As my hairstyles changed, so did my outlook.
Society throws a fit when advertising perpetuates the idea that looks define a woman. Let’s face it girls: America is an appearance-based society. Yes, I am a woman who strongly agrees that physicality is of utmost importance. This is not a shallow perspective meant to spread the cycle of cookie-cutter cover models. It is quite the opposite. Admitting that looks matter makes it easier to embrace your own uniqueness.
I wanted to be a grown up. Like any little girl, I spent hours in front of the mirror practicing with curling tools of all shapes and sizes. Smoothed under. Flipped out. Hot rollers. Shirley Temple spirals. Loopy waves. Pin straight hair was my destiny, one that I chose not to accept.
I convinced myself that a perm was my magic wand to hair happiness. I would walk in a seventh-grader, but walk out a suave teenager. Two hours in the beauty chair would solve every problem. My hair would swish with each step like the Pantene Pro-V commercials, full of body and shine. Friends would stare in awe. Guys would relish tugging loose curls between their fingers.
Such were my expectations as I anxiously waited with my head full of plastic. The cosmetologist unwrapped each pink roller, revealing locks of hair wound as tight as a new Slinky. My nose stung with a chemical odor screaming of abnormality.
It looked worse. “It’ll loosen up in a month or two!” my mom encouraged.
My older brother wasn’t a fan of the subtle approach. “You look like a French Poodle. What did you do that for?” He barked at me and petted my hair at every opportunity.
At the time my mouth was also full of metal brackets linked with neon rubber bands. Glasses drew attention to unplucked eyebrows. My physique resembled a love for fettuccini alfredo more than any sports involvement.
Thirteen years old is not a shining memory.
The perm grew out after two years, much to everyone’s relief. I was determined to do anything necessary to save my high school hair fate from that of my middle school experience. I could only find courage to trim my hair for fear of living with another disaster through graduation. Leaving the house without blow drying was simply unacceptable. I woke up early in order to sculpt my extra-long locks into the silky curls the perm didn’t deliver.
I hit the treadmill, embraced marinara, and eventually lost the layer of pre-pubescent padding on my body. Contact lenses and tweezers became my friend. I divided the pictures of my life into stacks, scrapbooking the “cute” and destining the “other” pile to the basement dungeon.
I did everything expected of a seventeen year old.
My hair is as straight as ever now in college. I’m in remission from fear of scissors, playing around with layers and even – gasp! – bangs. I’ve mastered using a curling iron in a timely fashion, but it takes a special occasion to warrant its use. If you love me, you better love a ponytail. A nickname stuck as an ode to the Poodle look; I will be deemed “Frenchie” by my family well into middle age.
Physically, I took it down a notch. I was surprised to discover relief after years of obsessing about looks. I find it extremely ironic that I met my first boyfriend at the heaviest I’d ever been. That was a turning point of self-acceptance. He didn’t fall in love with my concept of a perfect image. He simply fell in love with me.
I’ve since lost the weight, but it wouldn’t kill me like it used to if a few pounds crept back. I laugh while showing my boyfriend the “other” set of pictures, now occupying a place inside the photo album.
At 21 years old, I’m still waiting to be a grown up. Once in awhile, I even whip out the glasses.
This is happiness.
by Laura Blythe
Girls today often have wrong ideas about modesty—what it means, what it entails, and why it’s so important a trait to posses. It seems many young women hear the word modesty and picture a woman dressed in a loose, long-sleeved dress that drags the floor and buttons just under the chin. The woman shows absolutely no skin or any hint of a figure.
But modesty, real modesty, is so much more than just the way we dress—it’s both a look and an attitude, and one real girls need to start emulating.
Modest In Our Dress
First of all, let me get this out there: in order to maintain your modesty, you do not need to dress like a pilgrim. Really. I promise, being modest does not mean sacrificing your fashion sense. There are plenty of fashionable clothes that do not reveal too much skin; you just might have to hunt for them a little harder. When it comes to clothes and modesty, there are just a few things to remember:
What kind of attention are you hoping to attract with what you wear? Are you trying to get the attention of men? This is not an inherently bad thing, but it is important to make sure that you are attracting the right type of attention and the right type of men. When your clothes are too revealing, too low, too tight or too short, it is likely that you will not receive the type of attention you desire from men. The focus should be on you and your wonderful personality, not on your body. So before you leave the house in the morning, double-check yourself in the mirror and imagine how you look to others.
