Monday, April 23, 2012

Beauty Blogosphere 4.23.12

What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. (A couple of days late, apologies!)

From Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style, Nina Katchadourian

From Head...
Doin' it Flemish style: Artist Nina Katchadourian makes awesome Flemish-school-style portraits using airplane toilet paper, seat covers, and the occasional travel pillow as accessories. (via)

...To Toe...
Playing footsie: The "whoda thunkit?" chatter on men getting pedicures continues, this time inching a hair toward the idea that maybe it just, I dunno, feels nice? I don't like the bumbling tone of this Daily Mail chronicle of a man getting a pedicure (and the headline, "Should you send your other half for a pedicure?" rankles), but at least it's not trying to paint footsie-wootsie care as somehow strictly medically necessary and therefore legitimately dudely.

...And Everything In Between:
Spending state: "Frugality fatigue" has apparently meant a good quarter for high-end brands like Estee Lauder. But wait! Does this mean the lipstick index could at all be a crock of hype? Naaah.

War cry: What a bidding war over Avon could do to the company's future, merged or otherwise. (But word up, Motley Fool: Did you really have to compare Avon's inflated share price to a woman who doesn't look so hot the next morning? What, you're too good for a makeover pun like every other news outlet?)

It's dude perfume week!: New York supreme court judge orders Prince to shell out nearly $4 million to a perfume maker that made a scent that the artist then neglected to promote as promised. And Donald Trump releases his new fragrance, Success, which features a conspicuously low level of Trump branding. "Some people, they see the name on the bottle and are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to smell like him.’ " You don't say.

Tour de chine: This piece about American luxury outlets catering to Chinese tourists (who spend about $6,000 on each visit to the States, compared with $4,000 for tourists from other nations) is interesting, particularly because it never points out the obvious: About half the brands mentioned are luxury brands specifically for women. On a side note: How much Advanced Night Repair do you think I'd have to spend to get a tour of Estee Lauder's original office? If I have any wealthy Chinese reader-shoppers who want a tagalong on their next visit, holler!

Bazak: Intricate rundown of bridal beauty rituals for traditional Persian weddings. (Thanks to Zoe for the link!)

Mixed choir: If you enjoyed last week's post on race, identity, and being "exotic," you may enjoy Hapa Voice, a site where people with mixed Asian and Pacific Islander descent candidly share their thoughts on being mixed, and how being visually "othered"—or not—impacts their sense of identity. (Thanks to Savages in Memphis for pointing me to it!) I'm also enjoying Sheena Roetman's piece at The Blind Hem about appropriation of indigenous culture—and if you want more of that, there's always the excellent Native Appropriations blog.

From Princesses in a Land of MachosNicola "Ókin" Friol

Two interesting photo series exploring gender: "Princesses in a Land of Machos" by Mexico-based photographer Nicola "├ôkin" Friol, focusing on Los Muxes, or gay men in the Oaxacan city of Juchitan, where their presence is considered good luck. Some of the Muxes make a living in appearance-oriented industries, like cosmetology or fashion design, which is often encouraged by families because it makes them good providers. A separate but thematically related project: "True Men," by Brian Shumway, a portrait series of men who are privately (and publicly?) exploring what it means to be a "real" man. (via Mikkipedia)

Weird science: This piece on science reporting has nothing to do with beauty, but I get all jazz-hands about beauty science studies here often enough that it's relevant. Scientific American takes a recent piece by a seasoned NYTimes reporter about the (not necessarily existent) link between exercise and addiction and compares it to the actual study, and lo and behold, science writers aren't scientists and sometimes get it wrong. And if that applies for pieces that aren't sociologically loaded, what could it mean for science reporting about work that might go against the gender bedrock of society as we know it?

I think I have a Maltese balcony: Normally I'm against christening "troublesome" body parts with nicknames (I never thought twice about my upper rear view until I heard the term "back bacon"). But I admit to being downright charmed by Rebekah's recent find of the 1940s-ish version of the pot belly: the "bay window."

Non/toxic: The willy-nilly nature of cosmetics regulation came into sharp relief recently when it turned out that "nontoxic" nail polishes and other products weren't nontoxic in the least. Virginia Sole-Smith takes a critical look at what's going on.

Context collapse: We can't have a discussion of thinspo without looking at the new ways in which the images that make up their core are spread. Stripped of their original context through sites like Pinterest (which has banned pro-eating-disorder communities) and Instagram, pretty much any photo of someone slender can become thinspo, and Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic looks at what that means.

Plus, cool accents: Turns out Europeans aren't just terrifically glamorous at all times including REM sleep, they're also more aware of natural and organic beauty products than Americans.

She-bulk: Caitlin on women who resist weightlifting for fears of "bulking up": "Listen, ladies who bulk up—your bodies are telling you something. Your bodies are saying, We want to be strong, we want to be muscular, we want to be ripped! If your body puts on muscle this easily, it’s because your body wants to be muscular. If your body thought muscle was a bad thing, it wouldn’t build it so easily."

What, me hoard?

