The Beauty Double Standards Fueling the Cosmetic Industry

To diet, or not to diet – that has to be the question plaguing the current generation of women. Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder but there is no denying that by today’s standards, a slimmer woman is more beautiful. Maybe you can blame the fact that Marilyn Monroe was viewed as the epitome of beauty. The socialite’s measurements were 35-22-35 meaning that if we go by the current US women’s size guide, Monroe would be a size 0.  It is, therefore, no surprise that even the modeling industry uses Monroe’s size to check if you are eligible to walk the runway.

Such unrealistic standards do not even come close to the Greeks’ perception of a beautiful woman. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and fertility, was sculpted with large breasts, wide hips, and a round face. But times have changed, and the need to subscribe to society’s standards has led to many women feeling that they have to be slim to be beautiful. Not even Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” poem can convince them that beauty is not in the span of their hips, nor do they have to be built to fit a model’s size for them to be beautiful.

Beauty Standards Provide Loophole for Body-Shaming

Society piles on the pressure on women, especially those in the spotlight. Take Khloe Kardashian, for instance, who broke down during the reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Khloe confessed to her then-husband, Lamar Odom, she was tired of pretending to be happy with her weight and felt disgusted. So, the reality star started her weight loss journey since the family was pressuring her to shed some pounds. Khloe used to be referred to as the “fat one” because compared to her sisters, she was the chubby one. Today, you can hardly recognize her.

Khloe Kardashian before and after weight loss

Fat-shaming has become so rampant, thanks to social media because people can hide behind their keyboards and type ugly comments. They do not even care if you have just given birth; they expect you to bounce back to being slim soonest possible. Such was the case with Kelly Clarkson, who after giving birth to her daughter, River Rose, did not shed weight as fast as the public wanted, so they body-shamed her. You will never understand what people want because, funny enough, when Kate Lawler, an English television personality, lost baby weight within 14 days of giving birth, people were at her neck saying it was too fast.

You would think that since being fat is a crime in the eyes of the public, perhaps they would let slim people be. But no – you assume you are safe until someone decides to label you “too skinny.” Celine Dion has always been petite, but after the death of her husband, lost weight which sent tongues wagging about her being too skinny. Tabloids speculated, and fans had different theories about the sudden weight loss, but Dion insisted she felt sexier than ever and was doing it for herself. When Adele lost weight, she echoed Dion’s words – she did it for herself.

Celine Dion before and after losing weight

So why does the public feel it demands an explanation for why someone loses weight? Why is it a big deal when you put on a few pounds? Although we even share some inspirational quotes regarding self-acceptance on social media, it’s usually for public attention. We do not believe in the message because it has been ingrained in us that you have to look a certain way to conform to societal beauty standards. When young girls watch a film like “Why Did I Get Married” and see how Sheila is despised by her husband, Mike, for being overweight, they start believing that being slim is the only way to get a loving man.

Low Self-Esteem Leads to Boom of Beauty Industry

Thanks to such double standards, the beauty industry finds a ripe market for its products. Gone are the days when teenage girls subjected themselves to induced vomiting to fit in with the popular girls at school. Now, there are diet pills, highly touted to work like magic in keeping the unwanted weight at bay. It is, therefore, no wonder that in Europe, the diet pills market size is projected to grow from USD 237.1 million to USD 1,411.1 million in 2028. Globally, the valuation of the weight loss supplements market size was USD 33.4 billion in 2020.

What most diet pill users do not know, or rather do not care about, are the side effects. You could suffer from increased heart rate and blood pressure, dependence, insomnia, and even birth defect risks. But the need to be petite surpasses the concern for their health. In 2006, Clenbuterol, a drug used to treat asthma in horses, was reported as the go-to pill for Hollywood celebrities seeking to lose weight. Once people see the impressive results on the A-listers, they rush to buy celebrity-endorsed products. Consequently, sellers line their pockets with money by lying that certain celebrities have successfully shed weight after using diet pills.

Jesicca Simpson started using diet pills at 17 after a music executive told her she was overweight. She took the pills for 20 years

When diet pills do not get you that flat tummy you have been hoping to flaunt, plastic surgery becomes an option. Liposuction has been known to produce more dramatic results than other non-invasive fat reduction procedures; hence, it costs more. The average cost of liposuction is $3,637 exclusive of anesthesia, operating room facilities, and other related expenses. Despite the steep cost, a woman did not mind spending $22,000 on liposuction, tummy tuck, and breast augmentation to gain the confidence she once had about her body.

With such extravagant spending, the beauty industry keeps introducing products that will “help users regain their self-esteem.” Skinny people tired of being told will rush for weight gain supplements.  Apetamin, for instance, is marketed as one of the fastest ways to gain weight, and those looking to be curvy prefer it. A 200-milliliter bottle goes for between $25 and $40, making it affordable to most. Unfortunately, it has severe side effects that can be fatal, so the UK illegalized it. However, the demand is still there, and interested buyers find it online.

Sometimes side effects can ward off potential customers, so the beauty industry, in its innovation, came up with padded underwear. Instead of spending a lot of money on butt lifts and breast augmentation, you get to have that hourglass figure in a minute.  Butt and hip enhancers will have you forking out around $10 exclusive of shipping. Then came the need to have a small waist that has resulted in the resurgence of corsets, otherwise known as waist trainers. Women want to hide their muffin tops and would rather squeeze into waist trainers for the perfect look, in total oblivion of the health issues arising from wearing that small garment.

Kim Kardashian in a waist trainer

Looking good has a way of boosting your self-confidence. When you look in the mirror, and all you see is how beautiful you are, it radiates in all other areas of your life. It does not matter how thin you feel you are or how much weight you have added, people will always have an unsolicited opinion about you. If it’s not about your weight, they will find something else to try and put you down. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

So, instead of helping the beauty industry increase its market share through products that will adversely affect you, why not shut out the negativity surrounding your body image and love yourself as you are. When tempted to body-shame anyone, remember that you do not know what someone is going through so be kind always. We should see people for who they are instead of judging them by their weight.

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