I am the first to admit that I am the hardest critic of myself. I don’t know if that is based on unrealistic standards that I have set myself up against or societal pressures that have been placed on young women growing up. Maybe it is a combination of both.
While managing these complicated feelings, there has been another dominant force trying to find its way into my brain and control the way I physically present myself. That’s right, you guessed it- the beauty industry.
I have always had a strange relationship with beauty products. On one hand, I do really enjoy the art of makeup. I often go bare-faced, but when I do use products, I love using color to represent the mood I am feeling or put on some beauty product at night to get a calming feeling. On the other hand, I have come to a point where I feel completely happy with myself using absolutely no makeup. But this was not an easy path.
A slight disclaimer- this is not a post bashing anyone’s preferences. I have met people whose passions are makeup and beauty and who are doing the most amazing things with their creativity. However, I think that we need to be critical of industries that have toxic traits, even if we purchase their products
One things that needs to be addressed within the beauty industry is its issue with natural aging.
There is a strange obsession with time and beauty that is placed on many women in Western cultures. Probably the first “blemish” (and I put blemish in quotes because really no body feature is a blemish) that is related with time is acne. I got acne around the time of middle school and left high school with it as well. I was so confused though as I was told that acne is something that eventually goes away. I told myself that I was only 17 when I graduated high school, maybe over the summer it will be gone. Well, today here I am as a 20-year-old still with zits and a couple acne scars I picked up along the way.
One lie that we have always been told is that acne is part of some “geeky pre-cool phase” you need to go through in order to GLO-up. This phrase has been coined throughout the Internet and it is sometimes a very positive thing. Some people do post positive images of them as a kid and where they are at now with accomplishments like graduating high school or working in a field of their choice. However, just as many as there are positive ones, there are negative. Oftentimes GLOing up means you went through that geeky phase and now have clear skin, which somehow translates into having a better life overall.
Does this mean despite all my other accomplishments, I have never GLOed up?
Acne is something that nobody should be ashamed of. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology states that acne is the most common skin condition in the United States with 85% of young adults between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne. So why is this normal part of life something we are made to feel bad about?
Why are we also reduced to a common skin condition instead of focused on other aspects of ourselves? GLOing up should be about celebrating how we have positively grown in the past years, not simply reduced to acne.
How Fear of Acne Becomes Fear of Aging
While acne is something the beauty industry makes us want to get rid of in order to grow, at the same time advertisements discourage any sign of wrinkles whatsoever.
If you keep letting the ads that pop up play long enough, you are sure to find an anti-aging cream directed to get rid of the wrinkles on your face. Usually this is targeted to middle-aged and elder individuals, yet people can start to get wrinkles when they reach young adulthood.
The aim to tell older women that they need to look younger is problematic in itself- the ageism directed towards women that they need to be more youthful to be physically attractive is so outdated and makes no sense. On top of that, there are anti-aging creams even marketed towards 20-some year olds, encouraging them to start getting rid of their wrinkles as fast as they can. This goes to show how much fear the beauty industry feeds to us a fear of being anything other than what is considered “youthful.” It’s constantly hard to find balance with what the beauty industry pushes on us. There is an unattainable age we are made to feel that we must look like, but this is not how reality works.
Sometimes we do not even realize we are propelling this idea that beauty=youthful. But think of how many times you or someone you know complimented on someone’s appearance solely because they ‘looked great for their age.’ While you may not have said those exact words, I know that I have done this before with celebrities who (coincidentally) usually do some sort of anti-aging advertisement. It is something so ingrained in our culture, that we need to step back and realize the internalized misogyny we have been programmed to believe.
I have lines on my forehead that show all the emotions I felt and ones around my eyes showcasing all the times I laughed. My acne does not mean that I haven’t GLOed up because I will honestly probably have at least some acne for most of my life. Our so-called blemishes make us human and the people we are today. We should celebrate all skin types and be proud of our faces and bodies. Whether you have wrinkles in your 20s or acne in your 50s, every age is beautiful and should not be reduced to tropes encouraging an outdated way of being our awesome selves.