Beauty is pain, but does it have to be?
Beauty is pain.
As women, we’ve all heard the quote throughout our lives. It almost serves as a justification for causing harm to ourselves for the sake of attaining a certain beauty standard. As time has progressed and new technologies and processes have been created, the beauty-to-pain ratio seems pretty unbalanced. Women are risking their lives in beauty shops, nail salons, makeup counters, and just recently, on surgical tables. Were beautification processes always this scary, or did they just become so in recent times?
Let’s take a look at history to find out.
The earliest records of beauty regimens start in Ancient Israelite times, Greek culture, Roman culture, and Egyptian culture. Let’s begin in Ancient Israel with Queen Esther.
Before she became a queen, Esther 2:12 shows us that she along with the other maidens of the land that were selected to be presented to King Ahasuerus had to go through an extensive purification process in order to be presentable. This process was twelve months long and included purification of oils for six months and purification of sweet odours and “other things for the purifying of the women” for another six months. These would’ve included oils and sweet odors such as frankincense and myrrh, olive oil, and other fragrant essential oils.
In Greek culture, the word “kosmetikos” originated in the Greek, which gives us the English word for “cosmetics” today. Included in their regimen was white lead, yikes, and chalk powder, which replaced the white lead because of sudden deaths and other health complications; crushed mulberries, clay, red iron, charcoal, oils, honey, and olive oil.
The Romans were not too different from the Greeks in that they also favored white, pasty complexions and opted for cosmetics that would create this type of look. White lead, white marl, and chalk powder were used. They also used mulberry juice, wine dregs, rose and poppy petals, red chalk, and crocodile dung for their cheeks. Gross.
Egyptian women loved their eye enhancements and headdresses. They are most known for their use of sulfite and malachite minerals for eyeliners. They also used seaweed, iodine, and carmine beetles for lip colors. Additionally, they were very conscientious of aging and used almond oils, apple cider vinegar, dead sea salt scrubs, and honey and milk baths as anti-aging regimens. In Egypt, makeup and beauty were recognized as more than just beauty regimens - these were honorable rituals done to serve their gods and goddesses.
As we see from this quick history lesson, women from different cultures took their beauty regimens very seriously. Anti-aging, sacrifices to gods, and maintaining a certain beauty standard were the main reasons for spending so much time and energy on cosmetics.
This doesn’t seem to be much different from the women of today. Women today spend exorbitant amounts of time and money in attempts to achieve a desirable beauty outcome. Are these beauty looks worth the time and money, as well as the risk; or is it just a vain attempt at self-pleasure and attention-seeking? Let's see if it is.
Makeup or breakup?
Over time, makeup ingredients have taken a less holistic approach and have turned to toxic ingredients that are cheap to produce, quick to manufacture, and easy to distribute in many different products and companies. Some of these ingredients widely used in cosmetics are talc, triclosan, lead, mercury, phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde to name a few. In 2019, the FDA publicly advised consumers to stay away from certain cosmetics due to talcum powder being contaminated with asbestos. Talc can be found in blush, eye shadow, and bronzer. Risks to using products with talc can result in respiratory problems, lung disease, and may even cause cancer.
There is no difference with Tricoslan. Triclosan is also found in some kinds of toothpaste, antibacterial soaps, and body washes. “According to the FDA, high levels of triclosan may affect thyroid hormones and contribute to antibiotic resistance with long-term effects having the potential to develop into skin cancer.” This ingredient can be so detrimental that it is currently banned from body care products sold at Whole Foods and scheduled for a ban from CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.
Lead is also a harmful ingredient used in cosmetics, and the FDA has classified it as one of the illegal color additives. Lead poisoning can result in abdominal pain, constipation, migraines, loss of appetite, memory loss, pain or tingling in the hands and feet, weakness, nausea, and vomiting.
Thimerosal is a preservative for cosmetics that contains mercury. Mercy can cause nervous system damage, kidney damage, and even cause harm in developing a fetus.
Phthalates are ingredients used in nail polishes, hair sprays, cleaning, and cosmetic products. They can cause hormonal imbalances directly impacting estrogen and testosterone levels. There may even be a link between phthalates to breast cancer.
Parabens found in makeup, moisturizers, hair products, and shaving creams are also harmful to estrogen levels and can cause breast cancer cells to grow.
Formaldehyde is present in cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, shower gels, nail polishes, and hair straightening products. Aside from potentially causing allergic reactions, there may also be a link to cancer.
Although these are just a few, it is evident that cosmetic companies' goal is preservation and not safety. Is covering the beauty The Most High created worth the risk? There are ways to naturally enhance your features without using products that have direct links to cancers and other detrimental health risks. We’ve seen it done in times past. It’s time to return back to the ancient path and rely on naturally occurring substances provided to us by The Most High.
Protect your crown.
On October 17, NBC published an article addressing the study by the National Institute of Health that showed that chemical hair-straightening products cause a high risk of uterine cancer, especially in Black women. The researchers studied the hair habits of over 33,000 women and found that those who used chemical hair straightening products at least four times a year, such as perms, were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer.
