Beauty Blogosphere 9.9.11

What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.

From Head...
No product no problem: Awesome roundup of 130+ women with absolutely no hair products from green beauty site No More Dirty Looks. (Bonus points if you can spot me without cheating! I also see a couple of Beheld readers...)

...To Toe...
Pedi for the cause:
Men in Jonesboro, Arkansas, are getting their toenails painted for ovarian cancer awareness. Okay, now, truly I am glad that these men are making it clear that women's health issues are actually people's health issues, and I should probably just shut up. But doesn't the whole idea here hinge upon ha-ha-women's-concerns-are-so-hilarious? Or am I just looking for a self-righteous feminist reason to not endorse slacktivism?

...And Everything In Between:

And the award for the MOST OBVIOUSLY IRONIC headline of the year goes to: Me, with "I Was Bad at Sex!" in this month's American Glamour (the one with Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, and Alicia Keys on the cover). My mini-essay about being a lousy lover is on page 250 (but isn't online), and is waiting for you to peruse whilst on line at the grocery store. (In Glamour's defense, they did run the headline by me. And to my relief, they did not fact-check it.)

Isn't he lovely: Super-excited for the upcoming Cristen Conger eight-part series at Bitch about the male beauty myth!

Crystaleyes: Vogue Japan tapes Crystal Renn's eyes to make her look...Japanese. This seemed both racist and ridiculous before I learned it was Vogue Japan (the stylist who did the taping was Italian), and now it just seems absurd.

Where are all the male Asian models?: Forbes asks. (And we answer, well, they certainly aren't working at Vogue Japan.)

Oshkosh B'Gosh: I'm oddly fascinated by the shoplifting of cosmetics, despite not having done it myself for 20+ years, and this story has the brilliant twist of the culprit being the reigning beauty queen of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Uncanny!: A Boston federal judged ruled that The Manly Man Cans, a bundle of men's grooming products, must cease distribution under that name, as it comes too close to a competitor, The Man Can.
Not like teen spirit.

When the judge cries: Prince is to pay nearly $4 million to Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics after he backed out of a deal to promote a perfume in conjunction with his new album.

Mercury poisoning from cosmetics: A good reminder of why the Safe Cosmetics Act is important: 18 people in south Texas have reported elevated mercury levels as a result of a Mexican skin cream. And that's just what's being brought across the border--I shudder to think of the mercury levels in the blood of users whose governments might not be as vigilant.

"Why do you walk like you're all that?": Nahida at The Fatal Feminist has a fantastic essay about slut-shaming, modesty, and the male gaze: "Don't lecture me about modesty when you've clearly lost yours, arrogantly believing you have any right to tell me these things or command me to stop or interpret my behavior..."

News flash: Okay, I am officially over the whole "Did you know women can legally go topless in New York City?" publicity stunts with the arrival of the Outdoor Topless Co-Ed Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, which in an interview with Jen Doll of the Village Voice claims to want women going topless in public "something of social inconsequence" yet has the tagline "making reading sexy." I mean, seriously, am I missing something here?

Extreme confessions: Interesting read from one of the "extreme plastic surgeons" on Extreme Makeover. Seems that the show was somewhat nonrepresentative of how plastic surgery usually goes. Shocking, I know, I know.

"That's not funny": Speaking up about sexism makes men nicer, according to a recent study. My personal experience correlates with this, and I always thought it was because I'm a bit of a wuss and while I will call out men on their sexist remarks I do so with tons of apologies and nice-making and blushing and stammering. But maybe I'm not giving either myself or the men enough credit?

Self-care Rx: Rosie Molinary's prescription for wellness comes at a handy time for me as I attempt to up my self-care. Being specific and deliberate helps here—and I can attest to the power of actually having a prescriptions. (An old therapist once actually wrote out a prescription for a monthly massage.)

Wearing confidence: Already Pretty on how to broadcast your body confidence. My favorite (and most unexpected) is about giving compliments, which, when spoken from a place of truth, brings rewards to both giver and receiver. (Here, though, I'm reminded of the double-edged sword compliments can become.)

