The idealization of natural beauty is very widespread, as we’ve extensively read and discussed in class. A popular phenomenon in the natural beauty realm involves achieving natural beauty using natural products, or things you can find in your kitchen.
The website “Kitchen Beautician” advertises “natural, skin-nourishing body care” that is “paraben-free and formaldehyde-free.” Pinterest is full of DIY homemade beauty products, from a teeth-whitening paste containing baking soda to a liquid containing lemon juice used to soften the legs.
These homemade beauty products call to mind Kathy Peiss’s discussion of them as the first kind of products women used to achieve beauty. Women have used homemade, natural products for centuries, but once beauty products began to be manufactured and were so easy to obtain and use, this trend was expected to decrease. It did not; Peiss writes, “even in the 1920s many women continued to make their own beauty preparations…vinegar, cream, lemon juice and bay rum, or rosewater and white Vaseline went into popular homemade face lotions” (172). More uses of household products included “peroxide and buttermilk to bleach the skin, Vaseline or castor oil to lengthen eyelashes, and witch hazel as an astringent” (172). Instead of using professionally made products that contain chemicals to help improve skin problems, such as salicylic acid to improve acne or alpha hydroxy acids to give anti-aging benefits, many women are turning to their kitchens to care for their skin.
I am wondering why. Every so often, a celebrity will come out and tell a magazine that they use drugstore products or kitchen products to achieve their beauty. This insight into a celebrity’s beauty regime is intended to make the celebrity seem like an average woman, and to make the average woman think that she can achieve the same look.
Recently, Scarlett Johansson told Elle magazine that her secret to luminous skin is splashing apple cider vinegar on her face. According to her, it helps heal skin that is prone to breakouts. She also mentions her use of lemon juice for “lightening,” although it “can be a little bit stinging.” She likes it because “it’s a good trick and it’s natural.” You can read the full interview here: http://www.elleuk.com/beauty/news/exclusive-scarlett-johansson-talks-beauty-with-elle#image=1.
I do not believe that Scarlett Johansson relies on vinegar and lemon juice as a regular part of her beauty regimen to make herself look the way she does. Sure enough, in an interview with Marie Claire in 2011, she said that she uses Jurlique products on her face, including the face mask and the day cream, one of which costs $70.00 for 50 ml. She also mentioned using Clarin’s HydraQuench Cream Mask, which costs $35.00 for 2.5 ounces.
I think she made the claim about lemon juice and vinegar in an effort to align herself with the natural beauty movement when in fact she, like a lot of other women with disposable income, rely heavily on the chemistry of skin care.
Still, today many women prefer to use homemade remedies to solve beauty problems than to use manufactured products that can contain worrisome chemicals. I think women are still idealizing the natural and are under the illusion that to be completely natural is somehow better.
Kathy Peiss, Hope in a Jar, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.