Clean beauty? I don't buy it

Let’s talk about ‘clean beauty’.

As if ‘clean food’ wasn’t enough. A raft of gluten-free dairy-free bacon-free misery unleashed on normal people doing their best to be healthy anyway without being made to feel guilty about being actual humans. (PS I’m not saying we ought not be healthy - if you’ve read, spoken or met me for more than five minutes that much will be clear. I’m talking about the promotion of extremes, the stripping of joy from food).

Now we have famous people and Insta-famous people telling us on what terms we can consider beauty and being beautiful acceptable. People who might be genetically blessed to have the right kind of body type for what’s in fashion now, coupled with the privilege of the resources to broadcast their messages (and their products) far and wide.

I’m here to call bullsh*t.

Because there’s no such thing as clean beauty, and you can’t buy a product to get it.

My real gripe with this – and I still get sucked in myself – is that women and girls (and yes, boys and men too), end up feeling sub-par, so much less than their brilliant, individual selves, because of the garbage they see in their inbox or social media every day.

I had a moment last week, where I looked in the mirror and thought ‘holy moly, you look old’. Then I had an aha moment. Actually, I didn’t look old, I looked the same as always, just not as done up as I used to be. I don’t have the nails done every three weeks like I used to, the fake tan, the full makeup, the four-inch heels, every day. I don’t wear my retainer anymore, so my teeth are a little crooked. I haven’t cut my hair in four months. Beauty? Who knows. Have I accepted it? Not all the time.

But like Leonard Cohen said: There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

So what is beauty and how can we take back ownership?

Beauty can be mostly pretty dirty, actually.

Beauty is doing things for the people you love, even when you don’t want to do them, because it’s part of the deal you signed when you chose them: that you’d make life better and easier for each other however you could.

Beauty is bringing a child into the world. Hardly a ‘clean’ business.

Beauty is a smile after doing something that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Beauty is on the inside. It’s passion. It shines. It’s sweaty, messy, glorious and fun.

On that note, beauty is making love too. Which ain’t always a clean affair.

Beauty is a kind word, offered freely, from the heart.

Maybe it’s a blue sky or yoga or watching your kid’s school assembly or whatever makes you happy. Make up your own mind. I guarantee you already have an inkling.

Beauty is what makes you different from everyone else. And it’s closely related to love, and individuality.

In my opinion it isn’t fake boobs or erasing the lines of your life with botox or getting a perfect nose. It isn’t doing a backbend in yoga or having a fully expressed dancer’s pose (because hello, hypermobility ain’t beautiful when you get injured from it). Maybe it’s fresh flowers and painted nails or clean sheets and a clean house, or maybe we’ve just been taught it should be. Maybe, even though those things might make you feel better, they’re a façade. The more you feel at home in your own brand of beauty, the less you need all of that other stuff. It’s just noise. A distraction. And it’s a sometimes-version of reality.

Packing for work trips doesn’t look like this anymore.

Packing for work trips doesn’t look like this anymore.

And let’s face it, if we tried to keep up with the fashion of beauty as it’s changed over centuries, we would have been plucking our hairlines in the Renaissance (yes, a high forehead was considered beautiful). In Jane Austen’s era it was all about the ‘stays’ – corsets that helped separate your boobs for the ‘heaving’ effect (and if you don’t believe me, believe the Jane Austen Centre…) A quick look at the last half century would see us doing everything from wearing Spanx to getting implants in our lips and bottoms, to starving ourselves to look like Kate Moss, drawing on that beauty spot that Cindy Crawford charted her career on, and in the past ten years, trying to match that whole so-athletic-but-still-sexy thing that’s all over the gram (you know exactly what I’m talking about). By the time we’re 80, who knows what mad aesthetic will prevail? But being pulled from pillar to post like this trying to anchor ourselves to the current trend is only not bad for our mental health, it’s not that great for our physical health or sense of self either.

Never have we had such great access to images that allow ourselves to compare our own lives and bodies to something that actually doesn’t exist: the airbrushed, photoshopped images we see all over the place. As the brilliant Jameela Jamil says in her podcast with Jonathan Van Ness: I see those people walking down the street or in the coffee shop and they look alright, but they don’t look like they do in those images we see (in magazines or on Instagram). BTW listen to the podcast in full, I am paraphrasing here.

What can you do to feel more beautiful today:

-          Chuck out your scales because the number doesn’t mean much, health-wise (unless you are overweight)

-          Write a list of stuff that makes you feel amazing. Especially if you think you don’t have time. Do one of those things

-          Unfollow. Unfollow. Unfollow. Unfollow. Unfollow. Keep unfollowing. Fill your feed with stuff that educates you, inspires you, and makes you feel good. @thefuckitdiet and @iweigh are a good start, but pick things you love.

I’m sick of people making money off trying to convince women they need some other thing to be enough. You can’t box beauty: conceptually or in a product. You can’t buy it, and you can’t sell it. The sooner we can come to terms with this, the better (and more beautiful) our tomorrows will be.