Men are visual creatures. Not all men are, of course, but the good majority would say that they are. Today’s society is already sex saturated, and the majority of young men at my church will tell you that it is a struggle to avoid the feelings of lust and desire when sexuality is on parade everyday. As their friends, it is important that we do what we can to help them avoid temptation by ensuring that we are modest in a sea of immodesty.
Modest In Our Attitudes
Modesty is not just about covering up our bodies. Modesty is also an attitude. We must watch our tongues and our actions. When in mixed company, we should take care to watch what topics we will discuss and how in depth we will go. There are some topics that just aren’t appropriate for large groups, and some topics that can get out of hand easily. It is also imperative that we guard our actions. Take care to notice how you’re sitting around men, and how you act. Flirting is fun and perfectly acceptable in most situations, but watch how you flirt. Don’t use your charms to get what you want. Men are entranced by your beauty! Really, they are—try not to exploit this. Watch how you sit, how you lean over, and how you move.
You’ve been given an amazing gift with your beauty and your charms. It is crucial that as you realize the impact you can have on others, that you strive for modesty, not just in your dress, but in your actions as well.
A simple sticker can spread the word. A quick glance at a common STOP sign can boast the inspirational reminder. The free stickers and artist instillations that complete the “You are Beautiful” project spread the message of individual beauty.
The mini metallic reminders of personal beauty are available for everyone to display. Anyone can stick a “You are Beautiful” reminder on a near bus stop sign or bathroom mirror. The stickers are free, as you-are-beautiful.com outlines that “the goal of the project is to spread the message to as many individuals, and in as many places as possible, simply reminding them of their beauty.” To receive some of the precious message stickers, simply send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope to:
You Are Beautiful
PO Box #220175
Chicago, IL 60622
Downloadable stickers are also available for instant beauty. The message is one of human kindness and unity through such humanity. The worldwide message has spread from Greenwich Village to Hong Kong, and many places in between.
The “You are Beautiful” project hopes to inspire positive thoughts in all who read the simple, yet often overlooked statement. In a world overflowing with body image issues and unattainable perfection, “You are Beautiful” reminds both males and females of the unique beauty that everyone possesses. Seeing a “You are Beautiful” sticker can ignite a positive dialogue among friends or even a grand grin.
Galleries across the United States have featured instillations and exhibits that communicate the “You are Beautiful” message via unconventional art. With the help of inspired patrons and artists alike, the message continues to grow. Anyone can join the revolution of human kindness and love.
Ultimately, the “You are Beautiful” project is about respect. Respect others and in turn respect yourself. Join the movement of positive change and be a crusader for beauty.
All images from you-are-beautiful.com
by Lauren Foster
Are you plagued by frizzy, unruly hair? Do you spend countless hours coiffing your mane only to have all your efforts ruined as soon as you step outside? Well, a new beauty treatment designed to combat these issues is rapidly gaining popularity—especially in Hollywood. It is called the Brazilian Keratin Treatment (BKT) and celebrities such as Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Ashley Tisdale have promoted its effectiveness. The BKT process involves coating the hair in the keratin formula, blow drying the hair, and finally sealing it in with a flat iron. The keratin helps to strengthen and straighten your hair, while adding shine; sometimes called “liquid hair,” the formula essentially is comprised of proteins that are intended to fortify your strands. So, you are just one blow-dry away from gorgeous, wash-and-wear hair; all you must do is coat your hair in strength-building proteins…and formaldehyde.
