Infatuation with aesthetic experience

To be or not to be comfortable in one’s skin

Written and narrated by: Fozia Tahir

How many advertisements do you come across daily that are a reminder of what beauty is to women of all shape, size and age.
Has the society plotted impossible standards for beauty?
Is there a right age to start wearing makeup?
Why is it so important for some professionals to wear makeup at all times like the air hostesses?
Has the overuse of makeup led to feeling of inadequacy among women?
Has this beauty obsession led to decline in self-esteem?
Are people aware of how much money they waste on makeup and how heavy these beauty products are on their pocket?
It is not just the use of cosmetic products but going to other extremes such as plastic surgery to meet the standards of beauty set by the society making cosmetics industry worth billions of dollars.
I am a beauty industry cynic, with let women be comfortable in their skin mindset but I also think that makeup amongst many other things is a matter of personal choice. I truly admire all my friends who the time and energy to turn makeup into art. This leaves in an even harder position i.e. to put forth my views without hurting anyone’s right to look more beautiful for themselves.
First things first.

Why do people apply makeup?
Because its quick, easy and inexpensive compared to other methods like diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery to meet the standards of beauty enforced by the society.
Growing up I always read that men found women with makeup unattractive. However, this notion is now changing. All the recent studies on makeup find out that women who wear makeup and all their peers find them more attractive when they are wearing makeup.
So, individuals rank themselves over attractive when wearing makeup and under attractive without which is why they feel more confident when they are wearing makeup.
Women who wear makeup on a regular basis are women who believe in the beautifying effect of cosmetics.

What can makeup do for you?
We all know that it can cover up blemishes, enhance eye colour, or brighten up features of your face. But more than that it makes you look happier and healthier. In some studies, it has even been related to greater earning potential and finding more prestigious jobs.

Is there any harm in it?
A Research found that positive relationships were established between cosmetic usage and “anxiety, self-consciousness, introversion, conformity, and self-presentation” and that negative relationships were found between cosmetic usage and “extroversion, social confidence, emotional stability, self-esteem, physical attractiveness, and intellectual complexity”.
A woman’s anxiety can come from hundreds of sources; beauty advertisements, peer pressure, innate feelings of insecurity, etc. It has been found that overall the beauty industry has a negative effect on a woman’s self-esteem, body image, and perception of beauty. By using upward comparisons, women are constantly comparing themselves to standards of beauty that society shows to them.

The beauty industries influence on women in the society:
The effect that advertising in the fashion and beauty industry has on women has been well established by research. By creating advertisements with unrealistic images of beauty, it has resulted in anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence in many women. Most of these negative emotions stem from unhappiness among body and appearance.

Is it fight against traditional roles or is it conforming to it?
The patriarchal domination of traditional society has not only defined our position as the one who stays inside the house, but it also implies a complete subordination of the woman’s body to the man, for example, the requirement for a woman to remain a virgin until married, bear children and to devote her life to the care of her children and so on.
Appearance (and especially an appearance that has been created by working to improve the body by means of makeup, diets or plastic surgery) is a matter of etiquette in some societies such as the Koreans where having plastic surgery is like the use of luxury products.
Associating use of beauty products to self confidence and having freedom is also to an extent debatable. As certain cultural and social standards of beauty and the perceived rewards for being physically attractive have pressured more and more women to apply cosmetics to change their appearance in order to conform to idealised social and cultural beauty standards and expectations. We might actually still be conforming to what others think rather than what we think. This can be backed by researchers have found out that women who identify with more traditional roles are more likely to apply cosmetics to achieve beauty.

What you need to know:

Sun and ageing:
The sunlight is comprised of various UV radiations with the most important being UVA and UVB. Most of the damage caused to the skin is actually due to sun than that of other external factors and age. The very basic thing to know for skin care would be using cream with higher sun protection factor (SPF) to protect you from UVB lights that cause burning of the skin and also a product that contains five-star rating for protection against UVA, that actually causes ageing. UVB is also responsible for Vitamin D manufacturing so depending upon skin colour you would need a little sun exposure to get that supply (in the absence of sunscreen).

