Well, score one for all of us who have been hoping that the unrealistic standards of beauty our society obsesses over would go the way of the buffalo. It turns out that natural beauty is the big new thing! Has a new day dawned? Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of feeling bad about our inability to look like supermodels? Can we finally breathe a collected sigh of relief, relax, and start feeling good about ourselves?
Come on. Did you think some kind of miracle had occurred?
According to an article from Health.com, ‘natural beauty’ is in. It sounds so promising. I want to be happy about it. But I’m also skeptical about the feel-good potential of any article that comes from a website where the top fitness stories are titled, ‘Moves for a Better Body’, ‘Burn Fat With Ballet’, and ‘5-Minute Fat Burners’ (and let’s face it, that could be so many health and fitness websites targeted at women. It just so happens that those are the headlines from Health.com, but are they any different from the ones you’d find on Shape or Fitness?).
As it turns out, the kind of natural beauty that we’re all supposed to sport this season is just as contrived as any other beauty standard. Flaunt your freckles (but don’t forget to cover up other imperfections with powder)! Let your teeth be natural (but don’t forget to whiten them)! Don’t blow-dry your hair (but make sure it’s wavy)! No word on what we’re supposed to do if we don’t naturally have freckles, or our eyebrows are naturally thin, or our hair is pin-straight. I guess if that’s the boat we’re in, then we don’t get to hop on the natural beauty trend…because we’re not naturally beautiful. Maybe we could fake it by filling in our anemic eyebrows, drawing on some freckles, and having a friend knock our teeth crooked?
The thing about natural beauty is that it isn’t meant to be defined by any kind of parameter. Indeed, beauty isn’t meant to be defined by any kind of parameter. Often the things that are most beautiful are appealing and attractive for indescribable reasons. Unfortunately, once the media latches onto some idea about what beauty is, we all forget about the value of uniqueness and difference in beauty, and immediately start feeling pressure to conform to a standard that a team of marketers probably dreamt up in an office somewhere so that they could sell more lightweight bronzer and tinted moisturizer.
The media touting a new idea of beauty–one more “natural” than those from the recent past–is, sadly, no sign of change, and certainly no marker of a new era. Instead, it’s a campaign that’s just as insidious as the rest, an attempt to create a set of ideals against we measure ourselves, and can’t help but come up short. And to that, I say tchah. Let’s make 2012 the year we all stop caring about what other people define as beautiful, and find out what’s beautiful to us. What could be more natural than that?