Beauty. What does that word mean? I think it means something different to everyone. For some, it means being skinny, for others it means having a tan, and for others it means being youthful. But generally, there are a set of rules one must follow in order to be seen as beautiful. For example, silky hair, white teeth and absolutely no love handles. I haven’t quite made my mind up on what the word beauty means to me yet, but The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses”. So what is it about Victoria’s Secret models and Holly Willoughby that ‘pleases the aesthetic senses’, when incredibly inspirational people such as Frida Kahlo and Adele don’t? Are they less beautiful? I don’t think so.
The beauty industry and everything it stands for are a bit of a tricky subject for me. I am a self-confessed make-up addict, not in that I beat my face à la Kylie Jenner on the daily, but come to me with your make-up/skincare woes and I can recommend at least 5 products to help you. But even more than that, I love to debate the deeper things that come with the paradigm of beauty. I don’t subscribe to the belief that beauty is a concrete ideology, but is that hypocritical of me bearing in mind my make-up collection looks like a stand in Sephora, and do I perpetuate this idea by working for the beauty section of a newspaper?
Having had to deal with acne for the best part of ten years, I know all too well the confidence that a good, heavy-coverage foundation can bring. I suppose it’s like wearing a mask, and I’ve always felt for the boys that suffer from acne and who society says can’t wear make-up to cover theirs. I won’t lie and say that there hasn’t been a time I’ve felt too embarrassed to leave the house without make-up, either due to my acne or my ever-growing eye bags, because there have been several. I couldn’t dream of doing an Alicia Keys and going sans war-paint. At one point I couldn’t even dream of wearing a vest top because it would showcase my bacne.
Yet, I feel as I’ve grown up, I’ve become more and more comfortable in myself. Not just with who I am as a person, but also how I look. Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I’ll have a little whinge about my weight and spend a good 20 minutes choosing which photo to Instagram, but really, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my self-worth isn’t based on how fleek-y my eyebrows are or how snatched my contour is. Instead, I’m investing the time I previously spent criticising myself in the mirror doing things that make me happy and that bring only positivity to my life.
That being said, I said I have felt the pressure from both sides of the make-up war. I can’t deny the joy that make-up brings me. I don’t just wear make-up to enhance my confidence, I just thoroughly enjoy the whole process – the artistry, the creativity, the excitement of trying a new product, it’s addictive. I can predict that my relationship with make-up will out-live my relationship with any man.
But whatever your choice, whether you wear make-up or not, you face criticism. Studies have shown that women who wear make-up in the workplace are seen to be more professional and as a result tend to earn more. Yet, if you wear a lot of make-up, you’re ‘too made up’ and it has negative connotations. I’ve had friends say to me “Aw, but you look beautiful without all that, you don’t need it!” But I already know that. I already know that the make-up on my face does not validate me, but that if I want to spend half an hour doing my make-up in a morning, I can. Likewise, if I want to spend that half an hour sleeping, that’s my prerogative.
I think it’s important to remember that things only have power over you if you let them, so if you put your beauty within the hands of another, then you’ll never be happy in yourself. It’s been said a million times, but if you are confident, that will shine through. So, what is beauty to me? Well, I’m still not 100% sure. It would be a cop-out for me to say ‘it’s whatever you want it to be’ so I’m just going to say this: They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I agree, except the only beholder of my beauty is me.