The other night I was watching TV and a few women were referred to as “natural beauties.” The women on the receiving end of these compliments were on the red carpet, glammed from head to toe. Their hair was coiffed, make-up perfect, and they were adorned with gowns and jewels. And I wondered what was so natural about any of it?
I asked myself a similar question the other morning when I was getting prepped for a usual weekday at work. It all starts in the shower, with bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash that promise to make me smoother, cleaner, more vibrant, fragrant and younger. As soon as I stepped out, I reached for a squirt of hair mousse, followed by my daily routine of creams and moisturizers. All this happened before I even began to apply any make-up. I paused and thought about how so many of us go through these motions to look “naturally beautiful” and I marveled at the multitude of products literally at our finger tips that allow us to do this every day.
The generations of Real Women before us didn’t have the ease of simply stopping by CVS on their way home to arm themselves with every product imaginable, or the ability to log on to the internet to have the next best most promising anti-aging cream delivered to their door. Through the years, of course, the images of beauty have varied. In the early 1900’s, pale skin was a sign of beauty and class, tans were for those of a “lower class.” Heavy make-up was reserved for only those who were stage performers. Yet, real women still wanted to look their best – but for many years, they had to rely on home remedies, by using rice powder, beet juice, squeezing their cheeks for some color, or, amazingly, using lemon juice to lighten their skin. The thought of applying lemon juice has my cheeks screaming in terror.
Real women in our past truly did rely more on their natural beauty. Today, in contrast, there is a multi-billion dollar industry in the world of cosmetics. Just a stroll down two aisles at Target can be a mind-numbing experience of choosing between half a dozen different brands and shelves of products of which we are too embarrassed to ask “what does this one do?” There are, of course, R.W.’s today who go the natural route, with no make-up or extra creams and lotions. There are some who have that enviable flawless natural beauty so they look amazing as soon as they wake up in the morning. I kind of hate those of you who fit into that category, but applaud you as well.
My mother was one of the naturals. The only make-up she wore was lipstick. I remember how every evening, a few minutes before Dad was due home from work, she would stop to brush out her hair and put on some fresh lipstick. That’s it. If she and Dad got dressed up to go out, or hosted a party, she would apply just a bit of mascara and blush. I look at photos of her in her youth, and she is gorgeous – with no cosmetic assistance.
In contrast, thanks to having a fair & ruddy complexion, if I ever venture out with little to no make-up, others will ask if I’m exhausted or ill. Even on weekends when I may or may not venture out of the house, I still apply at least some lotion and base cosmetics so I look healthy and awake. So the “natural beauty” route is not for me.
But I do believe that there is another definition for “natural beauty”, and it has absolutely nothing to do with staying clear of manufactured enhancements or cosmetics. It has everything to do with a real woman’s fundamental presence. When I think of the real women in my life, I think of their smiles that can brighten up a whole room, the twinkle in their eye that can mean fun and mischief, their infectious laughter, the caring and love they exude, the energy that seems to vibrate out of them, and the determination and strength that shows through in everything they do. My first thoughts when I see these amazing people are not about the cool new green eye shadow they are wearing, or the color of their hair highlights, or whether or not the anti-wrinkle neck cream they are trying is working. What I see is the natural beauty of who they are and how they make the people around them feel.
If we feel better about ourselves by reaching for those products on our counters every morning, then fine, let’s go for it, let’s enhance our surface beauty. I’m all for appearing healthy and awake. But let’s not get too hung up on which lip color is the best option…because in reality, the smile itself is where it’s at.