Midge Brasuhn of the Brooklynites

Roller derby and spectacle: Fit and Feminist looks at roller derby—usually played by women in suggestive uniform/costumes who go by oft-racy pseudonyms—as a sport by the way we currently define sports. I'm not the biggest roller derby fan, but after reading this intriguing post I'm ready to declare it not only a sport, but the sport.

Scent strip: Strippers test pheromone perfumes at Tits and Sass to see if they increase their earnings. The grand result: eh. But an amusing "eh"!

There she is, Miss America:
The history of the American beauty pageant. Is it any surprise that one of the first brains behind these events was circus impresario P.T. Barnum?

Un/covered: Photographs of women in public and private life in the Middle East. Most interesting to me are the photos of the fashion designers who are fully covered. It seems like a juxtaposition—and it is, given the flashy designs they're creating—but it makes me wonder about what traits we assign to designers, assuming that their work is an extension of them...and about what traits we assign to women in hijab.

She's my cherry pie?: Jill hits the nail on the head as to why the self-submitted photographs for the plus-size American Apparel modeling contest are disturbing. Intellectually I guess I should be all yay subversion! but my genuine reaction is quite different.

Beauty Blogosphere 6.3.11

What's going on in the latest beauty news, from head to toe and everything in between. 

From Head...
An oldie but a goodie: A fantastic post from fashion blog Dress a day on why you don't always have to be pretty. "Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'" Sing it, sister! (Thanks to Rebekah at Jaunty Dame, who also has a fun "this is the picture I took to the stylist, and this is the haircut I got" post here, for the tipoff.)

Counterfeit beauty: Roughly 85% of cosmetics in Nepal are fakes. They might be sold for cheaper than the real brands, sure—but counterfeit Oil of Olay is a helluva lot likelier to give unwitting consumers a skin rash.

Okay, but sometimes you don't want yellow nails, dig?

To Toe...
DIY beauty: Okay, I'll cover a "product", but only because it's homemade and because switching my pedicure polish from crimson to raspberry did indeed leave me with yellowed nails: Abuela's Yellow Nail Stain Remover.  

...And Everything in Between
"Exercise was my mirror": When blogger Cameo Morningstar was diagnosed with glycogen storage disease a few years ago, she was forced to give up—and, later, scrutinize the motivations behind—her intense workout regimen. Verging on Serious focuses on health, particularly mind-body and the struggle to be as healthy as possible without sliding into obsession; this thoughtful post springs off the control issues that came up in my mirror fast, making the link between the control of the mirror and the control over one's body. "If a mirror is a device one uses to assess and manipulate one’s appearance, then exercise was my mirror." 

Is Facebook a mirror too?: Rob Horning at Marginal Utility suggests that our ability to constantly monitor ourselves through our online presence functions in the same way I was indicating mirrors do for me: "Social-media sites seem to me to be self-consciousness machines."

Clothes shopping without mirrors: Kjerstin Gruys of Mirror Mirror Off the Wall gives it a whirl! Kjerstin, if only we lived on the same coast, we could totally take each other clothes shopping. (I still haven't seen myself in the dresses I bought.) 

We all loved Dove's "Evolution." Why are we still referencing it five years later?

Is knowledge enough?: Social work student Valerie Kusler looks at whether knowing that media images are heavily manipulated can change our perception of them. The answer: sorta. This just means we need more of those counter messages (here's looking at you, Beauty Redefined!)

Enough with the "real women": Tea and Feathers on why applauding body-diverse models by calling them "real" is unhelpful to all of us. (Via Mrs. Bossa)

Sartorialist SERVED: Threadbare's fantastic takedown of The Sartorialist's treatment of service workers, alongside the scrutiny from always excellent Of Another Fashion, will make your eyes roll even farther back into your head as far as the Sartorialist is concerned.   

How racist is the beauty industry?: Um, pretty racist sometimes! Great ads slideshow. I'd argue that skin whitening creams aren't necessarily as racist as they may appear; from women I talked to in Vietnam (which, admittedly, is one country among many), the goal was to look like a woman of leisure, not a white woman. (And sure enough, the compliments random people gave me on the whiteness of my skin decreased exponentially the more tanned I became.) They're still toxic and upsetting, to be sure, and we can't completely extricate race from the equation, but I do think it's more complex than it seems. (Via Beauty Schooled) That said... 

