Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mirror, Mirror

I saw someone post a photo of their most recent beauty purchase on Twitter this morning. It was a "pore minimiser", which prompted me to tweet this. Having tiny pores on your face is an aspiration that has baffled me for some time now. Every time I see or hear an ad for facial cream/cleanser/toner/industrial sander that claims to minimise your pores I stop and wonder why the hell should I bother? Are pores really that aesthetically offensive that we should be taking every measure possible to hide them from view for fear of traumatising small children?

I mean, if you find your own pores offensive to your own eyes, by all means, go ahead and use whatever you want to make them smaller or invisible. Just don't tell me I should do the same because you have an adverse reaction to visible pores. Same goes for pretty much anything to do with beauty "standards" set predominantly by companies who make money on your insecurities. Set by companies and repeated by a chorus of converts who seem to be in a hurry to convince themselves and others that you really do need that serum(*) which makes your earlobes appear more attractive.

My problem is not with the beauty products or even most of the advertising of said products. My problem is the homogenisation of the people targeted by the advertising. The assumption that everyone cares about the size of their pores, the frizz in their hair, the odd spot on their skin or the fact that they're going grey. I'm only talking about my own personal experience and am not for one second suggesting any of what I have said or am about to say applies to any other person on this planet. Just wanted to make that clear before I go on.

I don't give a shit if you can see my pores. I don't give a shit if I can see my pores. Mostly I can't because I wear glasses and can't see myself that clearly in the mirror after my shower. I slap on moisturiser, put on my glasses and head off blissfully ignorant of the size and shape of my pores. Yes, moisturiser. I did say I don't have a problem with beauty products, but the unnecessary "goals" the companies selling them are setting us. To be honest, without my collection of moisturisers I probably would've shrivelled up a long time ago. I have very dry skin, especially in the winter when the central heating is enough to make matters worse by a multiple of ten at least.

I also get highlights in my hair. I use make up. I like to do my nails in pretty colours. I sometimes despair about my frizzy, flyaway hair but I live in a country with high humidity 95% of the time, so there isn't much I can do about that other than pull my hair back in a ponytail, spray it with hair spray and carry on. I have stuff that's great for keeping my hair from looking like I just stuck a fork in my toaster but I could not be bothered using that on a daily basis.

I guess what I'm trying to get across here is how annoyed I get when I picture a brainstorming session in one of these companies.
- Right, we need to think of something new.
- Which body part has gone unnoticed until now?
- Back of the knee?
- Knuckles?
- Little toe?
- Toes! We could launch a cream that makes your toes all the exact same colour. Because having slightly different skin tone in your toes is unsightly.
- And hair removal cream for that bit of hair that grows on your big toe.
- We'll call it "BeautiFoot" and make sure everyone knows they can't wear open toed shoes without having put this on first because it's just wrong

Or something equally ridiculous to peddle a product that is entirely unnecessary and the sales of which are based on an idea put forth by the company manufacturing the product that there is something about your appearance that needs to be fixed.

Some of these companies are trying to pretend they're all for positive body image and that they're in the business of making people feel beautiful. Yes, feel beautiful not as you are but as you are after using our product. Most recently the beauty giant Dove started a campaign on Twitter, #SpeakBeautiful. It really didn't take off as planned . This is only one company and there are many more out there guilty of exactly the same thing.

I'm worried now that I may sound like a hypocrite. I do use beauty products as mentioned earlier. But I can tell you also of the things I don't bother doing which seemingly are deemed in the mainstream media as necessities. For example, right now my legs are sporting quite a healthy growth of hair. I'll get around to waxing at some stage but in the meantime I'm really ok with a bit of fuzz. It's still winter, you know. My face hasn't any make up on it. My pores stand proud and there is a spot under my nose. There are a couple of stray hairs on my eyebrows that I will pluck as soon as I remember where I left my tweezers. Speaking of tweezers, I need them to get rid of the two stubborn stray hairs that grow on my right nipple. Yes, really. My hair has met shampoo and conditioner this morning but I think I'll leave it at that.

I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when I hear of some new inane, insane, outrageously ludicrous beauty fad, usually endorsed by a celebrity. Just google "vaginal steaming", "bull semen facial" or any combination of random words and you're likely to find something you're supposed to be doing to your body to deem you fit to face the society's collective gaze. It is as if we're supposed to be aiming for a plastic look. Invisible pores, invisible grey hairs, invisible wrinkles, invisible panty line. Let's erase everything that makes us individuals.

I'm 34 years of age and really quite comfortable in my skin. Finally. It's taken a while. A long while. I've always struggled with my weight because I love food and until a few years ago I hadn't realised that exercise can be enjoyable. My skin is and always will be a little bit dry because I'm often rushing out the door and don't have time to moisturise. I remember the nurse at our local health centre feeling the back of my arms and saying to my mother that my skin there felt a bit rough. I think I was 5 or 6 years of age. I remember wondering why that was worth remarking. I'm still wondering.

It's taken me this long but I finally feel like my body is my own. It's built for purpose and I love it. Yes, there is that bit of belly fat I could probably live without but apparently that's where my tickles live. I can live with that. Yes, my dry skin feels uncomfortable. Which is why I moisturise. Not because I want my skin to look acceptable to someone else, measured by someone else's standards. Yes, I wax away any unwanted body hair. Because I like the way my skin feels afterwards. To have gotten to the stage where I can honestly say I do love my body, hasn't been easy. It takes daily encouragement and a reminder that my body has served me well and the fact that it's the only one I have. There are days when I need more than a gentle reminder. I know I'm lucky, I have someone who tells me I'm beautiful. Every day.

This is just me, though. I know this. You might be like me and not really bother with make up unless it's a special occasion. (I love doing my hair, getting dressed up and putting on make up but I really couldn't bother with it every single day). Or maybe you like to use every lotion and potion in your extensive collection before you head out and face the day because that's what makes you feel good. All I'm saying is that there is no right or wrong way as long as you're doing what you're doing because it's what feels right for you. Not because someone in an advertising agency decided you should cover up a part of your face because it doesn't look like the face of a photoshopped model.

Wow. That's a long rant. I'm off to find my tweezers now.

*Disclaimer: no such serum exists. Yet.

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