The Wall Street Journal published a fun story about the spread of “green salons” in the New York area (Green Salons that Aim to Match the Real Thing). I have to confess, I’m a bit too lazy on the green front to go out of my way to visit any of these places. But I really like where this trend is going. Of course I appreciate that we’re getting more sensitive to our impact on the environment. But I also think this wave reflects another positive trend: the fusion of beauty and health.
Many vilify the pursuit of beauty saying that it leads to unhealthy behaviors, anorexia, botched surgeries, and the list goes on. No doubt, like many pursuits, the desire to be beautiful can result in unhealthy extremes. But it can also make us healthier.
The blend of beauty and health in this country has been going on for a while. Even Ying Chu of Marie Claire has a combined role of beauty and health editor. It’s not just that people (including me!) want healthier, non-toxic ingredients in their beauty products (see The Story of Cosmetics). It’s that people are recognizing that the health of their bodies impacts their appearance, and likewise, beauty, or the pursuit of it, affects their health.
I truly believe that health trumps beauty on the list of importance, but standards of beauty can actually help propagate a healthier lifestyle. Example: tanning. As tanning has been linked with cancer, we’re seeing the beauty industry — magazines, cosmetic companies, media — eschewing imagery of overly tanned bodies. Un-tanned (or at least relatively un-tanned) skin is now in. Of course, our desire for beauty is what led us to tan in the first place, but a lot of sun exposure today isn’t forced and can still lead to skin damage. And now we’re much more vigilant about protecting against it.
If having bouncier hair or a toned body — a consequence of eating right and exercising — reflects the beauty standards, then are beauty standards truly all that bad?