Asian skin development: Estee Lauder is opening an "Asian Innovation Center" in Shanghai to develop products specific to the skin of Chinese and other Asian women. Let's hope it goes beyond whitening, shall we?

More global Estée: New Estee Lauder head of global corporate marketing could be interesting to watch: She's planning on focusing on "global travelers" in megacities, directly anticipating desire instead of following the "customer is boss" approach.

Wow, Darren, way to break type with your female lead opposite Vincent Cassel.

Requiem for a Cologne: I sort of hate Darren Aronofsky (though I did like Black Swan), mainly because Requiem for a Dream was one of the most overwrought, ham-fisted pieces of filmmaking I've ever witnessed. Second only to his commercial for YSL's La Nuit de Homme fragrance, that is! But coming in at two minutes instead of two godforsaking hours makes this totally awesome in its ridiculousness. Vincent Cassel at his sleaziest! (Via Scented Salamander)

Nailed It: Fantastic, well-researched history of nail polish at Beautifully Invisible, focusing on classic red but hitting plenty of intervening trends.

Nurse Jackee: Silly but fun spoof of Nurse Jackie (btw, major girl crush on Merritt Wever!), starring Jackee as a beauty-products-addicted nurse. "Stop primping, start nursing. We're here to save lives," goes her inner monologue after her false eyelashes fall into a patient's spleen.

It might really be all in your head:
I don't know enough about science to comment, but this news about the role of visual processing in body dysmorphia, and this piece on researchers who play with visual processing by making people think they're giants or dwarves (!), seem potentially related. I sort of want to build a center for people with body dysmorphia to go in and lay next to mannequins sized to their bodies and see what happens.

Digital plastic surgery: Beauty Redefined doing what they do, as excellently as ever. This time they examine how we're "Photoshopping ourselves out of existence."

Does Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Work? Depends on What "Work" Means

Ready for the grand reveal? Actually, according to my poll results, 56% of you don’t need it at all: The right side of my face received the anti-aging treatment. Twenty-nine percent of you couldn’t tell, and only 15% of you guessed incorrectly. And according to the results of my Visia face scan—kindly performed by Sabina Kozak, the spa director at Sensitive Touch, a medical spa in NYC—my wrinkles really have decreased on the right side of my face:

The Visia scan also told me I was in the 47th wrinkle percentile for 34-year-old women.
Does Kaplan have a course for improving this?

So obvs we should all be swarming the drugstore in search of Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, right? Not exactly. The other measures from my Visia face scan (thanks to The Beauty Brains for the tipoff about the Visia imaging system, which aids in analyzing your skin's condition) suggested that I had poorer texture on the treated side of my face—hardly a surprise, given the flakiness and peeling I had about two weeks in. So you’re making a devil’s deal—reduced wrinkles for heightened sensitivity—and you might not ever know whether it’s worth it (unless, of course, you conduct a Highly Scientific Experiment like a certain intrepid beauty blogger).

But fine, whatever, some of us will put bat blood on our face if it’ll just slow down the cruelle hands of time, right? So look at my photo again:

Let’s be honest: The difference is minuscule. It’s not something you’d notice were you not looking for it—or, for 29% of you, that you'd notice even if you were (not to mention the 15% who thought I'd treated the other side of my face). In fact, I found it impossible to properly document, because the only way I myself noticed was when I would smile wildly at myself four inches away from the mirror. Then I could tell a legitimate difference in the depth of wrinkles under my eyes and the number of fine lines splayed out on either side of my nose. But unless I spend my life grinning fanatically to increase my wrinkles so that onloookers can tell how decreased they've actually become, no really, it's a moot point. (I might begin to garner a reputation as extraordinarily cheerful and/or as a maniac, which would either shave a few years off or add them on, depending.)