Hoarders: This article isn't terribly interesting in and of itself, but I'm intrigued by the sentiment actress Kate Walsh expresses about holding onto old makeup (guilty!): "The biggest tip is to throw out your make-up. I think as women even if we don't mean to be hoarders, when you buy make-up it's just so juicy you're like, 'Oh, I'll keep it forever!' and it's like no, no, no, it all has an expiration date on it and you have to be really careful to get rid of it." I'll hold onto anything until it stops working, bacteria be damned, so don't listen to me...but I do think there's something here about hoarding makeup because of its emotional implications. I don't hoard anything else (well, papers stick to me like glue); even if I had the psychological inclination to do so, I live in a restricted New York apartment so it would be difficult to do so. But makeup—yep, I save it all, and the "juiciness" Walsh fingers here is part of why.

It's what outside that counts: How much does cosmetics packaging matter to consumers? Given that so many products are repetitious, I'd say a whole lot.

"You show them by being more than your looks, even if that’s all people comment on": This "Dear Daughter" letter about girls kicking ass has been making the rounds, and it's a great read. What drives this home for me is the heartbreaking exchange described between the letter-writer's preteen daughter and an adult man who tells her she's pretty. She thanks him, and then—oh, just read it.

Stop in the name of love: Rosie Molinary nails it again, with her signature way of giving readers concrete tools to funnel into amorphous concepts of self-love. At Voxxi: How to put doable, reasonable limits on appearance obsession.

YouTubed: With all the recent buzz about teenagers using YouTube to ask if they're pretty, I'd sort of forgotten about the positive ways young women use the medium. My aunt sent me a link to this photo of a woman doing a half-face makeover (thanks, Michele!), which led me to this video of a makeup tutorial on covering cystic acne. The transformation is dramatic, yes, but what really stands out to me is the honesty here: Acne can have a severe psychological impact on its sufferers, and she's using this space to both provide solutions to its visibility and to sort of educate people on what acne "really" looks like, hopefully lightening the burden of isolation however subtly. (Late addition: It turns out I'm hardly alone in noting the openness of this vlogger; she was on the Today show talking about isolation from acne: "Makeup is what helped me break out of that sheltered period...Confidence is beauty, essentially. You can't have one without the other. And I think that makeup is that gateway for a woman to feel confident until they overcome whatever insecurities they have so that they can feel beautiful with or without." I think it's more complicated than that, but this is an excellent platform to start from.)

"And so modest!": With the rise of modesty-oriented fashion bloggers, The Blind Hem asks if it's a contradiction in terms. "The blogger is showcasing their sartorial talents in the most prideful, vain way possible—endless pages of photographs of their self, of their body, of their gently smiling face staring off into the horizon in that damned ubiquitous field they all seem to live near. They are displaying their selves in a way that screams 'Look at me! Look at what I am wearing! Look at how amazing I am!' In the case of modest style bloggers, they are also screaming 'Look at how modest I am!' We could (and I do) argue that this negates the idea of being modest." I don't agree with the thesis here—I think that when modesty is constructed as being about women's bodies and their inherent licentiousness, it only makes sense for modesty bloggers to apply "modesty" judiciously—but the contradiction is undeniable. Our culture's definition of "modesty" is tricky indeed (note how it's never applied to men being modest in where their attention goes) and the conversation needs to not be binary; this piece does a great job of looking at the complexities and contradictions of the term.

Bobbed: I love it when I see people making an appearance change that goes against what the magazines say is right for their face shape, as Kourtney does here with the big chop for her hair donation. (Spoiler alert: The jaw-length bob! Looks great! Why any magazine would say otherwise is beyond me.)

Royal vision: Danielle continues her series on fashion queens. Up now: Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Eleanor of Aquitane, and Nefertiti.

Pajama party: Terri of Rags Against the Machine is having a virtual pajama party, and she probably won't even freeze your bra. This is also a good opportunity to point you toward her window shopping project, in which she'll be working her way up the class scale of retail outlets to see how far a dollar really takes you. This month: Kohl's.


  1. I'm interested in the modesty point, because when i first came accross the term, I had no idea that it meant 'covered up' and only thought of it in terms of 'not showing off' or possibly plain/chape ('a man of modest means'). My very first post on the topic here:

    I am very very uncomfortable with the concept of modest dressing, because it so often goes seamlessly into slut shaming. The only explanation i have ver been given that made sense to me was 'my religious rules forbid it and it is important to me to e part of this religious group', but most other explnations are full of these really questionable taken for granted assumptions about boys and girls sexuality and morality as defined through appearance not actions.

    I get a lot of people coming to my blog searching for 'modest fashion blog', my hope is that maybe some of them will question things just a little bit.

    1. It's a really rich topic, because I totally hear you on the hop, skip, and jump between "modesty" and slut-shaming. At the same time, I also know that when I've purposefully worn modest clothes, it's changed something within me--I don't think I usually dress *to be looked at*, but then when I've purposefully dressed modestly and I really really don't want to be looked at, I see how differently I feel from most days. My stride is more relaxed, my gaze is on the world instead of on people (which isn't necessarily a positive thing, mind you). So I think there's something there about dressing modestly as a way of altering one's own attitude--but then I really don't want to say, "Oh, well, I'm finally learning to remove myself from the eyes of temptation" because that's all whore-of-Babylony, you know?

