In part because I'm the kind of girl who looks like RuPaul with a bunch of makeup on, I have always admired Bobbi Brown's beauty ethos of using a little makeup to enhance, rather than hide, one's facial features. I have her Makeup Manual; I also use her concealer. It's unreal.
But, to be honest, I was cynical when I saw her latest campaign – called The Power of Pretty – debut on the web back in January; the essential message being that with just a little blush, lippie and mascara you can take on the world (forget that MBA and invest in makeup instead!).
"It's makeup that makes a woman feel confident, powerful and beautiful," Brown told Stylist. "Power is not shoulder pads, success or fame – it's someone who feels comfortable in their skin."
But what about those inevitable days (months or years) when you just don't like the skin you've been saddled with? Can the sum of a woman's facial parts outweigh her brain cells, inner strength, integrity, creativity, sense of humour or faith? Can a lippie pull you up when you're truly down?
Brown has a new book for teen girls coming out later this month titled Beauty Rules: Fabulous Looks, Beauty Essentials and Life Lessons for Loving Your Teens and Twenties. Billed as a "fresh, energetic beauty bible for young women", Brown says her goal is to help girls "look and feel like themselves, only prettier and more confident."
Reassuringly, a global survey of 1800 16 to 19-year-olds commissioned by Bobbi Brown Cosmetics tied into the release of the book has found that 90% of young women believe confidence is more a state of mind than about looks, though almost 75% of them said wearing makeup made them feel more confident and capable.
Other statistics gathered by Brunswick Research for the US, UK and Hong Kong incude:
- 70% of young women in the US and Hong Kong are happy with their looks while only 52% of UK girls are happy with their looks;
- Two thirds of young women started wearing makeup in their early-to-mid teens (13 to 15);
- Two thirds of young women in the US and UK wear makeup five or more days a week;
- 57% of young women in the UK say they do not feel as pretty without makeup (only 39% in the US and 24% in Hong Kong);
- Mothers and friends are girls' primary source of inspiration for being a good person, not celebrities.
The survey also found that the majority of girls see "inner beauty" (separate from just "beauty") as important, as defined by compassion and kindness and a friendly personality (honesty, self-confidence and sense of humour also rated).
"Besides how they feel about their looks, young women today are defining their self-image by confidence, kindness and compassion,” says Brown. "With all the unrealistic images of physically ‘perfect’ women and girls in the media, I’m happy that so many teens realize that self-worth comes from the inside, too."
It would be naive to suggest that looks don't count (our whole society is wired for image). But it would also be naive to think Brown - for all her very good intentions and good deeds - is not in the game of shifting product off shelves. And while teens are wise and savvy, they are also in need of reassurance as they go about forming their identities – can a limited edition Beauty Rules face palette (available to buy with the book) give them that, too?
As Naomi Wolf ventured in The Beauty Myth, our preoccupation with beauty is to the detriment of other aspects of our lives. When the application of makeup starts to detract from more important things in your day (or your bank account), and you start to associate looking and feeling pretty with confidence and self-worth, you've got to wonder if the messages cosmetics companies are sending us are taking away more power than they give.
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 1-13)
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