Yes, formaldehyde—a toxic chemical used to embalm corpses in order to preserve them. Experts believe that formaldehyde is dangerous; the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it “a probable carcinogen,” yet it can be found in several cosmetics such as nail polish, lipstick—and now, the BKT. Research indicates that the inhalation of formaldehyde is a probable contributor to nasopharyngeal cancer. It is advised that when getting the BKT done, both the stylist and the customer wear masks to protect themselves. Also, the procedure should be done in a well-ventilated room with a fan turned on. Even with these precautions, many customers complain of the smell, dizziness, and burning, watery eyes—as these are common reactions to formaldehyde exposure. For stylists, safety is of extreme interest since they will be the ones frequently exposed to the fumes on a day-to-day basis, while a patron will only be exposed about every four months or so—the amount of time it takes for the BKT’s effects to wear off. However, there is also concern about how harmful having formaldehyde sitting on top of your head for four months could be.
Still, some claim the treatment is safe. Supporters of the BKT point to the fact that many of the solutions contain less than .2 percent formaldehyde, which according to The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group of doctors and scientists that review ingredients and recommend safety standards in cosmetics, is considered a safe amount. However, random testing done by Allure Magazine to test the dangers of BKT revealed that many of the solutions contained “at least ten times more formaldehyde than the .2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. The FDA doesn’t currently regulate cosmetics, but they are investigating the safety of these treatments.” So, if you’re considering getting this treatment done, it is important to ask your trained technician about the percentage of formaldehyde in the formula.
In response to the growing concern over the health risks, many companies, such as Coppola and Global Keratin, have put out formaldehyde-free versions of the formulas. The downside to these formulas is that they don’t last as long, since the formaldehyde is a key agent in both straightening the hair and keeping the keratin in place. This is a potential issue considering the cost of the treatment can range from $150 to $600—a lot of money to be shelling out every few weeks. On the other hand, the effects are similar to the solutions with formaldehyde and it is a healthier alternative. Just remember to do your research on these formaldehyde-free products because oftentimes the companies may have just substituted the formaldehyde with Analydehyde, which can be equally as dangerous.
Despite the risks, if you still decide to get the BKT done, please know that it requires special care. Depending on the formula used, you may be required to go four days with out washing your hair, though some allow you to wash the next day. Also, you are not advised to tuck your hair behind your ears or use any types of clips, headbands, or hair ties. Another rule is that you may not use shampoo that contains sodium chloride, since this will strip the hair of the treatment. There is also some bad news for those individuals that exercise frequently—sweat will make the BKT wear off at a more rapid pace. Finally, it is recommended that you stay away from chlorinated pools and salt water because these also will make the results fade quicker.
Though the promise of a healthy, sleek, and shiny head of hair may sound alluring, the reality is that the Brazilian Keratin Treatment contains a carcinogenic agent and is not regulated by the FDA. These facts affirm that caution is required when making the decision whether or not to have the treatment done. With the plausible health risks, plus the expense and after-care routine, the BKT may be more of a hassle than it’s worth; skip this procedure and save yourself a headache—and not just from the fumes!
By Katelyn Stark
Like most woman in America, I grew up believing that my body wasn’t good enough. I was never skinny enough, didn’t have the right curves in the right places, I didn’t have nice enough skin, or the right kid of hair.
It even got to the point where I would compare the shape and size of my nails to other girls. That is just sad, right?
Well, unfortunately, my kind of obsessing is a normal occurrence among young – and not so young – girls today.
It also did not help that I had two sisters who are incredibly beautiful, and in my own then skewed opinion, the perfect kind of skinny. My mom always told me not to compare myself to them and that I was my own kind of beautiful. However, the diets and work-out plans my parents put me through did not contribute positively to my self-esteem. I became obsessive and incredibly insecure about my body. I remember being in fourth grade and not allowing people to take pictures of me in a bathing suit. Even as a child, I had a very unhealthy view of body image.
So as a woman, where is the line between unhealthy insecurities and obtaining a positive view of one’s body? I am completely aware that I am still unable to fully answer that question, but I know from experience that there comes a point where I had to stop hating myself in the mirror and step off the scale. I learned that one’s weight is just a number, and a number that I can no longer view as essential to my being.
I had to change my view about food, and it had to become something that could help me re-shape my body, instead of it being the enemy.
Body image is all about choices. A woman needs to choose to accept her body, or continue the constant battle of not being good enough. It is a very hard lesson to learn, but through out my late teen years God has showed me that He gave me this body. He has given me curves that are not in the right places, an imperfect type of skin, wild and crazy hair, and short nails that always break. He gave me this body, and I need to take care of it because to Him, it is perfect. I am perfect before the Lord.
