Some beauty standards are dangerous and damaging

Where beauty means bleached skin. Photo courtesy artist Tiffany Ford of NY Times

Beauty standards have been around since the beginning of time. From pale faces and powdered wigs to corsets and rib removing, many have gone to extreme lengths to achieve a certain look or status.

At the same time, toxic chemicals, botched surgeries, and deathly fashion have affected women tremendously, though they are not exclusive to any one gender. As people of color move to decolonize their beauty routine, here are three harmful beauty standards brought upon by colonization.

  1. Skin whiting creams

Skin bleaching originated from the Victorian era (1819-1901), during the time where paints and powders were used to create makeup looks. With white woman using products with harsh chemicals such as lead, mercury and arsenic, they considered themselves, “the standard.”

Although the look came with high risk, they equated whiteness with purity. As time progressed this trend was far from dying out. Soap, toothpaste and other companies used images of African Americans to depict the contrast between whiteness and blackness as a way to sell products which in turn made many people of color uncomfortable in their own skin. During the independence era for African Americans, skin bleaching began to boom and started to appear in African, Chinese and Asian countries.

 It isestimated that at one point 70 percent of women in West Africa were using skin lighting creams. This European standard went from pushing purity to causing skin damage, colorism and even a false since of reality for many people of color.

Skin lightening cosmetics can suggest to consumers that they will make them appear desirable. Photo courtesy Saja Muzaini

2. Perms

During the wake of the natural hair movement there has been little to no space for perms or relaxers. With many expelling the traumatic memories of scalp burns and the toxic smell, African Americans have made steps to decolonize their beauty routines. In the 1900’s Garrett Augustus Morgan created the hair straightening prototype. Since then this product has made its way into many Black homes, pushing the stigma that straighter is better.

This beauty standard was pushed during the times of slavery, where white women often cut their slaves’ hair out of spite. The natural curls and kinks in Black hair were at first looked down upon and seemed unmanageable and the only solution was getting a perm. Many young girls remembering receiving their first perm as young as 3 years old. This standard caused a lot of damage such as hair loss and thinning. With looser curls and straight hair being praised so often, many Black women did not associate their kinks to beauty.

3.Waist cinching

Women have been waist training for hundreds of years. Though liberation and fashion trends have almost rid the world of corsets they are making a quick come back. Waist clinchers became popular around the 1600’salthough there were made to distribute fat into an hourglass shape, they also told others of your status. As time progressed and fashion shifted, women such as flapper girls went for a looser look.

 With toning undergarments replacing steel boning corsets, many found other ways to obtain that hourglass shape. In the time of fashion nova models the tiny waste can only be achieved through plastic surgery and countless hours of waist training. With YouTube tutorials showing how to shed inches off your waist overnightusing Vicks and cling wrap many will go to any lengths to achieve that tiny waists.

Though Influencers promoting the use of waist trainers to achieve a certain shape, many women end up having body and self-image issues.

These beauty standards have had long-lasting negative effects on the Black community. They have caused young girls to nitpick their bodies and others to shame them for not adapting to the standards.

 In the new age of liberation for the Black community many men and women are learning what true self love is.