Some of the same carcinogens found present in makeup products such as parabens, phthalates, and fragrances, cause disruptions to the endocrine system which raises the risk of uterine cancer.
Conforming to society’s beauty standards of texture and styles are posing major health risks for our women.
Then we started to experience the “Great Migration of Black Hair.” The 2010s was a time where Black women all over the world were ditching perms and making the “Big Chop” or transitioning from perms and hair relaxers to natural hair. Within this transition, synthetic wigs and weaves were becoming more mainstream. But if the material used in synthetic hair consists of plastic fibers, acrylic, and polyester, is this any better than chemically altering our hair? These materials are also highly toxic carcinogens and highly flammable. Doesn’t seem to be any better.
So let’s not use synthetic. Let’s go for the real deal! Wrong! Human hair may be “safer” to use and less toxic, but the means by which this hair is acquired is something important to note. The hair extension industry is built on the sacrifices of Indian women - literally. Indian women from across the country stand in lines of thousands of other women who participate in head-shaving rituals sacrificing their locks to their gods at the Thiruthani Murugan Temple. According to the Hindustan Times, these women sacrifice their hair to ask their gods for good fortune and health. I think it's safe to say being that India is the world’s biggest exporter of human hair, that their gods have appreciated their sacrifices.
Are funding rituals and sacrifices something that we want to take part in? Do we not then become “the gods” providing the good fortune for this sacrifice?
Looking in the rearview.
Although makeup and hair aren’t major transformative measures to take to achieve a certain beauty standard, one cosmetic enhancement has taken the world by storm, especially among Black women. The Brazilian Butt Lift procedure, first created by Dr. Ivo Pitanguy in Brazil in the 1960s, has become the fastest-growing and most dangerous cosmetic surgery worldwide. In 2015, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons reported over 15.9 million cosmetic surgery procedures making 2015 “The Year of the Rear.”
But what even is a Brazilian Butt Lift? The operation consists of moving fat from the hips, lower back, abdomen, thighs, or other areas with liposuction. Then the extracted fat is purified and prepared to be transferred. The fat is then injected at specific points in the butt to increase shape and volume.
Complications from this procedure include infection, excessive bleeding, asymmetrical results, tissue necrosis, sensation loss, scarring, seroma, fat embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and cardiac and pulmonary complications. A survey of 700 surgeons showed that 3% of their patients have died after getting the deadly procedure.
In October, a woman came forward about her friend's terrifying experience in the Dominican Republic. The woman reported that her friend went to the DR to get a BBL for $3500 and her kidney was stolen during the procedure. Upon returning to the United States, the woman's health started to deteriorate and she had to be put on dialysis treatments. After undergoing doctor's care, it was revealed that she was missing one of her kidneys.
Brazilian Butt Lifts became more popularized and widely accepted due to celebrity influence, social media trends, and gender-affirming care. Transgender women would undergo these procedures in hopes of becoming more of the woman that they felt they were on the inside regardless of the gender they were born into.
One of the trans women who spoke about her experience shared with Huffington Post, “Once I got into the OR, I just became really overwhelmed and started crying thinking about my sisters who never get the opportunity to do this or who died trying to do this gender affirmation with the best resources they had.” This person’s total operation and recovery costs were $28,000. Prior to the procedure, she started a GoFundMe as insurance does not cover these types of procedures. She reached her goal and thus received her procedure.
Natural-born women report that they desire these procedures to achieve the body shape that society deems as “more womanly.” Trans women desire these procedures for the same reason. Herein lies the problem. A natural-born woman should not seek out a cosmetic procedure for the same reason a trans woman does. Doesn’t that seem a bit off?
The rise of the GMO woman.
Now we come to the main purpose of this discussion. If men are seeking out makeup trends, hair trends, and cosmetic surgeries to depict themselves as women, and natural-born women are adapting to these same behaviors, can we see how this might cause confusion amongst natural-born men and their idea of what beauty should look like? This even causes confusion for the youth as they soak up all of this information that is readily available at their disposal.
Natural-born women should not have to try and achieve looks that men are having to overcompensate for. The Most High created this separation for a reason, and did not need our help in our own artificial attempts at recreation. We must learn to be grateful for how we were created, as we were fearfully and wonderfully made.
What we are seeing is the rise of the GMO woman. The woman who has to overcompensate and prove her femininity while adapting to trends and processes necessary for men to attempt to participate in “womanhood”. The woman who has modified herself outside of the parameters The Most High has set. These extensive measures are not needed to accentuate who you are. Remain humble. Fill yourself with the spirit of The Most High. Be the light. All that you are artificially searching for will come naturally when The Most High is your primary focus. Men desire natural-born women to look exactly how The Most High created them - natural. Beware of conforming to unnatural practices. In your pursuit of becoming your best self, you might just become the worst.