Ugly Pretty: Articles to Change Your View on Beauty

Monday, October 22, 2018

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind couple of weeks lately with school and life . I’ve been reading a lot of science texts as of late and long-form thought pieces exploring beauty-- past the glitz and the glamor, excite me.

Louis Vuitton 2017 Volez, Voguez, Voyagez Exhibit in New York 


Along with the rise of Asian representation in media is the rise of Asian culture considered "hip". This Fashionista article explores fashion brands finding inspiration in long standing Chinatown establishments without the Chinatown establishments’ permission or royalties given back to the establishment for use of their name. At what point is it inspiration and when is it appropriation? Why does it take some sort of “mainstream” company to validate our own culture and make it acceptable? 


Recently someone on Reddit identified themselves as a former Sunday Riley employee and wrote that Sunday Riley made their employees write fake reviews. It’s shady especially considering that Sunday Riley products are over $50 but it’s also indicative of how many skin care products are mostly just marketing. I follow Kind of Stephen, a cosmetics formulator, and he talks a lot about how a lot of skin care products hide behind using science terms (“cellular turnover”, “studies show”) that’s misleading (check out this quick scroll about a skincare company making misleading claims). There are a lot of meaningless buzzwords that get thrown around in skin care (as well as health media writing, too) and PR agencies package information well, sometimes, too well. Many just go based off of the press release and if there’s anything I learned from reading science abstracts, the data might not be there to support it. There’s a 2008 New York Times article that talks about how consumers want to know the science behind the skincare products: 

"Even if they [skincare products] use medical-sounding terminology, most cosmetics do not claim such druglike effects. But Ms. McKean, the lexicographer, evinced delight at the linguistic dexterity required to lard face creams with the sheen of popular science.‘These marketing people are geniuses because, if you pull out any single word, you don’t know what it means,’ Ms. McKean said. ‘But, taken as a whole, the overall effect is youth, beauty, science, positivity and renewal.’She added: ‘I can’t wait until they start using the word ‘mitochondrial*.’"
*Side note, I can’t wait until they throw that one out and tell you it's the powerhouse of the cell. 

Lipstick: Not just lip color but warfare
“Guerlain’s creative director Anton-Philipe Hunger once said: “We didn’t want our lipstick to click so loudly that it would draw attention to a woman who’s touching up in public.” So they test-clicked between ten and twenty lipsticks before choosing a soft metallic sound. I used to find that sort of thing romantic, you know: the total devotion to something ordinary, the love of a good detail. I’m still impressed by the devotion on most days. But today it feels like another example that the reality of women’s existence in the world has been shaped to be seen, never heard; witnessed, but never believed; desired but never trusted. Nowadays I think of how much effort and energy is put into dismissing women — right down to the sound her lipstick may produce — and it makes me want to scream louder than I have words for.”

There’s something simple about lipstick and its become so ingrained in beauty regimes, yet we don’t think about the power of lipstick in a historical context that much other than what makeup does for us that particular day. I think a lot about appearances and what they mean in a societal context-- how we use skin conditions as a vehicle for horror in movies and makeup as criteria for judgement about women (no-makeup isn’t professional but neither is heavy makeup; it goes on). Too often, we’re told to be pretty and that there’s power in our beauty. There is power in ourselves, that’s definite, but does it need to go hand in hand with beauty? 

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