As women, we need to choose to take control of this battle. Body image is not just how we view ourselves, but how we also take care of ourselves.
Maintaining good hygiene and good eating habits are important. I also recommend a decent amount of exercising; not to reach ‘the perfect kind of skinny,’ but to keep the bodies that our Lord gave us healthy.
When we learn to take care of ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God, we learn to love ourselves inside and out, the way He loves us. We are His creation.
By Amy Marturana
It’s mid February in upstate New York. It has either rained or snowed every day for the past three weeks, and it seems like the last time I saw the sun it was August. I wake up, wash my face, brush my teeth, take a long, hard stare in the mirror, and cringe at my pallor. After loading on bronzer, I am still unsatisfied, and I know all my Italian ancestors would roll over in their graves if they had one look at my pasty skin. I sigh in dissatisfaction as I put on three layers of clothing and my down feather North Face parka and head to class.
I stop at Dunkin’ Donuts in the student center, and I see the oddest thing: a group of five girls, all chatting away over a cup of coffee, stripped of their coats and scarves, and each one beautifully bronzed. How?! Either they all just got back from a weekend in Bermuda, or they know of a place in Syracuse, New York where the sun actually does shine during the winter.
I later learn of the third, and correct, option: Garbo’s. Garbo’s is the tanning salon right off campus, and I come to find that its name gets mentioned quite often among the female population at my school.
I have to admit; I can see why they fake bake. By mid-February, I myself began to feel some seasonal depression.
However, I refrain from visiting the tanning salon.
I had always been taught how unhealthy it is to tan in a tanning bed. My parents never let me go, and when I was old enough to go on my own, my mom told me she did not support it and that if I wanted to go I had to use my own money. I decided it was necessary to go before junior prom; after all, I was wearing a bright yellow dress! Plus, all of my friends were going, so I had to keep up. I paid for a month of tanning, which only cost me $20. I tan very quickly, so I decided I only needed to go for about two weeks. After visiting the tanning booth only three times, I noticed a blotchy tan on my legs, and immediately stopped going. In my fear, I decided the tanning salon was not the place for me, and changed my method to self-tanner.
The tanning salon did not work out for me, but there are plenty of girls who go and have great experiences.
Layne Adams, a sophomore at Canisius College, has been going to the tanning salon since freshman year of high school.
“I basically sign up every winter for two weeks. My experience with the good ole tanning bed has been a good one.”
Leigh Ann Guglielmi, a sophomore at Kutztown University, says, “I go tanning because you always look better tan.”
And it seems that every girl I have talked to who goes tanning, goes so that she will feel better about the way she looks.
“I go tanning because I am Italian and people tend to stereotype me as needing to be tan and when I am white I look dead because my hair is so dark,” Olivia Barbieri, a sophomore at Western Connecticut State University said.
Christie McCarthy, a sophomore at Syracuse University, says she usually goes tanning before a special occasion, but she does also go a few times in the winter.
“I just think a little bit of color makes me look healthy. I’ve used a bunch of self tanning products but during the winter a few minutes in the tanning bed usually gets rid of the gross ashy color my skin gets,” she says.
A lot of girls are like Christie, and tan artificially before proms or other special occasions.
Another motivation to visit a tanning salon among college-aged girls is to get a base tan before braving the real sun, to prevent sunburn.
Olivia Perez, a sophomore at Syracuse University, went tanning before her spring break trip to Puerto Rico, even though she has a skin disease that makes her very susceptible to melanoma. “My skin condition’s called vitiligo. Vitiligo is where there is no skin pigmentation, which pretty much makes UVA and UVB penetrate real easily.” Olivia doesn’t make a habit out of fake baking because of the health risk, but she notes that the tanning bed has the ability to lift her spirits.
“I was able to walk into the bed pissed off or something and come out in a good mood. Something about endorphins.”
There are many reasons for us to visit the tanning salon, but there are also many reasons why we shouldn’t. All the girls who told me they love tanning ended their tanning tales with some statement regarding the fact that they know it’s bad for them, so that’s why they try to go infrequently.
