The Evolving Facets of Beauty
‘In polite society, a well-maintained skincare routine is one of life’s great successes.’
– Violet Grey
The act of curating an arsenal of products and maintaining a routine is an unmatched and underrated art. Amidst the mundane moments and daily stresses, we have beauty; a seemingly small yet significant part of our lives. As Violet Grey has so rightly said, to maintain a skincare routine, and even a makeup, haircare or body routine, is a major feat. It’s to persevere and take care of one’s self when it is often perceived (even by us) as inconvenient and selfish to do so. Some of us take inspiration from others, some find solace in the sequence of the routine whereas some even look forward to seeing the fruits of our labour (i.e. faded acne scars, healthy hair with more length or improved makeup skills). It's obvious that beauty is going nowhere anytime soon, yet it’s even more interesting to see that our relationship with, and attitudes to beauty have drastically changed over the last few decades.
It’s unclear what year marked the beginning of digital’s dominance in the beauty industry but one thing is certain, its presence is undeniable. With each year that has gone by, digital’s influence on beauty only grows stronger. From the shift from print to digital with platforms such as Into the Gloss (ITG for the fans) and Beauty Is Boring, and with the emergence and rise of digital beauty influencers such as Jackie Aina, Huda Kattan and Amrezy, beauty is becoming way more accessible. Print still remains alive and well, lest we forget the importance publications such as Vogue, Dazed and i-D have had on culture, old and new. However, beauty lovers need not buy the latest issue of a magazine to be inspired, the sources of inspiration exist everywhere, including online. Whether your tastes are likened to something a bit bold or something a bit sheerer, there is something for everyone. Whatever, your thoughts on social media are, there’s something to be admired about the ease in which beauty inspiration is within reach. We can take not only from our current pop culture but sift through archives of older times, drawing makeup and hair inspiration from times of old. Nostalgia then is no more an intangible and fruitless thing, but something that can be performed. The current beauty climate allows us to pay homage, mix and match the old and new, simultaneously looking backwards to the past and forwards to the future.
Variety is one word that sums up beauty routines in 2017. Ranging from minimal and simple routines to maximalist multi-step routines, beauty has spread it's net wider as we find products not just from our local Superdrug or Boots but from other countries. Whereas once a single department store acted as a one-stop shop for all beauty needs, we are now afforded much more choice with the plethora of high-street shops, department stores and online shopping destinations. Online shopping has allowed users to reach across oceans and join the masses of fans who swear by cult products far and wide. These past few years have definitively marked the amalgamation of our beauty routine culture. We have wholly embraced routines from other countries, seeing the knowledge that exists outside ourselves, namely in East Asian and African countries (think nourishing multi-layer Korean routines and skin-clearing African black soap).
A Word On Diversity
There’s much to be said about diversity in beauty. For one, the rise of digital beauty influencers means that you’re more likely to find someone who looks like you. No longer do we have to take a beauty editor’s word that this serum is effective (not ignoring the fact that she happened to have received this product for free) and is worth stretching your £10 budget to an expensive £60. Nor do you have to imagine what these shades will look like, only to opt for a safe berry or gold/bronze shimmer option (who hasn’t been there). Beauty doesn’t exist only for the white, cisgender, middle-class members of society but has become an all-inclusive club of sorts for any and everyone who sees fit to participate. The wider representation means that beauty has, for the most part, stopped being a way to conform to traditional standards and please others but rather create your own in whichever way you see fit.
Rather than being fixed and finite, beauty is malleable and infinite. The term beauty is flexible in itself, in that this can mean almost anything. It’s said to be in the ‘eye of the beholder’ and in this context it could be said to be in the hands, palette or on the top shelf of ’the beholder’, and this in some sense drives it’s increasing diversity (although like fashion, there is still a long way to go) and will only improve with time. More than anything, beauty is personal. It’s meant to fit us, not the other way around. There is no right way to “do” beauty, and that’s really the beauty of it, no pun intended.