Beauty standards: truth or lie?

Photograph: Polya Pencheva

Cracking scissors, chattering voices, and calming music are the noises a person hears in a hairdressing salon. Eyes open, and a hairdresser is moving hastily, trying to nitpick every detail, so the haircut of the customer is flawless. This is usually the case for Moniek Sluman, one of the employees at Jottem,  a local hairdressing salon. She is one of the dozens people who engage in changing appearance. However, today these changes try to outline one’s own features and emphasise natural beauty.

People who perform transformations professionally in one way or another, namely personal trainers, cosmeticians, nail artists, and so on, have a point to make in this case. For example, Sasha Pallari, a British make-up artist, recently launched a program reaching out to young women to value who they are.

The ideal body image has been present in the media long before the advent of social media platforms. Take as an example the beauty magazines and model reality shows on TV. Beauty standards and body shaming have been an ongoing problem for many years, which lately has become more important by the frequency and number of photos we are exposed to.

However, these tendencies have changed throughout the 21st century and body positivity has gained ground among women.

“We try to give people advice and give them a haircut that would suit their personality, skin colour and face shape. Say, you are an artist, I would give you a funky haircut which would outline your character and suit you,” says Moniek Sluman, a hairdresser at a local hair-dressing salon, named Jottem!.

People have always been concerned about their appearance, especially women who make efforts to improve their physique in different ways. Full gyms, queues in make-up stores and fully-booked beauty salons are some of the numerous examples about these attempts. Social media and its importance in society have delivered worrisome ideas about the appearance of a person.

According to a study by Tiggemann and Holland on Body Image, published in 2016 in Elsevier, social media appears to be related to body image concerns. We have been so overexposed to the Internet that the insecurity culture relating to editing of pictures and transforming one’s natural looks could be said to have taken over.

Contrary to this, Kimberly Nanku, an 18-year-old cosmetology student explains how she learns to deal with her insecurities and admires these who do not have the need to put make up on. “I love cosmetics procedures and putting make up” says Kimberly, “but I also understand we are beautiful the way we are, and we shouldn’t forget our worth.”

“2020 is super civilised because people seem to be paying attention to more sizes”, continues Kimberly.

Self-awareness and self-appreciation in an age of Instagram influencers and fitness models are not an easy thing to achieve. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, there are more people willing to accept their looks with support from brands offering a diversity of sizes, people like Moniek who focus on people’s personality when transforming their hair, and of course, a pinch of self-love.

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