But here’s the thing: Undoubtedly, the cream “worked.” It’s justified in its claims of "fading the look of stubborn...deep wrinkles." (Though its other claims, of “brightening skin tone” and “improving texture” were unproven--do you see any difference in tone? I don’t, and neither did Kozak at Sensitive Touch. In fact, in just looking at close-up photos of my face, she guessed I’d been treating the left side of my face, because of its smoother texture—and this is a person who improves people's skin for a living.) But I recall a back-and-forth I once overheard between two coworkers of mine, in surveying the skin care basket at a beauty sale: “Oh, vitamin C cream, that sounds nice,” one said. The other replied, “Yeah, but does it work?” She said it with a cynical, resigned tone, and years later I keep hearing her voice when I’m contemplating some new skin potion. With, say, mascara, it’s easy to tell if it “works”: Are your lashes darker than they were before? Yes? It's working. Logically the same would apply to skin care: My fine lines were indeed diminished, however slightly, so unequivocally we can say it works, right?

But if the phrase “hope in a jar” is any indication, I’m not alone in illogically wanting a product to “work” in ways it simply can’t. It wasn't so much that I wanted my wrinkles diminished; I wanted the radiance I had in college, when all I had to do was roll out of bed to have the glow that now only comes with a good night’s rest, healthy diet, and exercise. At 34, I’m only beginning to enter the anti-aging sector of the beauty market, and I’m learning what a rabbit hole it could easily become. Because if this cream is the best over-the-counter cream there is, and it "works" but doesn’t work-work, the next step is to see a dermatologist for the prescription-strength version. That cream will work but probably not work-work; then Botox cometh. And then a chemical peel, and then laser resurfacing, and then what’s left but going under an actual knife in order to find what will really, finally, truly work-work?

I wonder if part of the disappointment of the anti-aging market is that it's a misnomer. It doesn't anti-age you; it ages you smarter, that's all. The right side of my face does not currently look younger than my left side; it just looks maybe a little less stressed out or better-rested, like one half of me was doing face yoga while my vampiric, type-A, humorless, haggard side, who is also probably a heavy smoker and named Charlene, was paying visit to the taxman.

I had another realization through this experiment, one that has less to do with how the cream made me look and more with how we look at one another. People had a much higher rate of guessing erroneously when in person as compared with people who voted online and could scrutinize the “data” without feeling uncomfortable. (Workplace tip: Kneeling in front of your coworkers’ desks and asking them to play Fountain of Youth with you is super-awkward, but you become BFFs real quick!) Not only that, but the people who knew me best—close friends, longtime coworkers, even my boyfriend—were the most likely to choose wrong.

Looking at pictures of my squinty eyes on a screen, you can parse out that maybe the fine lines on the right side are a bit finer. But when looking at me—a live, breathing person, one emanating energy and eagerness and friendliness and curiosity and maybe a little bit of awkward nerves—I think people weren’t able to be as objective. Not that my aura is so dazzling (I do eventually tire of the applause, you know), but rather that my humanness—just like theirs—was so present as to overshadow any individual facet of me.

Which is to say: Nobody wants to look that closely. The only times I’m scrutinizing someone’s face is when I'm intrigued by the person, so anything I find is going to be a treasure, or a clue to their inner lives. In the past week I’ve discovered a glimmer of silver eyeshadow on a low-key colleague I always thought eschewed makeup, a scatter of well-concealed pimples on a friend who’s desperately unhappy at her job, and an old-fashioned beauty mark on one of the most casually glamorous women I know. I’m paying attention to their faces and finding these things, assets and drawbacks alike, because the people captivate me. If I’m lucky enough to captivate someone else to the point where they’re mapping my face, I have to trust that they will see my lines as what they are—evidence of nearly 35 years on this planet. Whether a person thinks I look "aged" or haggard versus well-lived and vibrant will depend upon what they think of my presence, not the lines around my eyes.

So, will I keep using this cream? Well, I probably won’t buy it (I got this bottle for free, a perk of working in ladymags)--but I’ll finish the bottle. And in all honesty, the next time I go to my dermatologist for a cancer check
(which you should do, pronto—I did on a whim and it turns out I had precancerous cells, so get your butt in there, missy), I can't promise I won't ask for a Retin-A prescription. Yes, much of what I've written here has refuted the net effectiveness of age creams. Yes, I still want in. 