      That's so interesting to me that you were fingered as a "modest dresser" by the Is This Modest community despite not identifying with that at all. Goes to show how much of modesty really is about an external vision, not one's internal state.

  2. I'm also interested in the modesty point because dressing "modestly" is something that I am quite keen on, but am probably going to be rephrasing because although I'm quite happy to set limits on the amount of flesh I show (because of my faith) I'm also quite happy to be ridiculously showy in what I wear. Modesty, then, isn't the right word (actually checked the definition to make sure). I want to dress in a way that respects my body - according to my beliefs, no one else's - and part of that respect is to dress flamboyantly, shave my head and not wear miniskirts.

    What really got me was the TED talk by Tony Porter that was posted in that Dear Daughter letter. But to comment on what you actually posted, what that older man said to the daughter was ridiculous! Talk about giving a conditional compliment. It reminded me of the many times people have complimented me on something and I've said "thanks, I know :)". Sometimes it shocks people that I'm owning that I'm pretty!

    1. If you haven't read the piece I was linking to, you definitely should--it's pretty much exactly about this, the idea that dressing in a showy way is anything but modest, regardless of the amount of skin one shows. I do think it's modest, but it's a different sort of modesty. When I dress showily it's usually not seductively--but then, here I'm equating modesty with *how I feel*, not *how I'm probably perceived*, in the sense that when I say "seductively" it means *I feel seductive*, not that anyone on the street would look at me and think I was being sexually immodest, if that makes sense. "Modesty" can definitely be used for slut-shaming because of the externalization of modesty, which makes it problematic.

      And YES to the "conditional compliment." I always find smiling and saying "thank you" is the best way to handle it, but I also find that there's a certain sort of man who wants to believe nobody has ever told you you're beautiful before, like you're some rare and special flower only he can see. And saying "thank you" with a smile crushes that illusion.

    2. That "modesty" article is great!

      It's fascinating how subjective the whole idea of 'modest' dress is--- the clothes, piercings, and hair colors that are modest/acceptable in contrarykiwi's church would have gotten me in huuuuuge trouble with mine. To some extent, they did; I had five earrings until the LDS prophet announced that women shouldn't have more than two, and when I shaved my head... ... hoo boy.

      BUT! My uncovered head, knee-length shorts, and short-sleeved shirts could all have seemed scandalous to women from other faiths. More than once I've walked past a woman in a hijab or old-fashioned Mennonite dress and thought "Wait, does she think I'm sleazy?"

    3. It's funny how for something we think of as having "rules," modesty really is subjective. What is the end goal? To show that you think of yourself as a person of God, not of flesh? To not be vain and call attention to oneself? I think of the Hasidic Jewish women here who wear fitted knee-length skirts but cover their hair with wigs--that's definitely modest, but if you squint it's just sort of a retro fashion sense. Is that modest? Is that the point?

  3. I skipped down to this part due to the photo of the pile of makeup (it warmed my addicted heart):

    I toss out expired makeup, but sometimes it's hard to tell when something is truly expired. I've found the easiest products to tell are lip products. Glosses will start to go rancid after awhile, especially if they're in an open palette. I usually use up or give away foundations before they expire.

    The product I toss out most frequency is mascara. I replace mine every 3 months as directed by makeup artists. I figured since it's so close to my eyeballs, I'm not taking any risks!

    The expiration dates I most disagree with are those for eyeshadows. I think cream eyeshadows should be thrown out ever 2 years as directed because they're more prone to harboring bacteria. However, it makes NO sense to toss out powdered eyeshadows after 2 years. I barely make a dent in mine! My rule of thumb is as long as you don't want powdered eyeshadow and clean it semi-regularly, it's fine for up to 4 years.

    That was long.

    Maybe I should write a blog post about this. LOL

    1. Yes, write it up! I'm really bad about throwing stuff out, obvs, and I'm also the least germophobic person out there and so I probably use all sorts of products way past when I should. I'm about the function: I threw out some mascara and lipsticks recently because they really had just stopped working--the mascara wand was all clumpy and dull, the lipstick had somehow gone grainy. (Mind you, I've had this lipstick for 10 years, ha!) But yeah, eyeshadow? As long as you've got it!

  4. What a nice surprise to see my bob here!

    This weekend I actually spotted a new do on celebrity Cameron Diaz. She is on the cover of an InStle magazine (

    While short hair is the the typical and go-to style for beauty, attractiveness, and sex appeal, maybe there is hope of being outside the box?

    1. I absolutely think there's room for being out of the box with hair. I don't know if you saw this piece I wrote a ways back about the short hair-long hair thing, but in a nutshell: I think that the importance of long hair is actually overstated, having gone from very very long to very very short and seeing the varied reactions I got.

      Whatever the case, your bob looks awesome!

  5. Thanks! I will check out the article.