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We Need To Stop Internet Beauty Standards From Affecting Our Self-Perception!

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The moment you realize that your life was nothing but a mere marketing tactic played by the cosmetics and beauty industry, you will start perceiving things differently. And through this post I would like to take the lid off the beauty industry which has always been reminding you “how ugly you look” from time immemorial, and here is the irony that you are perfectly ok with them telling you that “you are ugly”, but if the same thing is said by your friends and family you will be easily offended, isn’t it?

Now that’s what I call hypocrisy.

Why Beauty Has Become So Important?

Well, this has to do more with the way our human brain has been programmed. Humans are visual creatures, that’s why we fall in love with beautiful painting, beaches and with places like Paris, Rome, because they are visually pleasing to our eyes. It’s no surprise to mention that over 90 per cent of the information that is processed by our brain is visual. Much of the human cerebral cortex is involved in vision.

 So it’s in the nature of us humans to naturally get attracted to things that are beautiful and are pleasing to our eyes. Everything comes with a cost, so does intelligence. With time we used this intelligent brain of ours to define the word “beauty”. So what exactly is beauty? And why is it given so importance?

The Effect of Globalization on India's Beauty Standards – Sari Not Sari
Representative image only.

Debugging The Myth: “Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder”

For me, I find it really hard to agree with this statement ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, because it never made sense when this world has already set some prerequisite standard to measure and understand what beauty is. Be it having flawless glowing fair skin, a fat-free body, or a pimple-free face and it doesn’t end there, people are not even happy the way their body or face looks just because they don’t resemble a Barbie Doll or Kim Kardashian.

This is the era where people are throwing their money to go under the knife just to be look-alike so that they easily fit under the “ideal beauty type”. When this society embraces idealism in beauty, being different and unique is unwelcome.

Sneak Peek Into The History Of Beauty Standards Victorian Era

Radioactive Materials

  • Lead-Based Cosmetics: Both men and women desired a fair and healthy complexion as it also distinguished a persons social status. Cosmetics that promised a pale blemish-free face contained toxic elements such as lead which women used to apply to their face and bosoms to get the desired pale painted look. Maria, Countess of Coventry was a young English woman who died at the tender age of 27 because of blood poisoning caused by using lead-based cosmetics. Lead is a corrosive element so every time women coated their skin with lead it damaged their skin so badly that they had no choice but to coat their skin with more and more quantities of lead.
    Representative image only.
  • Belladonna: During the Victorian era watery-eyes were considered attractive and women used drops of Belladonna to achieve this. Belladonna or otherwise commonly called deadly nightshade is a poisonous plant that causes blindness if used for long enough.
  • Arsenic Wafers: Apart from lead-based cosmetics, arsenic wafers were also widely used by women to improve the paleness of their skin and this practice was followed for decades because of its effectiveness in skin lightening. People were not much aware of the long term consequences of using Arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic element, and this came to light when Arsenical keratoses (growth of keratin on the skin which is considered precancerous) was first recognized in the 18th century because of the medicinal usage of arsenic to cure syphilis and asthma.
  • Other than Arsenical keratoses, long term uses of Arsenic caused health issues such as hair loss, kidney damage, vitiligo – a condition when skin loses its pigmentation. Credit: Smithsonian ( Early 90’s – France Radioactive Cosmetics – After the discovery of Radium by the French scientists Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, Radium became commonly used in cosmetics, one such example is Tho-Radia – which included cleansing milk, skin cream, powder, rouge, toothpaste and lipstick, Tho-Radia contained two radioactive elements such as Thorium and Radium, and it was distributed with the marketing tagline “Scientific Beauty Product / (Méthod Scientific de Beauté)”.

Nitty Gritty Of The Cosmetics We Use Today

International Shadeism in India - UBC Wiki
Representative image only.

Well, gone were the days when we used cosmetics that contained Lead, Mercury and whatnot, even radioactive elements like Thorium and Radium. It must be really hard to believe that there was an era in humankind when poisonous cosmetics were trending in the market, but how is it different from the situation now? Are we still swindled by the fake promises made by the cosmetic industry? How safe are cosmetics we use today? After doing a bit of research on the chemicals which we use in cosmetics today, this is what I’ve found-

  • Parabens: Parabens can affect the mechanisms of cells in the breast and can potentially influence the abnormal growth of breast cells, leading to an increased risk of breast cancer. These days you may find cosmetics in the market labelled “Paraben-Free”, but still a lot of cosmetics still use parabens as one of the main ingredients.
  • Mineral Oil: Skin Moisturizers that are available in the market these days contain mineral oil, which can slow down cell renewal and promote premature skin ageing. So by using all these cosmetics, what are we actually doing? We are literally causing more harm to our skin than doing something to it.

So, What’s Next?

We should start loving ourselves for the way we are, the world may label us ugly and let them be. What makes a person really beautiful is to be confident in his/her body. Don’t hide your imperfections, let them define your ingenuity. In a world where being fake has become the trend, not everyone has the courage to show the world who they really are. Imperfections are not meant to be hidden behind some fake cosmetic masks that may even cost your life. Don’t be a scapegoat in the hands of the cosmetic industry which has only reminded you about your imperfections.

Let’s live bold and beautiful!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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