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Are beauty products the saviour or the source of our insecurities?


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This time last year my skin took a turn for the worse. My acne had reshaped my jawline; my forehead was freckled with deep red scars and my cheeks dimpled like swollen, fleshy golf balls.

 Image courtesy of Rebecca Garbutt

The thought of being seen bare-faced terrified me, and while my family and friends didn’t seem to care, I sunk deeper into a puddle of shame and embarrassment.

While it was reassuring to know that my struggle was not unique, no comfort came from knowing that that internal voice of criticism is one we are all too familiar with.

The voice in your head

It’s the voice that picks fault in your pre-holiday peach fuzz and your post-partum stretch-marks; the draining mindset that pushes many insecure young women towards beauty products, in the hopes that they might one day smile at their reflection.

Granted, framing it like this sounds like some sort of advertising campaign to steer teenagers away from alcohol, but while the scale of these issues obviously isn’t comparable, the dependency on its ‘perks’ and desire to mimic others almost is.

Finding confidence in makeup

12 months ago I felt like makeup was the only reason I felt moderately comfortable leaving my home. It was the thing that scooped my confidence up from the grooves in the carpet; almost as a visual apology to society.

After discovering a concealer from Clarins that slightly improved my skin’s texture and discolouration, it took priority over every other step in my morning routine. If I woke up late, I’d rather skip everything else than risk being seen without it.

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A change in me

Cut to present day and I’m sat just off the high-street drinking coffee with my boyfriend. My legs are tickled with stubble, my thighs wiggling a little with each step. I haven’t worn makeup in around six months and today is no different. I felt my best in a state that was once my worst.

Looking back at these blissful moments of carelessness are bittersweet. I appreciated the cosmetics at the time because I had convinced myself that I needed them; I relied on Clarins’ help to make me feel better.

But with only some moisturiser on my skin and an extra hundred pounds in my account, it makes you wonder... who is really relying on whom?

The Verdict

Truthfully, beauty brands aren’t there to help you out. Make-up should not be a girl’s best friend.

Your best friend gets food out of your front teeth because your nails just can’t get it. They encourage lazy days with scruffy hair and clean skin and would lose it whenever you put yourself down.

So as you stand at the cosmetics counter and are told how “the coverage will easily hide those scars and people won’t notice them” or how applying a thick green paste to your cheeks “will work wonders at concealing everything”, you begin to realise that no one cares why you wear it, so long as you do.

Granted, it’s their job and they’re there to sell – it’s not personal at all - however if just one of those fancy ladies had turned to my impressionable 14-year-old self and told me I could feel pretty without it, they are among the few people I might have actually listened to.

Beyond just enabling the insecure, you could go as far as to say that they help establish new flaws for people to obsess over. 

Love yourselves

Ultimately, flaws are entirely socially constructed - but then so is beauty.

So why do we fixate on the skin-deep, rather than investing in a beauty that sinks beneath that? When did we become so shallow that we rely on our appearance over the valuable elements that we can control and develop?

Don’t get me wrong, makeup can be beautiful, artistic and expressive, however, there’s definitely a difference between those who paint their face because they love to, and those that feel they have to.

The bottom line is whether you see beauty products as an accessory or a safety net, the real motive will never be to encourage you to love your authentic self.

Squishy earlobes? A tiny mole behind your left ear? If there’s anything about yourself that you dislike, I can guarantee there’s a company somewhere promising they can fix it. Perhaps what really needs fixing is the idea that there was ever something to fix in the first place.

Is it all the product's fault?

No, it’s not all down to beauty products, as you could argue that social media has a far greater impact than any cosmetics kiosk could. With the majority of young people starting and finishing their day with a scroll, it’s hardly surprising that the content we come across has some influence on our habits and beliefs.

For every dog video, there’s probably five videos of eyeshadow blending, black facemasks and udders for nails.

Cosmopolitan recently wrote an insightful article on this topic in their print issue, looking at how the self-made beauty influencers we look to aren’t as polished and perfect as they appear online. Each influencer confessed to regularly using a number of photo applications and editing techniques in order to ‘finalise’ their perfect selfie.

With subtle changes and magical photoshop skills, you can see why so many people believe the results are authentic. The more times you fail to recreate that matte poreless finish, the more you’ll start to believe your skin is the issue. The more you try, the more you’ll spend; the better the result, the more they’ll alter their photos.

It’s a never-ending cycle of insecurity, and no one wants to be the one to step out of it.

What do you think? Do you think makeup is good for skin solutions?

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