The High Cost of Beauty: Giving up Wealth, Health, and Happiness
I believe it was 7th grade. One of my closest friends cried that she needed a nose job. “It’s way too big!” I thought she looked great. What did I know?
When I tried to persuade her not to do it, I’ll never forget what she told me; “Every time I look in the mirror, all I see is this nose. Beautiful people have little noses. Have you ever seen a model with a nose like mine?” She wound up getting one of those “model noses” for about $4000 from bridge to tip.
That year was my real initiation into the world of “beauty.” Or shall I say, “manufacturing beauty” from natural beauty. Make-up, hair, shaving (thank goodness we didn’t know much about waxing during the preteen years), tanning, “good jeans” and plastic surgery—it became apparent that play clothes and a little dirt on my face was no longer going to cut it. Admittedly, I had been a bit of a tomboy—having 2 older brothers who I wanted desperately to be like (I was convinced that I only wanted to wear pants– no skirts!)—and a tomboy wasn’t the best thing to be once you entered middle school.
We got a bit ridiculous. We’d put on our mother’s make-up and dress up like Madonna (remember those mesh ti-shirts and the lace bow in the hair?). We actually thought we looked good. We’d spend hours looking in the mirror counting pimples, pinching non-existent blubber and investigating “flaws” to complain about. We bought trinkets and bobbles and fluorescent purses (mine was pink). And we prayed that we’d grow up sooner so we drive a car, go where we wanted, and spend our own money.
I remember saving up to buy at least 50 of those rubber bracelets (my favorite was the pink “gummy one)—yes, I realize they were simply car parts and vacuum cleaner components now—but we all wanted them. I even remember my friends and myself painting ourselves with baby oil and literally lying down on tin foil to get that “natural glow.” Years later I realized that I could use the same procedure to bronze shrimp.
It turns out, probably more than we care to know. The YMCA released a report on the Consequences of America’s Beauty Obsession on Women and Girls to illustrate that we’ve been buying into a “Beauty at Any Cost” philosophy.
Wealth pays a price:
- 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure in 2007
- A survey of young people showed that 69% of responders, 18 or older, are in favor of cosmetic surgery.
- ¼ of cosmetic surgery was performed on women of color, up 13% from the previous year.
- Workers with “below average looks tended to earn about 9% less money than those with “above average” looks
Beauty or brains?
One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. Five years of beauty products costs $6,423
Health pays a price:
- 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight
- 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight
- 37% of women are concerned about what they’re eating
- 13% of women actually smoke in order to lose weight!
- Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in the US
- 40% of newly-diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls only 15-19 years old. Symptoms can start as early as kindergarten.
- Over ½ of teen girls engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, smoking, and taking laxative
What’s the real cost of all that stuff we put on our faces?
Several ingredients found in US cosmetics have been linked to damage to the liver and reproductive system in animals. Europe has banned these ingredients. The US has not. In fact, in Europe, substances that can be used currently in the US have been called “carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction and should be prohibited from use in cosmetic products.” –European Union Cosmetics Directive, 2003
Happiness Pays a Price
- Studies have found that girls who watch TV commercials with underweight models in them lost self confidence and were dissatisfied with their own bodies.
- Sexualization of girls have been linked with eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
- Aggressive bullying between girls has been on the rise since the 1990s.
- Relational aggression, a form of bullying, is related to their roles in culture. Women want to be attractive and men want to have attractive partners.
In a study of women, 80% of interviewed participants said that they competed with other women over physical appearance. These women are driven by an unhealthy belief that winning the looks competition will somehow gain them a husband, “the” career, or the self they desire.
So folks, should we dare to think about it? How much are we shelling out for beauty? How much are our girls—many of whom are going back to school—going to spend on “the right” clothes, make-up, hair, weight loss and skin to ensure that they look “their best?” And how is it that we’ve all been fooled to believe that “our best” means slathering ourselves with manufactured, unnatural products that are made in a factory?
So much for telling children and teens to just be themselves.
Please comment below. We’re really interested in what you have to say.
pics form Jupiter Images
Filed under: Body Image, Body Image Press, Body Image Research | Tagged: America the Beautiful, Beauty, Body Image, children, Dr. Robyn Silverman, Girls, health, research, Sexualization, Teens, YMCA | 4 Comments »