Let’s be serious, if the risks weren’t there, wouldn’t we all be tanning bed junkies? Who doesn’t love being tan?
The World Health Organization provides information on tanning beds and UV exposure, highlighting the dangers of tanning beds. The WHO recognizes skin cancer, skin ageing, and eye damage as the health risks associated with tanning.
The Organization states: “As with sun exposure, recent studies indicate a relationship between the use of sunbeds and malignant melanoma as well as non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous and basal cell carcinomas. Thus, the consequences of regular sunbed use may include disfigurement from removal of skin cancers, early death if the cancer is a malignant melanoma, as well as substantial costs to national health systems for screening, treating and monitoring skin cancer patients.”
And it seems that the risk of developing skin cancer keeps a lot of people from hitting the tanning beds.
Lauren Mickle, a sophomore at West Virginia University, says that she used to go tanning but stopped because she realized that skin cancer runs in her family, and she does not want to increase her risk of getting it.
Catie Neumann, a sophomore at Lafayette College, similarly says, “Skin cancer runs in my family so I don’t really want to take the risk even if I go only a few times.”
Another adverse effect of tanning beds that the WHO cites is something called photoageing.
“Photoageing includes wrinkling and loss of skin elasticity. It is generally irreversible without cosmetic surgery.”
This is the side effect that a lot of girls do not think about right away, since the ugly results come later in life. We think about being tan now; we can deal with being wrinkly a couple decades from now when the time comes.
Layne Adams is aware of this side effect, but like most girls, doesn’t think much of it since the effects aren’t immediate.
“I’ll look like a leather bag by the time I’m 25,” she jokes. But the desire to be bronzed controls her better judgment.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Laura Hills, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, who has never gone tanning at a tanning salon. She uses the highest SPF sunscreen she can find when laying outside in the sun.
“As much as I want to be tan and think I look better tan, all the old ladies at the beach with the spots & the saggy skin freak me out,” she says.
The Organization also lists the damage that UV rays can do to the eyes. However, tanning salons in the U.S. require goggles to be worn so that the eyes are protected from the UV radiation.
The World Health Organization also addresses the common belief that a base tan will prevent burning in the actual sun.
“It has been estimated that a sunbed tan offers the same protective effect as using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of only 2-3,” states the WHO.
Maybe the “base tan theory” isn’t as valid as some girls think it is. But then again, health findings seem to say that artificially tanning for any reason may not be worth the health risks.
So now the question arises: how can we be bronzed beauties without damaging our skin?Catie Neumann doesn’t let her fear of skin cancer stop her from having glowing skin; she is a firm believer in spray tans and tanning lotion.
A lot of girls are discovering the beauty of spray tans. The downfall is they can be expensive for a really good one, but you definitely pay for what you get. The best place to get a spray tan is at a salon where they do it by hand so that it is precisely the shade you want, and streak-free.
Tanning lotions can be difficult to master, but again, the trick is finding a good one that doesn’t leave you orange and splotchy. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer is my favorite, and I have found that a lot of other girls use it as their self-tanner of choice. After my short stint with the tanning bed, I started using it because a friend recommended it to me. I was always afraid of turning orange because I had friends who made very big messes of themselves with self-tanners. I decided to take the plunge, and I fell in love!
The other key to self-tanner is applying it correctly. Clean skin, freshly exfoliated, use sparingly on the elbows, ankles, knees, and between fingers and toes. However, the best tanning lotions on the market are moisturizers that give you a gradual tan, so you don’t have to apply it at a certain angle and time of day just to avoid turning pumpkin-colored.
Personally, I am content with some old-fashioned natural sunlight. A little self-tanning lotion in the dead of winter, and I’m good to go.
But could it be true that everything really is good in moderation? I am no health expert, but from everything I have ever read and been told, tanning beds are never necessarily healthy.
Trust me, I understand the need to be tanned just as much as the next girl, but we’ve got options ladies. The results from sprays and lotions may not be exactly the same as the tan you could get from a tanning bed, but if you change up your tanning regimen, your skin will thank you in the future for not using and abusing it.