Beauty Standards Cause Health Problems

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The society we live in somehow confused healthy and happy for thin and beautiful, that is, beautiful according to what the media has told us is beautiful. As women, the models in advertising are how women are supposed to look. They are the ones that set the beauty standards and say what body type is acceptable. This leads to believe that by having such a body, it will automatically lead to a happier and healthier life. Since most women do not have the ideal body, they look to dieting for the answer. There are endless weight loss options found anywhere and everywhere. Finding a diet is not the problem. However, it is finding a diet that works that becomes the issue. If dieting worked effectively, women everywhere would be living happy lives looking just like supermodels. Well, this is certainly not the case. Lots of women become frustrated that they cannot get results, therefore, can never be happy. Beauty standards can cause a great deal and risk to people in society, and are a ridicule of every woman in America. Instead of letting beauty standards be socially acceptable, people should be aware of the harm that they can cause and that they are unrealistic.

What if there was another road to happiness? Women want to feel accepted, which is why they want to live up to society’s standards. Maybe it shouldn’t be about having everybody else accept, but learning to accept ourselves for who we are. The goal is to help women understand that the happiness they seek should not be limited to a single body type. Anybody can be happy in the body they already have. It is the ideal body found in advertising that sets the beauty standards, influences women to lose weight, and then leaves them with weight loss options that do not work, therefore, no way to the happiness they seek.

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Society has created standards of beauty that tend to bring unhappiness instead of satisfaction to people, so that begs the question of how beauty standards affect the way that people live and the difficulties they may encounter as a result. There is a relation to people from different countries when discussing beauty standards, as they are certainly not the same everywhere, furthermore, beauty standards vary from country to country, as well as the levels of happiness encountered by world citizens as a result.

Dissatisfaction often leads to change. In South Korea getting plastic surgery is seen as something normal to do when people find dissatisfaction in the way they look; moreover, this brews a culture of accepted superficiality in order to achieve happiness. The beauty practice spans across age groups and is carried out by both men and women, surprisingly only becoming popularized and accepted within the last ten years, according to author Joyce Nishioka of the publication Asianweek. The relatively recent emergence of the trend can be attributed to the integration of Korea into the Western world, the impact of the media altering traditional views when it came to appearance (Nishioka, 2). Dr. Charles Sun-Chull Lee reveals that ‘the classic’ plastic surgery procedure among Koreans is cosmetic eyelid surgery, it “estimated that 40 percent of the women [from the Asian population] undergo eyelid reshaping, usually to create a crease above the eye that makes it look bigger” (Nishioka, 2). As ABC News correspondent Juju Chang writes, with plastic surgery being such a large phenomenon in South Korea, it can create large amounts of pressure on people who live there to also alter their features in order to have “idol-like” features and to appear more attractive to others, some going as far to reason that South Koreans are seeking out Western features; moreover, this immense pressure to look a certain way and to imitate the media can lower happiness levels (Chang, 1). 19-year-old Christina Lim, who spoke with Chang before undergoing plastic surgery, explained to the reporter the normalcy of the procedure. She stated how sometimes after going on vacation, her friends would return with a new face and that that was a normal thing in South Korea. Moreover, Lim described that she received hate comments after appearing on Korean television as a translator, people bluntly commenting on her figure, which made her feel the need to take action (Chang, 1). This shows the negative influence that plastic surgery can have on self-esteem and one’s feeling of connectedness, which can be taken away completely with the ostracism that can come from a culture so welcoming of plastic surgery.

On the other hand, Nishioka writes about Dr. Charles Sun-Chull Lee, a plastic surgeon of Honolulu, who brings up the contending point that “the biggest misconception is that Asians want to look Caucasian” and are unhappy about the features they were born with (Nishioka, 2). According to Nishioka, “it is estimated that half of all Asian women are born with double eyelids and others develop them as they age”, which means that the procedure for attaining double eyelids is not as needed as one may have thought. The reasoning that Dr. Lee provides is that plenty of clients simply want “to look like their friends [with double eyelids]”, showing how plastic surgery can actually lead to a feeling of connectedness and benefit an individual who feels different from others (Nishioka, 2). While the negative effects that plastic surgery can possibly have are much more evident, there are still positives to a country that values beauty in this way.

However, not all people value these ‘traditional’ standards of beauty, as seen in the small rural towns of Mauritania, where the longstanding practice of forcibly fattening young girls continues to thrive. As Claire Soares, a correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor, writes, she compares this process of weight gain to food, writing how “the French word [gavage] describes the process of fattening up geese to produce foie gras”. Furthermore, the institutionalized process of force-feeding girls to become large, plump women can by association be visualized as something daunting and somewhat inhumane (Soares, 1). This sentiment can also be backed by the fact that the practice is somewhat dying out. Pascale Harter, who has served as a news correspondent for the BBC in Morocco with an extensive knowledge of African culture, mentions in her article, ‘Mauritania’s ‘Wife-Fattening’ Farm’, a girl named Leila, one force-fed herself as a girl, who says, “that's not how people think now”, in reference to the traditional ideal of fatness as beauty (Harter, 1). She goes on to say that, “traditionally a fat wife was a symbol of wealth. Now we've got another vision, another criteria for beauty”, which presents the reader with the idea that major ideological changes have taken place in Mauritania; more people view force-feeding as unhealthy and unnecessary to be beautiful (Harter, 1). This in relation to happiness can also mean that women no longer need to be fat to be happy in Mauritania; they do not have to play the role as the ‘fat wife’ to achieve high self-worth in their minds.

