Why Can't Body Acceptance Apply to Our Faces, Too?
Amid the millennial celebration of diversity and gender fluidity, there remains a rigid beauty ideal that women seem to be embracing without much protest. I'm talking about full lips and full eyebrows, features that used to be accepted in their infinite variety. Not anymore. If you read magazines or scroll through Instagram, you know that lips and brows are the new arbiters of sex appeal, and the bigger the better.
Inflated lips are nothing new. But we've become so used to them that a normal mouth may look second class at this point. I think we can blame Kylie Jenner, a huge 'influencer' on social media whose beauty products sell out within hours of each launch. Her pillowy lips are the dream of her fervent followers, never mind that Kylie's facial procedures have added decades to her appearance.
Actresses are destroying their faces with lips that belong in an aquarium, and in cities like Los Angeles, protruding lips are everywhere. They don't look natural but certainly that is a woman's prerogative. We can't take away a woman's agency and put the onus on the beauty industry when no one is holding a gun to our heads. Still, it's hard not to be bombarded with images of female beauty. It's hard not to compare our own faces to models and TV stars. And there is nothing much to counter our insecurities.
Now we have to worry about eyebrows, and if you deny a concern with your eyebrows, I'm going to have to ask for a lie-detector test. In the last week alone, I've seen three first-person accounts of microblading. Microblading is a kind of temporary tattoo, where your brows are enhanced with tiny injections of dye under the skin. It looks painful and it isn't cheap, but its adherents all rave about it. Now they can wake up with thick, perfectly shaped brows. Now they can stand toe to toe with Cara Delevingne, the patron saint of heavy eyebrows. Eyebrow shape has always been an aspect of female beauty, but over the years the ideal has morphed; thin, curved, groomed, arched, straight, shaved, and now full. Very full. Every make-up brand has come out with a line of new products you need to shape, colour, and seal your brows. There are also conditioners, waxes, and gels to keep them in place. YouTube tutorials guide you through the process of creating a full brow, sometimes involving 22 different products!
All this commitment to lips and eyebrows seems kind of sad. The desired look is so uniform and unnatural. There doesn't seem to be much room for individuality. Sometimes you have to wonder if women know when they've gone too far. I asked my friend Ben Benham, a dermatologist with many celebrities among his clients, why women want such out-sized lips, and what he told me is this: Less is more, but women can be hard to convince to start conservatively. They will often insist on more filler than is necessary or aesthetically pleasing. And if they're having other injections around their face, they ask for any leftover filler to be used on their lips.
You can also get an eyebrow transplant for around $3,000. Years ago, women were more interested in eliminating eyebrow hair. But even then, it wasn't a process requiring 22 products. Is the age of Instagram messing with our perspective? Do celebrity selfies create a longing for the kind of beauty that is not only unnatural but impractical? Do these images create more pressure to conform, since they are constant reminders of our perceived flaws? Magazines used to come out monthly, issuing their edicts for beauty. Now those edicts are never-ending.
Big lips and full eyebrows connote youth and fertility. But beauty is so diverse! It would be nice to see an entire spectrum of facial features, and to appreciate their natural harmony. If we let Instagram be the arbiter of beauty, we're in big trouble. Cookie-cutter faces have become scary, and not just in a Kardashian sense. Browsing at a popular department store, I came across a device like a miniature vacuum-cleaner that plumps your lips via suction. Help!
When you have trouble telling one it-girl from another, it has gone too far. I hope that young women will find self-worth in their authentic identities, including their faces, each one uniquely their own. Where do you stand on this issue? Let’s hear your thoughts!