Last month, the French independant pro-consumer media Que Choisir has published an independent study about the cosmetics on sale on the market. They found toxic, allergenic or downright dangerous ingredients in 185 different products. After all this turning 30 reflection on how I feel about ageing, I thought it was as good a news as another to talk about appearance, cosmetics and the role of looks in society (and our happiness).
In this article (in French), Que Choisir explains that 185 cosmetics contain ingredients potentially dangerous for health: causing allergies, messing with hormones, irritating for the skin and more. This includes all kinds of cosmetics, from shampoos to deodorants, including baby stuff, and all kinds of brands from the supermarket's own chains to high end cosmetics.
This made me evaluate how many cometics I use. Even as I simplified my routine, there are quite a few bottles on my bathroom shelves. If you take the average bathroom shelf of a woman today, it is quite daunting to see how many consmetics we use every day. And for what? To clean our body, yes, but also to look younger, healthier, more attractive, thinner, etc.
When you think about it, we devote a lot of energy to our looks. From the choice of clothing and "uniforms" to make-up routine, it seems to be very important to most of us to carefully study our looks. Why? Why is it so important?
Think about it, we spend time, energy and money on items that have no other purpose than to affect the way we look. We cover our faces and bodies with toxic products in the hope to look closer to the social standard of beauty. As women, it's even worse, as we need to diet and exercise to remove the natural shape of our bodies to look as thin as possible.
Does any of this really matter?
It's been five years since I started simplifying my life now. Ironically, it all started with looks. The image I was projecting of myself through my looks didn't match with who I thought I was inside.
I thought myself as an intelligent and curious individual, interested by literature, music and video games, happy to broach philosophical subjects and question life and the world.
The simplicity journey: looks
My looks - studied uniforms of skirt or pants with tailored shirts, long hair, lots of make-up & jewellery and high heels, projected the image of a posh city girl unable to lift boxes at PR events and more interested in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan than Umberto Eco's theories about translation and languages.
I could say a lot about how prejudiced women are according to their looks, but that's not today's topic.
I started my simplicity journey questioning my looks and why they were so much at odds with the way I saw myself inside. Hence I started a huge wardrobe editing and style searching process --> what outfits should I wear to look the way I am inside?
If you have been following this blog of a while (or perused the archives when you discovered the Nife), you have probably realized how this simplicity journey evolved from this looks starting point.
From looks to soul searching
Little by little, I got less interested in how to express my identity through how I look, and more interested in what that identity is, and how my actions (rather than looks) reflect who I want to be. I started with questions like: "can I really call myself a minimalist if I own less than 50 items of clothing but replace half of them every year? " "I want to be seen as interesting and curious about the things of life, but Monsieur says i'm talking about clothes all the time, is that really the kind of conversations I want to have?"
Thus, wardrobe editing and luxurious minimalist designs have been replaced by TED talks, personality tests, psychology MOOCs and soul-searching week-ends of meditation and dragon slaughter on the PS4.
I found so many things through all this journey. Yes, I found that oxfords are my favourite type of shoes, that I prefer warm colors over cold ones, that I like black pairs of pants best and that jewellery with mineral stones make me happy.
Simplicity and looks now
But I also realized that none of this defines who I am. This is what I learned these past 5 years:
- There will always be people prejudiced about who I am based on how I look. Sometimes simply because I am a woman.
- What I do matters more than how I look in the way I see myself. If I want to feel in harmony with who I am inside, what I spend my time on matters more than what outfit I choose to wear in the morning
- We do spend an awful lot of time and money on looks. And simplifying wardrobes doesn't improve any of this if I end up spending time on wishlists, donation bags and planning expensive purchases.
- There are so many things I'd rather be doing with my time and money. Even if it means my looks are less 'perfect', less in line with what society expects of a woman.
This article about toxic cosmetics reminded me how much all of us sacrifice for looks. The simple pleasures of food when we diet to lose some weight that has all natural right to sit on our hips and bottom. Our health as we use toxic cosmetics daily on our skin. Our self esteem as we beat ourselves about not looking the way we'd like. Our time, money and energy.
A few months ago, I have realized that if I don't put make-up on in the morning, I have 10 extra minutes to write fiction. I have thought about what matters to me, what I want to leave behind. I have stopped wearing make-up.
Well, this article turned out more philosophical than initially intended. Sometimes, I realize just how much I have progressed in my own journey when I write these blog posts. How do you guys feel about all this? Did your simplicity journey change the way to see your own body? Did it change the importance of looks in your life?