Natural vs. artificial beauty: The relationship between makeup, beauty
Individuals have their own idea of beauty. Some may not admit it, but we all face challenges with our appearance.
Whether it be scoring a hot date or landing a new job, physical appearance matters in our superficial society. Most of us have seen images of ancient Egyptians with heavy eyeliner, colonial Europeans painted white with powdered wigs and Lady Gaga.
Do beauty products and rituals really affect our lives or is it simply something we choose to do? The question is anything but simple to answer.
Makeup and other physical modifications have always had an impact on culture. For centuries, women have manipulated nature in the name of beauty or individual identity.
According to a survey performed by UK cosmetic store Superdrug, the average modern woman spends $13,000 on makeup in her lifetime and countless hours applying and removing it. The motivation behind wearing makeup varies as vastly as the individuals wearing it.
In years gone by, makeup was seen merely as the means for attracting a partner, and scientists began investigating why and how this works. Most scientists agree makeup manipulates the appearance of features that signal a healthy reproductive partner.
The entertainment, fashion and pharmaceutical industries quickly realized these effects in the early 20th century without understanding the scientific principle behind it, yet they knew sexual attraction led to big money regardless.
But the amount of usage has not changed over the last 60 years.
“Women have always used beauty products one way or another, but it’s the marketing that has changed," said Roksana Alavi, Women's and Gender Studies professor.
The beauty industry is big business, generating billions of dollars each year. Pharmaceutical companies own many makeup brands and have more resources for research than luxury brands. L’Oréal alone staffs more than 2,900 researchers.
“After World War II, companies began targeting younger girls with products to sell other than toys," Alavi said. "Today, the new target is men.”
Dove and Nivea created new lines of products especially for men in the last few years. Sales for hair-coloring products, such as Just for Men and Touch of Gray, have steadily increased in the last 15 years.
Makeup also is now marketed as the new skincare for women. Sunscreen, moisturizers, vitamins and minerals are added to improve skin while wearing makeup. Companies such as Olay and Neutrogena have branched into the makeup market based on this appeal.
But big business is not the only beneficiary of beauty products. Scientists are correlating makeup with the success of working women, making them appear more competent and trustworthy, thusly more likely to succeed.
Alavi said some women see makeup as “war paint.” Particularly in the business world, a woman’s appearance is another layer of competition and standard.
Maybe this look of success comes from some women feeling more confident behind the makeup. When a woman looks good, she feels good. When she feels good, she feels capable.
But women today also expect more bang for their buck. Makeup has become more than colors smeared on the face.
For many women, their sense of style extends beyond the clothes. A good example of this is the “lipstick effect.” Did you know that when there is an economic crisis, lipstick sales soar? Women use lipstick to update their look without having to spend tons of money for new clothes. Makeup trends evolve differently than clothes, so it is much easier to stay up to date.
Lipstick is not alone. Hair color, nail polish and other beauty products seem to be immune to failing economies because they are cheap, accessible and work instantaneously.
But in Western society, it takes more than a sense of style. According to Alavi, many women struggle with modern beauty.
“Beginning with the impact of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, women feel like they have to measure up to these new impossible standards,” Alavi said. "Fifty years ago, models were only 8-percent smaller than the average women, while models today are 23-percent smaller."
The standards of beauty have changed. There is an expansion of a single idea of beauty in our society, and makeup is debated as hotly as what is considered to be a real woman’s figure. Read the comments on blogs and articles about celebrities, makeup and the female figure. Natural against artificial beauty is not going away anytime soon.
For some women, the natural look is preferred: little to no makeup and the freedom to show any “flaws.” Strangely enough, the argument is not always female-driven. Among the naturalists are men wanting the anti-Snooki or anti-Kardashian woman.
Hollywood is never far from the debate, either.
In the recent issue of “People’s 50 Most Beautiful People,” the celebrities were photographed without makeup. Other magazines are following suit with untouched celebrity covers.
Dove uses “regular” women in their advertising campaigns. You can find videos demonstrating the transformations from before to after the makeup and hair modifications.
The easiest way to explain the beauty rituals of women boils down to what makes an individual woman comfortable, though that might change from day to day.