Even after knowing that people can only tell the difference when pressed, even knowing that I can only tell the difference when exaggerating my wrinkles, even having loosely proved that my human presence is an effective mask for any “fine lines” I might have: The option is there, every night, available. Were I to opt out entirely, I feel like I’d be giving up on the part of me that wants to establish myself as radiant and vibrant. I do the things that actually keep me as radiant as I can be: I eat my veggies, I do my yoga. But those take time, and dedication. And I am, after all, only American: There is a part of my brain resistant to all sense, and that part tells me that maybe a 60-second fix really will help. For 60 seconds every night, I can dab a bit of lotion onto my fingers and pretend like I have a quick pass to "aging gracefully"; for those 60 seconds each night, I have a quiet, divine ritual that reminds me I have a long life ahead, and that this small talisman might help me through it. For 60 seconds each night, there’s a part of me that believes I have access to the sort of older woman I look at and hope to become—and for the tentative now, the only barrier to entry is the occasional twenty-dollar bill, spent on a wishful act of magic, a moment of alchemy, a silent prayer that I have some dominion in the woman I will be in ten years, in twenty, in forty. 

Hope in a jar.

Beauty Blogsophere 3.25.11

What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe.

Okay, I think single-use eyeshadow applicators are a bit extreme.
But maybe I'm just jealous of people who know how to use eyeshadow?

Singles: I usually snooze my way through beauty product slide shows (look, it's shampoo! look, it's more shampoo!) but thought that this one was actually useful—a roundup of single-use beauty products. (If I were at all entrepreneurially minded I'd be using these for my product kit, The Shack Pack, which allows ladies who may or may not be sleeping in their own beds every night to have a wallet-sized kit with all things cosmetics. Business majors, take it away.)

Cosmetics cheerleader: Jane Feltes at The Hairpin gives fun beauty advice every week, but what's particularly noteworthy here is her shout-out to women like me, who are self-conscious about makeup but still want to play. "Everything stands out when we’ve never done it before, but trust me, no one else sees it that way. They all think you're 'so put together' today."

Say cheese: Non-promotional pics of the Photoshop camera, from Allure. The more I stare at the "after" photo the weirder it seems. I get that it's nice to not have to put on powder every time you snap a photo (I'm a shiny gal myself) but other than that I truly think that the alterations aren't doing anybody any favors. Her forehead looks strange in the second one, probably because IT'S NOT HER REAL FOREHEAD.

Beauty quotient: Nice piece on HuffPo about inner beauty, and the combination of qualities that make a woman beautiful, and how we're all individuals, and blah blah blah. It would be a helluva lot nicer if it weren't written by a man who's made his living as a plastic surgeon specializing in faces and boobs. Toe
NBA pedicures: Apparently you can get a pedicure at the Lakers game, which seems absurd. If you're paying that much to be in the VIP section, shouldn't you at least be enjoying the game? Or is that why Lakers fans are ranked among the worst in the nation?

...and Everything in Between
Growing up ugly:
Amazing post about what life was like as the resident "ugly girl" in high school. I remember "that girl" in our high school—the one everyone teased, the butt of every joke—and always wondered how it informed her adult life. The common wisdom is either that it seriously messes someone up, or that they go on to be a rock star supermodel and they've shown us! This engaging, thoughtful essay shows what one woman gleaned from having to rely on a different barometer than most of us do.

But just in case that isn't enough: A guide to "surviving the uglies" at Eat the Damn Cake. I usually want to hide in my yoga pants when I'm having an acute case of these, but know I always feel better when I wear something a bit more structured, and to see it and other ideas laid out here was nice. (Though why do people always recommend taking a bubble bath? Where do these people live where a bathtub is comfortable?)

The privilege of pretty: Lovely meditation at Seamstress Stories about how recognizing the privilege of beauty enables one to more easily reject it.

Dove's dirty deeds: From the company that has done some nice work on women and self-esteem, an ad that truly seems to imply that black skin is "before" and white skin is "after." No, I don't think it's a coincidence. As a commenter at Sociological Images says, "These companies have psychologist and sociologists working on these ads that specialize in people’s – and in particular the white upper class women this ad is aimed at – reactions to advertisement. If it were an accident, they would catch it. Period."