This is becoming a mass market for rich people these days and other ageing women like myself who will buy products off the shelf if it claims to be anti-wrinkle. So from the little research that I have done I digged a little deeper on Botox where tretinoin is injected into the skin and has alongside anti-wrinkle properties other side effects that I will not be talking about here.
But if you want to buy something off the shelf then you might want to look for products that contain Retinol or other peptides known to do the same. Point being, don’t just buy a product for its claims. Do your due diligence about the ingredients and their positive and negative side effects.
Cosmetic products can contain more than 10,000 ingredients which can be linked to many diseases like cancer, birth defects, developmental and reproductive impairments. Because of that, US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) banned nine ingredients including coal tar colors, formaldehyde, glycol ethers, lead, mercury, parabens, phenylenediamine, and phthalates in cosmetic products and there are strict regulations in Europe as well but it may not be true for many international products and therefore you must read about it before you buy it.

Seductive Promises:
Anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing, radiant, active ingredients, clinically proven and dermatologically tested are amongst many a promises and scientific evidence that I will clearly buy a product for. But these claims are not as seductive as they seem. Clinically proven could mean 1% to 100% results, with the lower not making any visible difference to anyone’s life.
Dermatologically tested: This claim can be made even if it was ever tested on the skin of an individual.
Active Ingredients: This can be inferred based on an in vitro test done in labs in various machines
Radiant, glowing, rested are all claims that realistically are impossible to achieve as well. But like many others when I see these words on a product, I do fall for it.

Looks or behaviour?

The self-discrepancy theory where you keep comparing your actual self to the ideal self very often makes you ignore your attractiveness and focuses on the flaws in your looks or body instead.
While it is absolute spectacle to look beautiful, it is your personality that matters in the longer run i.e. you might be the most beautiful person in the room but if your behaviour is not right then that appearance will not be of much use. So despite working on your appearance work on your inner self, your morals and your personality as well which then brings me back to my own favourite narrative that before looking pretty learn to be comfortable in your own skin.


Annex I

Know your skin

With a weight of about 4Kg and a surface area of about 1.8m2, skin is widest organ of an organism. Although its constitution is approximately the same, it undergoes notable variation such as its thickness enabling skin to have a perfect functional adaptation. Variations can also be associated with age, ethnic group, gender, or anatomic sites.
We all know that skin is mainly intended to protect human beings against physical or chemical external aggression and also against internal organic loss. The external hydrolipidic protective film (of the epidermis) called stratum corneum must be functionalised by ensuring moisturization -water is the keratin plasticizer-. The underlying epidermis ensures functional and continuous regeneration of the surface state (keratogenesis) and skin pigmentation (melanogenesis). Followed by dermis that is responsible for coherence, elasticity and thermos regulation of the whole skin and hypodermis that has protective and reserve function. Based on the water and hyrolipidic content of the film, you can end up having different skin types e.g. excess lepidic content


Nash, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Lévêque, J., & Pineau, P. (2006). Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(2), 493 -504.

Robertson, J., Fieldman, G., & Hussey, T. (2008). ‘Who wears cosmetics?’ Individual differences and their relationship with cosmetic usage. Individual Differences Research, 6(1), 38-56

Cash, T. F., Dawson, K., Davis, P., & Bowen, M. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of American college women. The Journal of Social
Psychology, 129(3), 349-355.

Ullah H, Noreen S, Rehman A, Waseem A, Zubair S, Adnan M, Ahmad I (2013) Comparative study of heavy metals content in cosmetic products of different countries marketed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan Arabian J Chem.

Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, edited by André O. Barel, Marc Paye, Howard I. Maibach




Published by meerekarwan

The origins of Meer-e-Karwan can be traced back to a rainy evening in 2017, over a cup of chai, in a small tea house of Oxford. Disillusioned and saddened by the lack of adequate awareness, meaningful discussions and often, the dismissal of the voices of marginalised groups – a group of friends decided to create a social platform to combat this and provide a platform to teach, learn and engage with individuals and communities. A pledge was made. No topic will remain taboo and no voice will be quietened. The phrase meer-e-karwan in Urdu alludes to a leader of a procession, a tribe of likeminded individuals, who set about a journey with a common goal. No matter where you are in your journey and what your goal is, we invite you to join the karwan.

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