However, the fact still remains that this practice continues to persist today in the smaller areas of Mauritania left untouched by outside ideas where tradition prevails, and in these areas, there is no negative connotation to being overweight. In these areas, women love their ‘fatness’ and couldn’t imagine another way of living; moreover, they find great joy in their bodies, happy that they could achieve what their mothers and grandmothers told them is the most beautiful woman could be. Fatematou, a large older woman who continues the practice of force-feeding by running a ‘fat-farm’, notes the aspect of fattening the young girls that pertains to their futures as wives when she states, “They are proud and show off their good size to make men dribble. Don't you think that's good?” (Harter, 1). Fatematou relays the love she has for the girls she helps to fatten by continuing to carry on the tradition, knowing that in the end they will feel so much happiness for a body they will grow to adore. As these girls get older, they feel happy with their obesity and use it to get men. They flaunt the size of their bodies proudly, while western society places value on thinness, and even though the government in recent years has been cracking down on the practice, girls still find ways to self-fatten, “[taking] pills, some of them ones you usually give to an animal” (Soares, 1). All in all, with the roots that forcibly fattening girls has in wealth and high class, those women who grow up in the tradition, for the most part see their weight as a positive rather than a negative. Moreover, the happiness obtained from their weight gain outweighs the risks that come with their beauty goals. In Mauritania, tradition has not lost its effect, despite its obscureness to people outside the country’s borders.

In India, one beauty standard appears to outweigh the rest. The desire for fair skin has long existed in the country, people scouring the shelves for beauty products like Fair & Lovely and homemade specialties claiming to lighten one’s pigment. Gawle Rupa of India Abroad shares a personal anecdote of time spent with her family as a young Indian girl, citing how “[her] grandmother used to often say…‘Don't go out in the sun. You'll get dark’” (Rupa, 1). This shows the older generation’s impact on the way that the youth were conditioned to believe in a certain ideal, one that is for most still unattainable by nature. This beauty ideal leads one to infer dissatisfaction in self-image. Moreover, people are seen as unhappy when they try to change their natural features. One negative effect of this beauty standard is that those with darker skin often face discrimination and less favor, shocking, considering that most Indians do not have fair skin and do not look the way that they are represented by their movie stars and celebrities (Rupa, 1). Hubert Prolongeau, journalist for the French paper, ‘Le Monde’, writes about a high-school-aged Indian girl named Nina and documents her experience with discrimination: “I’ve always known I was dark-skinned. At school the little girls with fair skin were chosen to represent our class. Once one of my teachers even said: ‘You’re a good pupil, but you’re so black’” (Prolongeau, 1). This quote depicts and reiterates the idea that Indian children are conditioned from a young age to value lighter skin over darker skin. As Nina speaks, she carries a ‘glum’ expression, clearly pained by the fact that she is seen as inferior by others (Prolongeau, 1). Happiness with this beauty standard in place is difficult to achieve, because skin color is something a person is born with and not easily changed; moreover, people are put in positions of low self-esteem based on something for the most part out of their control.

It seems that the merge of beauty and health in many of these situations has negative results, and this sentiment is continued in the United States where the world of science clashes with personal health and beauty with the development of Botox. In his editorial ‘Beauty and the Beast’, author Donald Kennedy begs the question, “Who would have imagined a world in which terror weapons are employed as beauty aids?”, connecting the development and boom in the beauty industry of the paralysis inducing toxin to the dual use of the toxin as a possible biological weapon ('Beauty and the Beast'). The author takes the clear tone in his writing that the toxin should not be trusted for the fact that he feels that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has too eagerly approved Botox for cosmetic use; moreover, the risk of unhealthiness outweighs the benefit of being happy about one’s personal appearance in this situation. “[The] product of a highly toxic microorganism, Clostridium botulinum”, Botox exists as a “rapidly growing” tool for cosmetic procedures in the United States, a risk to users of the drug, according to Kennedy. Recipient of the Gold at the 2013 Web Health Awards and 2015 Platinum award winner for the Best Overall Internet Site and Consumer General Health Site, Mayo Clinic lists some possible side effects of Botox injections to be “pain, swelling or bruising at the injection site”, “headache or flu-like symptoms”, and “droopy eyelid or cockeyed eyebrows”, and while these appear to be minor risks, more life-threatening changes to the body may occur (‘Botox Injections’). According to Mayo Clinic, “[although] very unlikely, it's possible for the effect of botulinum toxin to spread to other parts of the body and cause botulism-like signs and symptoms” such as “muscle weakness all over the body”, “vision problems”, “trouble speaking or swallowing”, and “trouble breathing”; furthermore, this shows that if a person finds happiness in getting Botox injections he or she risks these negative changes to the body, which may end up severely hurting that person (‘Botox Injections’). Body image is defined as not just as one’s perception towards her body or her values towards herself but it is also how she relates with other women (Notman, 2003).

