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Beauty Myths

Recently I spent the most wonderful fortnight working with teen girls across New Zealand. On the way home, I stopped to purchase some duty free and stumbled upon the most bizarre beauty product: a NZ face cream that boasts sheep’s placenta as an ingredient.

I have now discovered that using placenta in facial products and treatments – and not just sheep’s but human placenta, too – is apparently the “latest in ultimate organic beauty.” A quick Google search revealed sites for placenta capsules to take and for recipes, including placenta lasagna and spaghetti bolognese.

Seriously, who would want to rub sheep’s placenta on their face? Or sit down to a bowl of afterbirth?

Outrageous and bizarre treatments promising a new and improved you have been around forever. La Prairie Pure Gold facial cream features “finely ground 24-carat gold”. Why gold? At $930 a jar, this seems insanely decadent.

And if the ingredients are not bizarre enough, how strange are some of the claims cosmetic companies make?

I nearly rolled off my lounge in fits of laughter yesterday at an infomercial on The Morning Show. The guest was promoting Victoria Principal’s cosmetic range. She began by saying how amazing this actress looks, and how it is a credit to her brand as “she has never had any surgery to enhance her look”. Really? Victoria Principal was married to one of Hollywood’s most famous plastic surgeons, Dr Harry Glassman.

Although she frequently denies having had any work done (Well, she would wouldn’t she? She has creams to sell!), this is not the natural face of a 60-year-old woman. I’m sorry, but even if she was secretly devouring tonnes of sheep’s placenta and rubbing bars of gold bullion on her face, wouldn’t her face still show some signs of . . . life?

Teen girls are not yet being sold the promise of wrinkle-free complexions (although using botox on young skin as a “preventative” now happens). They are instead promised instant confidence . . . in a jar.

Want to feel empowered? Try Napoleon’s “Goddess” lip gloss. It’s “the ultimate Girl Power, in a gloss”.

Want to be desirable? Try the Playboy cosmetic range. Packaged in bright pink and smelling sugary sweet, it is obviously aimed at teen girls. The range includes “Heff’s favourite lip gloss”, “Mile High Mascara” and “Tie me to the bedpost” blush.

Don’t get me wrong, I wear cosmetics and enjoy beauty treatments – but I find many of the claims simply insulting to my intelligence. Blogger Jill Filipovic echoed my feelings in a recent post quoted by Jessica Valenti in her book Full Frontal Feminism:

I like my mascara, and I’m not going to waste time feeling bad about it, but I am also not going to convince myself that long eyelashes are totally empowering and other women would be so much happier and more empowered if only they could have a makeover.

Right on, sister.

What are the most outrageous claims you have heard the beauty industry make?

PS In her comment, Melinda provided a link to a YouTube clip that I loved so much I have now embedded it here, too:

Published inBeauty IndustryBody ImagePlastic Surgery

11 Comments

  1. Danni I couldn’t help but giggle my way through your post. You are right … many of their claims are just ridiculous. Anti-wrinkle claims infuriate me!!!

    As you know I worked with a stylist whilst I lived in London and one of the many crazy things I witnessed was the application of haemorrhoid cream underneath the models eyes to reduce bags and wrinkles ????

  2. Melinda L

    Please watch the following clip…….it pretty much sums up your post Danielle and is hilarious. One of my favourite lines is in it “my hair was dull and lifeless….letting my family down.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpsTL3GTlYs

  3. I have spoken to women who talk about keeping and freezing the placenta of their child to use in times of illness. But selling it in lasagna is pretty gross…

  4. olivia

    hahah! that video is HILARIOUS!! so true!!! and the “only tested on ugly animals” is funny too. I’m a little concerned in the first place that companies need to test on animals… what ingredients are they using? i only use natural products most of the time – ones like ere perez that says ‘tested on family and friends’. sounds wack, but it usually means they only put ingredients in there that are known to not be harmful. they usually have the more expensive ingredients in the natural products compared to the cheap fillers and petroleum-based products you’re getting in your posh ‘Made in French labs’ products, etc. I used to be the editor of Australian Natural Health magazine and did months or research on this topic. i just wrote an article for Natural Health & Beauty magazine on beauty products that are ethical. The ones I came up with were Ere Perez natural cosmetics (her motto is not to hide your natural beauty, and it’s mostly natural ingredients), Mokosh (eco ethical, animal ethical, 100% natural ingredients), Miessence (100% natural – mostly organic. Even food grade!), and some more. i think we need to make a stand and only buy products that promote self esteem (or at least, don’t rely on squashing it to sell products), are ethical to people and animals and to US! Why put petrol by-product on your skin when there are some lush natural alternatives? the companies do this to scrimp and save $$$$$$. E.g. per kilo of ingredient: mineral oil $6.35 vs its natural and more nourishing equivalent jojoba oil $48, or taumanu oil $480.
    Rose fragrance $45 (no therapeutic value) vs pure rose otto essential oil $11,500. Mostly, the non-natural products are MORE expensive then the natural ones, even though they contain the more expensive ingredients.

    one thing that really ticks me off is like on herbal essences ads where they say it’s infused with all these natural oils… one look at the ingredients list will show that there is perhaps ONE DROP in there of natural-ness. We need to learn how to read ingredients labels properly.

    and besides, the ads on tv are such scams. no cream, cleanser or treatment is going to compare to the natural glow that a truly beautiful on the inside person has in my opinion.

    what a croc – i HATE seeing all those hair ads on TV with women getting orgasmic over it. Come ON!!! and most of the beauty ads on tv are complete rubbish like the spoof video Danni posted.

    Thanks again Danni for a great post!!

