As a self-confessed beauty product junkie, I'm more than a little excited to be working on a big health and beauty client right now. And as I research the sector, I can't help but take a more analytical stance on the power that beauty and cosmetics brands wield and wonder whether it's a positive, life-affirming force, marketing mumbo-jumbo or even a negative force that sets feminism back.
It's easy to be cynical about beauty brands and their claims. Recently I learned about an eye cream which uses human growth hormones derived from circumcised foreskins. Now I'm a sucker for new potions and lotions, but there are areas I draw the line at. I'll stick to my fab soothing, cooling and part-concealing BB under eye roll-on, thank you very much.
But there is also something deeply compelling and true in an ambition to create products which enable each of us to be the most beautiful we can be. I blogged here a while back about the power of appearances and 'dressing up' to feel your best, as well as to look the part as a CEO, and beauty products are a natural continuation of the theme.
Beauty itself is an emotive word and for women; make-up is about so much more than just being pretty. Applying lipstick is not merely putting on lippy, it's an act of self-expression and of building confidence. The colour a woman chooses, from understated nude to sophisticated scarlet, asserts her sense of individuality and style, while highlighting and celebrating her femininity.
Make-up is an empowering part of a woman's armoury and can also, thankfully, hide a multitude of sins. We can get away with a late night (and one glass of Sauvignon too many) with an extra dash of concealer and a miracle skin brightener. Beauty products are a welcome tool in our hectic schedules. And this is where the beauty industry needs to get it spot on when marketing to women. We're not camouflaging ourselves or painting ourselves Geisha-like to conform to defined models of femininity or seek approval from men, so please don't patronise us with fields of flowers or dashing suitors. I'd like to see brands looking beyond clichés of femininity to understand where their products lie contextually within real women's lives.
Many a time have I been rescued by a little cosmetic pick-me-up. I recently had a bunion operation and I'm currently hobbling around, slowly and very unglamorously, with a clumpy plastic and velcro shoe. It's not a good look. On top of this, I also have conjunctivitis... the type that lasts for a month. So I am not looking or feeling my best. But I tell you, a top-up tint to cover my grey roots, cut and blow-dry and eyebrow threading to 'lift' my eye area has worked wonders on my confidence. While I still don't feel great, I feel tonnes better thanks to beauty treatments and products. What's not to like about these little 'tricks' that help us feel like the best possible versions of ourselves?
Perhaps a deeper issue is that of the female tendency towards insecurity and a sense of embarrassment about taking time to tend to personal appearances. When otherwise confident women get paid a compliment they often send it right back, rejected. "Oh! This old thing I just threw it on. I'm not sure about it...", "I'm looking healthy? Do you mean fat?", "You like my lipstick, have I put too much on?" and so on.
We need to feel more comfortable accepting compliments and feel empowered by them, rather than rebuffing them. Make an effort in any other of your life and you're pretty chuffed if it's recognised. Making an effort with your appearance and using whatever works for you is worth it; we are worth it.