From a young age, girls are taught to experiment with makeup to increase their attractiveness. Different amounts can be applied as needed, and it works as a temporary boost in self-esteem. What is so appealing to most women about cosmetics is that it can be a quick an easy way to temporarily solve beauty problems. In Beausoleil’s study, ‘Makeup in Everyday Life: An Inquiry into the Practices of Urban American Women of Diverse Backgrounds’, he states that “many women report having different makeup routines depending on what they expect to do during the day” (Beausoleil, 33). Because it can be applied so quickly and is relatively easy and inexpensive compared to other more drastic measures such as diet, exercise, or cosmetic surgery, cosmetics have become an easy way to measure up to the standards of beauty enforced by society.

Thomas Cash performed much of the early research on the influence of cosmetics on self-esteem. One of his studies, ‘Effects of Cosmetics Use on the Physical Attractiveness and Body Image of American College Women’, reported “individuals often actively control and modify their physical appearance and physical aesthetics across situations within relatively brief periods of time” (Cash, 249). In other words, makeup is used differently in different situations because it makes women feel more self-confident. This idea has been a theme for many other studies done on the use of cosmetics. Cash argues, “cosmetics use and grooming behaviors, in general, function to manage and control not only social impressions but also self-image” (Cash, 350). Makeup is used in all types of situations to increase self-image, this particular study required that volunteers take photos with and without makeup and then rank their attractiveness based on these photos. The results confirmed that “facial cosmetics, as typically self-applied, influence both social perceptions of college women’s physical attractiveness and the women’s own self-perceptions (i.e., body image)” (Cash, 353). This study found that both women and their peers viewed women as more attractive with makeup than without. The women themselves felt that they were more physically attractive with makeup, and often overestimated their attractiveness with the makeup, while underestimating their attractiveness without makeup. Although not proven by this study, this overestimation of attractiveness while wearing cosmetics could very possibly lead to confidence and increased self-image. A further finding of this study was that “the more women appeared to believe in the beautifying effect of cosmetics, the more makeup they tended to apply on a daily basis” (Cash, 494). This is an important realization, especially for the beauty industry and the marketing of the products within the industry.

All in all, the things that people go through in order to achieve happiness often coincides with the ways that they try to make themselves ‘beautiful’. Subjectivity plays a large role in this, proving that not everyone finds the same things attractive, but in the end, it is the way that one perceives his or herself that truly makes the difference. Beauty and happiness have a strong correlation that ties in with the connectedness people feel with those around them.

Perfection is physically impossible. This is the first thing people need to understand. People should care because it affects more people than we care to realize, all the way down to life and death disorders. If we’re not careful, it can only go downhill from here. None of the standards will change unless society changes.

Works Cited

  1. Beausoleil, Natalie. 'Makeup in Everyday Life: An Inquiry into the Practices of Urban American Women of Diverse Backgrounds'. Many Mirrors : Body Image and Social Relations. (1994). Web. 20 Oct. 2019.
  2. 'Beauty and the Beast'. Editorial. Science. Mar. 2002. Web. 21 Oct. 2019.
  3. ‘Botox Injections’. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d. Web. 23.
  4. Cash, Thomas, ‘Effects of Cosmetics Use on the Physical Attractiveness and Body Image of American College Women’. The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 129, no. 3, Jan. 1989, pp. 349–355. Oct. 2019.
  5. Chang, Juju and Victoria Thompson. ‘South Korea’s Growing Obsession with Cosmetic Surgery’. ABC News Network, 20 June 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2019.
  6. Gawle, Rupa. 'Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Indian Obsession with Western Beauty Standards Just Isn't Fair'. India Abroad. 11 Jan. 2002. ProQuest. Web. 20 Oct. 2019.
  7. Harter, Pascale. ‘Mauritania’s ‘Wife-Fattening’ Farm’. BBC, 26 Jan. 2004. Web. 24 Oct. 2019.
  8. Nishioka, Joyce. 'THE BEAUTY OF SURGERY: Bigger Breasts, Double Eyelids among most Common Goals'. Asianweek. 13 Oct. 1999. ProQuest. Web. 24 Oct. 2019.
  9. Notman, Malkah T. ‘The Female Body and Its Meanings’. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, vol. 23, no. 4, 2003, pp. 572–591.
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Beauty Standards Cause Health Problems. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
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