  5. Jennifer L

    I was shopping with my nana who is 83. I bought mousteriser – it cost $19 and the package said “removes wrinkles fast!” I knew it wouldn’t remove wrinkles, I just needed a mousteriser. But I showed it to Nana and said ‘Look this will remove my wrinkles fast’ and she patted my hand and said ‘Whatever you say dear’ and winked! That generation isn’t fooled so why should we be? Perhaps because we are force fed this insipid message that the visible signs of ageing are a weakness.
    But of course men can show signs of aging, it shows life experience and maturity and worthiness….

  6. Fran

    I couldn’t help but have a giggle too! Things have just got a little out of hand haven’t they!? I came across ‘natural’ lip plumping lip balm at a Sunday market last year. So ‘natural’ you can ingest it and it gives you fuller, plumper ‘unnnatural’ looking lips in seconds. It contained chilli oil, beeswax and cinnamon. I tried it out of curiousity, my lips got a heart beat of their own and I felt a stinging/burning which then soon subsided to complete numbness! The women next to me thought it was great; no pain, no gain was her motto ” It kind of hurts and you can feel something happening, so you know it is working” she said. I walked away in search of tissues and a cold water! When I saw my 4 year old son he asked me what was wrong with my mouth. It just makes you question how much we are willing to pay for ‘beauty’, in dollars and pain and are the results really ‘beautiful’ or just a little ‘scary looking’!

  7. Melinda L

    I remember being horrified when i was in an Indian grocer and saw a tube of “fair and lovely” skin lightening cream. Why would you want to change the colour of your skin? Then I thought of the moisturiser on my dressing table with the “gradual tan” ingredient in it and I realised that I have also gone mad. 😀

    Perhaps controversially, I want to point out that “natural” is not always best and people can have pretty bad reactions to botanical ingredients/products, “natural” as they may be. (even though, everything is a chemical)
    There is a lot of money to be made by convincing women that the cheap moisturiser recommended by their doctor or dermatologist actually contains ingredients that cause cancer and instead, you should buy this “natural” moisturiser that doesn’t have the “carcinogenic” ingredient but costs 5 times as much. It would be good if there were certain standards applied, prohibiting the use of misleading and false claims by this massive industry that thrives on our own self hatred and self objectification.

  8. Roxanne J

    I have loved reading all the comments about the Beauty Myths. I have 3 adult daughters – the youngest lives in America. It is always interesting to me to see the difference between her and her sisters who live here in Oz. She is constantly comparing her 18 year old size 4 body to her now 24 year old-and -just-had-a-baby-size 6-body and commenting on how fat she is and how ‘old’ she is looking! Pfft!!! (I think I was a size 6 when I was 6 – go figure!)

    She has recently had cosmetic dentistry done and is now researching ‘wrinkle-reduction’ techniques. (Just how many wrinkles can you have at 24 years old?????) Her sisters however are happy with plain old moisturiser and a bit of makeup to make them feel better….and they look great after both having 2 kids!

    She is being constantly bombareded with massive highway billboards advertising all sorts of comsmetic products, liposuction, botox, stomach banding surgery, all aimed at producing that ‘oh-so-perfect-body and face’. Their television and radio advertising is all so ‘in your face’ (excuse the pun). I was beginning to feel insecure myself while driving down many a busy highway in the US reading all these billboards. I had become aware that I was trying to catch my reflection in store windows just to check I was still “ok looking” to be out in public! I was starting to think…”gee I am here for 14 weeks, I could have some serious cosmetic surgery done here in that time…for next to nothing!” It is SO blatant over there – so much more than here in Australia….very scary to be a mother girls in that world.

    Females over there seem to always be in conflict with themsleves and in competetion with each other to see who can look the best – I especially noticed this with young mothers. They become total gym junkies, diet coke addicts, don’t eat and neglect their children in order to ‘keep up appearnces.’ CRAZY!!!

  9. Melinda L

    Hi Roxanne, interesting to hear what you had to say about young mothers. Every time a celebrity has a baby, the media treats it as though they are the first person in the world to ever have a baby! And they also call attention to how “amazing” their bodies are after having given birth!
    Since their bodies are their business, I imagine that there is a lot of money devoted to trainers, dieticians and then after baby, a nanny, so that they can go back to work and pretend to be 10 years younger than they are. Most of us women in the “real world” cannot or do not bother with such things, preferring to focus on raising our children, or if we have to go back to work, probably don’t have time to spend time and money on our bodies, and why should we? To be eye candy for men? To compete with other women? To demonstrate that we have everything under control from our babies sleeping routines to the size of our bums? What is it about being “real” (and even a little out of control!) that scares us so much?
    On the other hand, any celebrity who has a baby and carries some extra weight for a while, is ridiculed on the cover of all the womens magazines, she is photographed sipping milkshakes and eating lunch as though she is doing something wrong.
    I’ve said it before and I will say it again….women need to stop buying these magazines. These publishers make life hell for actors and actresses, but more relevent for us, is that they make life hell for all women and girls too. They are anti-woman propaganda, hate speech. Teaching us to hate ourselves and each other – and then they have the nerve to advertise beauty products that will make us acceptable!
    But some will say the magazines have some good things….some of them have articles focussing on positive body image and information about healthy eating and looking after yourself…Bah! That is like identifying the lettuce in a hamburger and then concluding that fast food is healthy. Don’t be fooled!

  10. […] Treating Skin Problems created an interesting post today on Beauty MythsHere’s a short outline…too, is apparently the “latest in ultimate organic beauty.” A quick … of wrinkle free complexions (although using botox on young skin… […]

  11. Emma

    One of my relatives is like 65 and basically has no wrinkles. his theory is that you don’t use anti-wrinkle cream, you dont get wrinkles. Use it and u do get them. LOL 😛

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