly: as I mentioned, most of us wouldn’t leave the house without at least a bit of make-up on, and a shocking number of females admit to never letting their partners see them without make-up, often waking up to paint themselves before he/she arises (see: the opening scene of Bridesmaids). The result of this is extreme beauty regimes: inches of make-up which take hours to apply, lashings of stinky fake tan and fake eyelashes on a daily basis. I have even seen them (for, given their size, they do indeed take on a separate identity to the wearer) in the gym.
However, while one’s preferred method of maquillage is totally subjective and hopefully harmless, a more frightening trend is that of plastic surgery. Despite the recession, plastic surgery is ever-increasing – while the age of patients is decreasing. Whether it’s breast implants, nose reconstruction or preventative botox, young people – male and female – are saving up to get these procedures done, and in going for the ‘cheapest’ option put themselves at greater risk of botched jobs, infection and, in severe cases, death. The fact is that going under the knife is normalised by the media and celebrity culture has a big part to play in young people feeling compelled to take their beauty regime to the extreme. There have been some horrendous cases of under-qualified or fake surgeons preying on young people as they know they are among the most self-conscious and vulnerable members of society.
This is utterly frightening: we need to protect each other and ourselves from this damaging image of ‘beauty’. Au natural (with a little help from our good friends Bronzer and Mascara) really is the safest way to go, and – pardon me while I dust off an old cliché – less is more. We should all feel we are able to show our own skin colour, hair length and eyelash thickness to the big bad world without fear of not fulfilling a prescribed image of what’s beautiful. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (sorry, there goes another cliché) and going natural is looking pretty darn good from where I’m standing.