Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Attainable Beauty?

It seems like every so often, a new set of soul-crushing celebrity photo retouching before-and-afters gets released to the general public to the shock and dismay of those of us clinging to hope that our diet, exercise, and beauty care efforts may one day yield the plastic-y perfection we see on magazine pages.

We despair and wonder, as Nicki Zevola of laments, "If Hollywood celebrities, blessed with access to the best nutritionists, chefs, trainers, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and stylists, cannot even look as good as themselves in photos, then how can we expect to do so?"

While I think most would agree that some of the retouches in question are seriously over-the-top, I still don't think of it as a reason for regular people like us to stop trying to be as beautiful as we can. In fact, availing ourselves of all the wonderful beauty-enhancing technology that has become available in the last several decades can have a number of tangible benefits. In fact, according to this article from Science Daily, "physically attractive people have advantages that unattractive people do not," and the scope of these advantages ranges from the workplace to public and private life.

Still need a good reason to hold fast to your beauty routine? Most of us don't look like airbrushed celebrities, but looking as good as we can is important. The the impact on self-confidence of appearing as attractive as possible is undeniable. Have any doubts? Just look at the elevated rates of depression, social withdrawal, and unemployment among acne sufferers.

French Elle did a "Stars Sans Fards" spread last April where Eva Herzigova, Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau, Charlotte Rampling and several others posed without makeup, pro hairstyling, airbrushing or even wardrobing (they look like they just rolled out of bed)...and they are astonishingly beautiful! Of course, the lighting is fabulous and they probably took hundreds of pictures to get the final cuts, but to me, part of the beauty of the spread is its testament to the miracles of modern skin technology. No, they may not have had makeup on, but I doubt that any of those stars went to bed the night before that shoot without applying top-notch corrective skincare!

As an aesthetician, my ears prick up when people point out how unrealistic and unattainable celebrity beauty is--not because I disagree, but because I have seen how much of a psychological, social, and yes, sometimes even professional boost people get by optimizing their own beauty through truly accessible means. Discouragement that you won't wind up looking like Madonna (err, the photo-retouched Madonna, that is) is not a good reason to turn away from a well-selected and effective skincare routine. Just like exercising and eating well, a healthy skin routine is a no-brainer for looking and feeling better. Nope, one microdermabrasion session is not going to turn you into Barbie, but a sustained, consistent routine of proven skin care technology is an investment that I have seen pay off in all areas of life.

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