Giving to Japan: My philosophy is that if you care about a cause, you should donate directly to it—time, money, effort—instead of merely engaging in consumer activism. You'll feel better about it, and it's a greater act of generosity, both in direct impact and in feel-good energy. And though some companies have a truly excellent record of philanthropy, it's also an easy out for organizations that don't really give a shit to go on record as having done something. (International Cosmetics & Perfume made the tremendous sacrifice of donating fifty—yes, that's five-zero!—Hanae Mori reusable tote bags, originally intended as an in-store customer appreciation gift, to the American Red Cross to assist Japanese displaced from their homes and belongings.) That said: If you're planning on stocking up on certain products, here is a nice roundup of major companies that are donating some proceeds to aid with recent events in Japan.

The yoga tax: Connecticut legislators are considering dropping the exemption of commercial yoga studios from the state's commercial tax. Health clubs are currently exempt from the tax, but nail salons and pet grooming are being considered for inclusion into the new tax scheme as well. I'm all for yoga—Cat and Cow, yo!—and think it should be treated as a health and wellness area, not beauty. But honestly, a lot of the commercial yoga studios have that sort of icks me out and makes it about "achieving" a certain lifestyle, and is it terrible of me to say that while I want as many people as possible to do yoga, I'm not exactly crying tears for certain Connecticut yogis? Can there be a one-person committee consisting of me that decides which studios are about health and wellness and which are about who has the cutest yoga mat?

Elizabeth Taylor: Amid all the press surrounding her death, a few pieces stand out as far as what's of concern to me as a beauty blogger. ABC News looks at her as a template for celebrity fragrance; Virginia at Never Say Diet examines her as a body image role model; and NYTimes style writer Cathy Horyn investigates the intersection of fashion, era, beauty, and image that Ms. Taylor embodied. Edited to add this nice quote roundup from beauty professionals, including Ted Gibson, Eva Scrivo, and Tabatha Coffey, paying tribute to her.

Baby's in the Corner

Am I the only one who's sort of sour about Jennifer Grey winning Dancing With the Stars? I mean, I don't know who Kyle is (should I?) and, well, there are other "teen activists" I'd rather see be crowned than Bristol Palin. But I still feel like Ms. Grey betrayed all the goofy-looking girls in the world when she got her nose job, after becoming a national heroine simply for being, as Patrick Swayze put it, "the cool, funky Jewish girl who gets the guy."

I'm aware of the hypocrisy that comes for judging someone on their looks when that's supposedly all I'm against. And Jennifer Grey has a right to do whatever she damn well wants to do with her body and face. That doesn't mean that I wasn't cringing as I watched her paso doble. Her technical proficiency was remarkable, certainly. But the paso doble, as any good teenaged drama geek circa 1992 knows from Strictly Ballroom, is a dance of passion. It's meant to mimic the bullfighter entering the ring; the lead is the matador, the follow, the cape, swirling around the matador in a tight but fluid dare. It's a dance that requires skill, yes, but also: bravado, courage—hell, it requires chutzpah.

And sure, one's bravado, courage, and chutzpah isn't necessarily reflected in one's features. But it speaks volumes to me when I see a face that once had courage—the courage to be a teen dance queen despite nontraditional looks; the bravado to play Baby (Baby! Baby who nobody could put in the corner! Baby who always made the right choice, even when the right choice was the wrong choice! Baby whose courage inspired Johnny Freakin' Castle to be a better man! Baby who carried the watermelon!) ; the chutzpah to live her ethnicity—do her damndest to mimic the intensity that appeared to come so naturally more than 20 years prior. Jennifer Grey's new face, courtesy of a nose job she's publicly regretted, showed little of that character. I take comfort in her public regret, much as I wish I didn't care, much as I wish I could take a more libertarian attitude toward the whole thing. I wish that I could have received her triumph on Dancing With the Stars in the way I received Baby's so long ago—as a woman claiming what she felt was rightfully hers, the perception of others be damned.

I can't, though. I wanted Baby to stand for something I wanted at the age I first met her; I didn't want my proxy to womanhood to have the human foibles I had. As long as I'm stuck with those foibles I want my messengers to be purer than myself. Jennifer, your dance was perfect. Baby, your dance was brilliant.