Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Beauty Industry: What Does it Take to be "Beautiful"?

by Michaela Dekel

Most women spend a great deal of their time, money and effort on achieving beauty. Many businesses have sprung up to satisfy (or to feed) this endless desire, from make-up and hair products, dieting pills and programs, and cosmetic surgery. With this conception of beauty as externally bought or achieved, it seems that the industry has created a never-ending cycle of needing more and more products for temporary results.

Many women are unhappy that they do not fit the perfect image of what society considers beautiful, namely the women in magazines or on billboards. The beauty industry has singled out a look and has therefore created the perception that only women who look a particular way are considered sexy, beautiful and desirable to the opposite sex. It is important to remember that these models have gone through extensive preparation in order to appear the way they do in the pictures that you see: they have had hairdressers, stylists, make-up artists, and lighting assistants work for hours to perfect their picture, and the final product has more than likely even gone through Photoshop re-touches. This makes it clear that beauty, and the ideal version of beauty we are sold, is something manufactured and artificial, and that no one can fully attain it or maintain it.

Dove, a worldwide leader in body care products, has seen the need for a new perception of beauty. In 2004 they launched their “Campaign For Real Beauty” after the shocking results of a major world-wide study on the definition of beauty. The study, “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report”, proved that the definition of beauty in our world had become “limited and unattainable”. One of the shocking statistics was the discovery that only 2% of women world-wide would describe themselves as beautiful. This means that 98% of the women in our world do not feel beautiful. Essentially, this feeling is not really about the way these women look, it is not about looking better than anyone else and it is not about giving in to vanity. This is about how people feel and the quality of their life experience, and how they value themselves. Women might experience many unhealthy and negative emotions that come with such a distorted perception of beauty and appearance.

Since 2004, Dove has continued to do inspirational work with their campaign. In 2005 they launched an advertisement in order to help break down the stereotype that only extremely thin women are beautiful by creating an ad that featured six "real" women with real, average, healthy bodies. In 2006 they launched a profound short film called “Evolution”, which showed the full and true preparation of a real woman into a model in order to “promote awareness of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty are created”. The campaign believes that women are bombarded with unrealistic and unattainable images of beauty that impact their self-esteem, joy, happiness and quality of life. They claim that what women see in magazines and movies represents an unrealistic standard of beauty.

In 2011, Dove released another study called “The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited”. The updated study showed that anxiety about appearance begins at an early age, that only 4% of women in the world feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful, that the majority of teenage girls feel a tremendous pressure to be beautiful, and that only 11% of young girls in the world feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful. The Dove campaign has helped to increase awareness, but the company acknowledges that there is much more still to be done.

The campaign, and others like it, seek to highlight that beauty comes from within. A secret that beauty companies will not want you to know is that beauty is not squeezed out of a tube, nor is it tested and endorsed by dermatologists, nor is it manufactured in a lab, nor is it made any better because Beyonce uses it. Real beauty that does not fade comes from a state of health and self-acceptance, and can be found in every person.

While certain products might help you to lead a more confident and more fulfilling life, these will not be able to fundamentally change the way you feel or indefinitely delay the aging which you might fear. A healthy lifestyle is the only way to feel vibrant and fulfilled. Instead of obsessing about your looks, eat antioxidant rich foods and live an optimally healthy lifestyle that promotes better cardiovascular and all-round health. These actions in turn lead you to be a radiant, glowing, youthful human being.

You might imagine that you only want to look beautiful through all of the products you buy, but what most people really want is acceptance and respect which they imagine are coupled to "beauty". Instead, give yourself that acceptance and respect. Imagine what kind of a world we would live in if we removed ourselves from the belief that other people and corporations have power over the way we see ourselves, and instead came to the realisation that we have this power ourselves. Your beauty is something that you can choose every day, and not something that you need to pay for.