Monthly Archives: December 2009

It’s Time for a New Beauty Backlash.

Beauty U goes on winter break tomorrow, so I’m gearing up to take the next 12 days off from blogging for Christmas, New Year’s, and the plentiful eating of real chocolate. It’s all good — we’re gearing up for advanced facials after break, and my skin needs some rebound time after a class effort to extract every comedone (that’s spa speak for pimple) currently erupting on my face.

But before I go ice my face, I’d like to direct your attention to “The Beauty Standards Backlash,” Amanda Marcotte’s fantastic post over on Double X. She argues that our culture’s current obsession with Brazilians and Botox (and pore excavation and everything else I’ve been obsessing over here for the last two months) is a backlash against the feminist movement:

Those of us who came of age in the ’90s apparently grew up in a feminist paradise in which you could totally be considered hot while not being on the brink of starvation. Body hair was only considered a problem if directly visible (and even then, armpit hair made a small comeback), comfortable clothes were the norm, make-up was applied sparingly and for artfulness rather than deceit, and natural hair became completely normal. The slovenliness of the grunge era has given way to sharp dressing, but it’s still done with a minimum of discomfort. And I swear to you that by applying a relaxed beauty norm, we were able to train the men of my generation to be sexually aroused by women who didn’t need to show suffering for beauty. Indeed, many men I know in their 30s and 40s recoil at the idea of finding waxed anorexics with plastic parts to be sexier than someone unafraid to wear a pair of sneakers on the right occasion. Or perhaps they’re flattering me for reasons I don’t understand, though their choices in partners tend to uphold their claims.

All of which tells me that we’re in a backlash period, much like the 80s as described by Susan Faludi. Which means that the oppressive beauty standards are a response to feminism, but also that we don’t have to give up hope.

Remembering the 1990s as a “feminist paradise” might be a bit of a stretch (water bras, Biore strips, the flip side of grunge being Kate Moss skinny/heroin chic), but you need only compare the original cast of 90210 (which first aired in 1990) with the remake to see Marcotte’s point. It’s not just the lack of mom jeans — thighs and eyebrows alike have been downsized.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Standards, For Extra Credit

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[Ingredient Watch] Parabens

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Read about the project, or catch up with weeks 1-7.

I’m making vocabulary flash cards for our Chapter 11 test, and thought I’d drop some knowledge on you, from Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Esthetician, Chapter 11: Product Selection and Ingredients, page 242-243:

  • Methyl paraben — One of the most frequently used preservatives because of its very low sensitizing potential, this ingredient is one of the oldest preservatives in use to combat bacteria and molds. It is non-comedogenic.
  • Parabens — One of the most commonly used groups of preservatives in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries, parabens provide bacteriostatic and fungistatic activity against a diverse number of organisms, and are considered safe for use in cosmetics.

Just in case you don’t get it the first time (is that “safe for use in cosmetics,” then?), both definitions are repeated in the glossary at the chapter’s end on page 248. Although it doesn’t spend much time clarifying this position, when Milady’s says “safe,” what it means is “will not cause your client to break out in a heinous, litigation-inspiring rash.”

True enough. A Google search reveals parabens, sold in crystalline powder form by the ton on Asian import sites like Made-In-China and Alibaba. The product descriptions, such as they are, emphasize the antiseptic, antibacterial properties.


Filed under Ingredients, Products

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From the Department of Nothing Tastes as Good as Thin Feels:*

*Except for everything, ever.

Instead of “gorging on calories” this holiday season, The Cut encourages you to “satisfy your sweet tooth in a different, fat-free way,” by purchasing Jane Iredale’s Chocoholicks lip gloss gift set for $44.


I guess that’s a helpful diet strategy if you’re sad and hungry like Kate Moss (the pithy wordsmith/awesome role model behind the bons mots above) or working on Ralph Lauren’s Body By Gumby look. The Cut was also talking about the perils of Collagen Cheesecake last week, so it’s possible they’ve never tasted actual chocolate.


Filed under Glossed Over, Happenings, Makeup

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Pretty Price Check (12.21.09)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday (only now it’s Monday) round-up of how much we paid for beauty this (last) week.


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[Glossed Over] Twiggy, Out of Fashion.

Glossed Over: Taking a closer look at what advertisements are really selling.



Airbrushed Twiggy.



Normal Twiggy.


Filed under Glossed Over, Makeup, Products

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Is It a Dress Code or a Body Code?


On Tuesday, I told you about American Apparel instructing female employees on eyebrow grooming. Now, bellasugar is reporting on two cases where elementary school children are in trouble over their hair. A Milwaukee first-grade teacher cut off one of 7-year-old LMya Cammon’s braids when the little girl wouldn’t stop twirling them in class (video above). And 4-year-old Taylor Pugh has in-school suspension in Mesquite, TX because the school says his hair is too long for prekindergarten.

So, what I want to know (and haven’t seen any of the news coverage asking):

A) Would the Milwaukee school teacher think it’s okay to cut the hair of a twirling-prone white student?


Filed under Beauty Standards, For Extra Credit, Hair

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The European Facial

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Read about the project or catch up with Weeks 1-6.

This is not the European Facial, but it is ridiculous, so enjoy.

We get down to business with the European Facial tonight, with everyone paired up on the spa beds while Miss Jenny perches in a director chair between us to critique our work.

The European facial is the most basic facial, so if you’ve ever been to a spa, you’ve probably had some version of it. There are six steps:


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Products

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A Different Kind of Pageant


Oh my goodness.

Remember how we got all worked up about beauty pageants because of the disturbing baby beauty pageant contestants with their flipper teeth and taxidermied smiles?

Then, do you remember how I followed that up with news about the Miss Trans Indian Beauty Pageant — which seems like an amazing celebration, yet still worried me because pageants, at their base, are about turning women into objects manufactured to meet artificial standards of beauty?


Filed under Beauty Standards, Happenings

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[Glossed Over] Eyebrows, Made in America.

Glossed Over: Taking a closer look at what advertisers are really selling.


Dov Charney, beauty guru?


Filed under Beauty Standards, Career Opportunities, For Extra Credit, Glossed Over

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Saving My Money


No dice.


The Beauty U student population remains mixed on whether we want to sign up for Scott’s Beauty Business Sense, even after Mr. G’s infomercial and Simon Scott’s six-figure promises. Of course, I’m curious about what we’ll learn in the program, and I applaud Mr. G’s attempts to upgrade his curriculum and stay cutting edge. He’s got 200 students to help employ, after all. But changing horses mid-semester is an awkward business — and a shade too bait-and-switch for my taste.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities

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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!