Buck The Beauty “Ideal”; It’s Toxic, And It’s A Lie.
Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune cells which are supposed to protect you, attack you, instead. Autoimmune disease affects more women than men. And women, more than men, are pressured by the beauty industry and, consequently, society to fight their own biology and attack themselves in order to look young and flawless, an unattainable beauty “ideal” that’s harmful to mental, emotional, and physical health.
Although the “clean” beauty sector claims to be safe and “sustainable” (and charges accordingly for their supposedly non-toxic products) the only thing sustainable about them is that they’re pointedly perpetuating the same toxic beauty “ideal” of looking young and flawless. For example, “clean” beauty brand Primally Pure invites you to “Discover non-toxic living”. Their skin-specific regimen for dry skin is their Plumping (Plumping?) product line because, “Dry, mature skin types are beautiful but often times just need a bit of a boost.” “Mature” is a none-too-sly marketing euphemism for middle-aged and old. And, as I know firsthand, anyone can have dry skin, not just “mature” people. Moreover, to pimp its Plumping Serum, Primally Pure alleges, “A few drops deliver firmer, more vibrant skin. Pomegranate seed oil and castor oil intensely hydrate and stimulate collagen synthesis while green coffee oil and astaxanthin create a dramatic difference in elasticity and skin tone, leaving skin with a dewy, youthful glow.” So, the “boost” your dry, old skin needs leaves your skin artificially young and seemingly flawless, for a while. It’s deliberately unsustainable, but, if you just buy more products, you’ll be just fine…No, you won’t. The first one’s free, but that installment plan’ll kill ya.
As a child, teenager, and young adult, I dreamed of having young and flawless skin like my peers. But, eczema and Sjogren’s made my skin look wrinkly, weepy, scabbed, crusted, flaky, pimply, scarred, and anything but young and flawless. I loathed my skin, was disgusted by it, hated it, and, by default, hated myself for having it and not being able to change or control it.
Face it, looking young and flawless is seductive, it confers certain privileges that can feel empowering: social acceptance, better treatment, better jobs, better pay, better…But this ersatz “youth” and “beauty” is a grift, it’s bait-and-switch. These privileges come at higher costs than the benefits they provide; you’re actually losing real power, influence, freedom, health, time, means, and money.
Until my late twenties I thought I was at fault and defective because, although I bought into the lie and bought any and every kind of skincare product: inexpensive or expensive, synthetic or natural, organic or inorganic, backed by science or not, absolutely nothing made my skin look young and flawless. I didn’t realize I was wrongly and needlessly blaming and attacking myself when the reality was that I was chasing an unattainable goal and giving away power and actual control in the process.
It’s only when I bucked the beauty “ideal”, stopped striving for young and flawless skin, redefined beauty, chose to work with, instead of against, my biology and Mother Nature, and cared for my skin with compassion, acceptance, and, what ought to be obvious, verifiable science and human nature, that my skin finally healed. Nowadays I constantly get spontaneous compliments on how beautiful my skin is before people know that I make my own skincare products from whole foods. By bucking the beauty “ideal”, my childhood dream came true; I look like Me in My skin, and it’s sustainable.
To me, true beauty encompasses and is characterized by any attribute that provides an experience of pleasure or satisfaction. To look in the mirror and feel dissatisfied, insecure, and anxious doesn’t provide a feeling of beauty to anyone. Beauty begins within, from a positive mindset, positive habits, discipline, regular exercise and good nutrition promoting a healthy gut, restful sleep, and healthy skin and hair. Healthy skin and hair are beautiful skin and hair. Our bodies have extraordinary self-healing abilities and we can facilitate and accelerate powerful regenerative processes by providing ourselves with the right natural elements and tools to achieve a body in balance and, ultimately, healthy and beautiful skin and hair.
Aging is part of living. If you’re not aging, you’re not living. You’re decomposing…
Real power comes from accepting and caring for yourself. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and what you put in and on your body: food, skincare products, or messaging, it all affects your health. Skin care only is self-care when it’s health care.
Buck the beauty "ideal".
I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote to get women, especially those with autoimmune disease and chronic illness, to rethink their approach to caring for their skin and themselves.
War Against Aging;
Inhumane, exploitative, destructive….
Idolising Youth, corrupting beauty,
appreciating a blank slate, depreciating a life lived…
The creation of addiction and destruction of connection,
a vain pursuit of illusion over the fruitful embrace of reality.
Art, as it ages and decays, becomes priceless and treasured.
Fine wine and liquor are deliberately aged to be savoured.
Ancient ruins crumbling to dust instill reverential awe and wonder.
Flora and fauna mark cycles of seasons by changing colors, lines, and spots,
and, in so doing, are prized and cherished.
Your colors, lines, wrinkles, and spots
document time’s passage…
Yet these very markings
somehow make you something other than beautiful,
someone to be effaced, defaced, de-faced.
Resurface, redefine, contour, boost and plump,
defy and counter any signs of aging;
gloss over, blur, and erase the life you’ve lived,
the Life that shapes Your face.
Cheat Father Time. Fool Mother Nature.
Use an anti-aging product! Or two! Or three! Or more…
Pine for your past, preempt your present, forsake your future.
Subject yourself to a ritualistic regimen of war against biology and Your Self.
Worship at the altars of hired science and targeted marketing.
Spend thousands of dollars to eradicate decades of living
until you’re blank, helpless, as lost as a newborn.
What happened to all that living?
What's wrong with reuniting, knowing, accepting, and loving Yourself,
as is, with a warm embrace?
“It’s nice to know You.”
Live so Your face tells Your story beautifully.
A version of this blog post is published in my local newspaper, the Davis Enterprise. You may have to create a free account to read the article.