Social media perpetuates harmful beauty standards

Art by Adriana Hazlett/Falconer

A recent trend on many social media platforms involves content creators making videos of themselves unfiltered, looking less than desirable with their glasses on or acne visible, and then proceeding to show themselves all glammed up a second later with a full face of makeup. On one influencer’s post who participated in this “glow-up” trend, a viewer sarcastically commented: “As someone with glasses and acne, this made me feel great! Thanks!!”

The comment portrays how many viewers feel when watching these videos: unworthy and not good enough.

Through participating in trends such as these, social media influencers perpetuate the idea that individuals need to wear makeup to cover up anything that is not perfect.

While influencers may think that their actions have no impact on their viewers, in reality, the stark contrast between their unembellished and beautified appearances on the screen promotes harmful societal expectations of how women should look. In fact, 88% of women compare themselves to what
they see on social media, according to the therapy center Emotion Matters.

While many women feel that they need to live up to what they see on social media, a person should not feel the need to replicate heavy makeup to have high self-esteem.

Social media that is angled toward western society perpetuates beauty stereotypes such as fuller lips and unblemished skin. Ads depicting “perfect color match” foundations that cover up imperfections make people — especially girls — believe that they need makeup to feel and be beautiful.

In fact, women who consistently wear heavy makeup see themselves differently with and without it on, according to an article in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Plos One. The study, which focused on the effects of self-esteem and makeup usage, found that women perceived themselves as “more feminine, attractive, more satisfied with their appearance, and as having higher self-esteem” when they had makeup on.

While some may view this as a positive thing, which it is to a certain degree, wearing heavy makeup should not act as a solution to low self-esteem. Instead of having women and, more disturbingly, young girls change their appearance in order to match beauty standards and feel better about themselves, society needs to accept that beauty has nothing to do with how much makeup someone wears.

It is not just the women wearing makeup who see themselves differently. An article on PsyPost, a psychology and research website, states that “the amount of makeup a woman wears can influence others’ perceptions of her.”

The effect makeup has over how someone is viewed by society can even lead to a “subtle form of dehumanization,” according to the article. When the participants of the study wewre given photos of women with heavy makeup, they reported that the subjects had “less humanness.”

When women choose to wear makeup, they are shunned by society for wearing too much makeup, but when they do not put on any, society does not find them attractive. No matter what women do with their makeup, they cannot win. The problem is not inherently with the makeup but instead with the standard set there for how women should look.

Young girls and women should not need to wear a full face of makeup to feel good about themselves. It is time that society learns to accept that there cannot be a “one size fits all” mentality for attractiveness and that heavy makeup would not be necessary if there were not unrealistic beauty standards.

Some celebrities, however, are intentionally choosing not to conform to societal beauty standards. Alicia Keys and Alessia Cara went to the Video Music Awards without makeup and Kim Kardashian went makeup-free at Paris Fashion Week. Having celebrities embrace their natural beauty without makeup and limiting beauty transformation videos on social media could help women shake free from the beauty standards that confine them.

Despite what you may see online, it is perfectly acceptable to wear glasses or have acne: they do not make you any less beautiful.

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