Recently I treated a client who had by far the worst skin I had ever seen during my time as an esthetician and even the worst skin I had seen – ever. Every surface of her face was covered with papules and pustules; her skin was bumpy and extremely infected. In order for her skin to both look good and be healthy this client will need very aggressive and long-standing anti-acne treatment, probably for the rest of her life.
Without any prompting I can rattle off everything that is wrong with my skin – blackheads galore, acne scars on my cheeks, persistent breakouts on my chin especially around the time of my period (I have two on my chin as I write this), sun damage and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Oh and did I mention that I have to pluck hairs from my chin on a daily basis? Yes, my skin can be a lot of work. But after treating this client I had to admit that I don’t have it bad when it comes to my skin. I realized that I shouldn’t complain about my skin any more or at least not as much as I used to.
After seeing this client I also started to think, yet again, about how women have unrealistic expectations about how their skin should look and that most people think their skin looks worse than it really is. Lots of times I have people come to me for facials who bemoan the state of their skin and make a catastrophy of every blackhead and wrinkle. (Occasionally I do see the opposite kind of client as well who thinks their skin is fabulous and really they could be doing so much more for their skin, but they don’t think that they need to) Though I am far from a therapist or cultural commentator I think that part of this obsession with perfect skin comes from the completely ridiculous expectations and photos presented to us by the mass media.
I’ll give some examples. In my mind one of the worst magazine offenders, when it comes to setting unattainable expectations for how your skin should look, is Lucky. I’ve already written numerous times in my blog about how the skincare advice in Lucky is simplistic, unrealistic, and sometimes just downright wrong. Unfortunately the advice is presented in a know-it-all tone that makes it sound like they really are the be all and end all authorities on any beauty topic. So please take their skincare advice with a grain of salt. Every month the magazine also promises perfect skin instantly, with the use of one moisturizer or one serum. Real skin changes happen slowly over time and with the use of high-tech and/or prescription ingredients. Every month I cringe when I receive my copy of Lucky thinking of women who want to make their skin look better and actually believe the advice in this magazine. Take the February issue of Lucky for example. The cover of the magazine promises the following:
Flawless skin, guaranteed! Beat acne, shrink pores, and soften lines
You think to yourself “great! I want my skin to look flawless”, but the advice inside falls so short of being helpful. It is rudimentary at best. How do you get poreless skin according to Lucky? You cleanse with a scrub, use a serum that promises to shrink pores (by the way shrinking pores is impossible, see my post below for a longer explanation), use a primer, and then finish with foundation. Hello! Really what they are telling you is to use make-up. The other two promises made on the cover? I couldn’t figure out where the advice was inside the magazine.
The January issue of Vogue actually has an article (“Face Value” – not available online at the moment) about how to achieve poreless looking skin. The key to a flawless face is the right foundation. Let me repeat that – the key to a perfect looking complexion is make-up. According to the article:
In this age of high definition, high resolution, and high expectations – where even the camera on an iPad can send a perfectly rational girl shrieking toward the dermatologist’s office – out-of-this-world skin doesn’t feel like an unreasonable demand. After all, as Val Garland … says, “Your skin is the first thing someone notices about you.”
That’s where a new kind of camouflage comes in. “Ten years ago, foundation was thicker, more opaque, matte. You could tell that women were wearing it,” says Olivia Chantecaille, who, along with her mother, Sylvia, has built a beauty empire upon remarkable second-skin formulas with names like Real Skin (a translucent, balmlike gel) and Future Skin (an airy confection with the consistency of fresh-whipped cream). “A really great foundation is like a really great pair of jeans,” she continues. “It should make you look better instantly; it should make you feel better instantly.”
Obviously I am the last person to discount the benefits and necessity of a great skincare regime but don’t forget the power of make-up as well. And above all – remember that the models in cosmetic ads and magazines are airbrushed within an inch of their lives. Their skin “beauty” is completely unattainable.
- Smile and Say “No Photoshop” – The New York Times
- Photoshopped or Not? A Tool to Tell – The New York Times
- Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks? – The New York Times
- Airbrushing, Photoshop, and the Damage Done – by Kelly Gould on SheSaidBeauty
- Large Pores – Can You Shrink Them?
- Do You Have Porexia?
- Truth in Beauty Advertising – There Isn’t Much Out There
- Book Review: Free Gift with Purchase
Photo from Allure