The Crazy Things We Do for Beauty

We’ve been talking on my blog about feeling beautiful — with guest posters talking about what that means, attitudes we should adopt, and practical tips to feel more beautiful. Today I want to get a little lighthearted and dig into the humor of beauty.

Yes, the humor of beauty.

Because ladies, throughout history and various cultures, we gals have done a lot of crazy things for the sake of beauty.

The Crazy Things We Do For Beauty

Skin care and make-up. Um, yeah, that’s a picture of me — last night. In my defense, the clay mask was a free sample. Even more impressive, however, was my son walking into the room where I was reading and not even batting an eye. But yes, I did it all for the sake of beauty, or at least for better skin.

Taking care of your skin is a good idea generally, but we wives can go to great lengths with skin care and makeup. The United States cosmetic industry is estimated to bring in over $60 billion this year. That’s a lot of blush and mascara, y’all.

By the way, think about the ingredients we put on our faces. No, there isn’t any truth to the “bat guano in mascara” rumor, but the reality isn’t exactly comforting — cosmetics often use an ingredient made from fish scales. Throughout history, women have used such components as lead, copper, egg, ash, iron, butter, sheep fat, and arsenic. No wonder there’s been an upsurge in cosmetics that boast natural, organic, and pure ingredients.

I don’t think you need to freak out about what’s in your moisturizer or your makeup drawer. The issue I want to highlight is that skin care and makeup should be enhancing who you are, not covering up the authentic you. We shouldn’t aim to look like Cleopatra or a Kardashian. Let’s keep it real, ladies.

Shaving. Cultures vary on what women shave, from nothing to armpits to legs. I still recall the moment as a preteen when my siblings complained about my legs and informed my mother it was time for me to pick up a razor. And thus it began . . .

If you think about it, it’s a wonder any woman picks up a blade, scraps it across the taut skin over her leg bone, and survives. If you go the shaving route, you’d better have a great razor, surgeon-like skills, or a box of Band-aids nearby. I rarely cut myself these days, but over the years I might have nicked and sliced off enough skin tissue to make a whole other me.

For myself, if I’m ever a gazillionaire, I’m checking out that laser hair removal procedure. I have a friend who did it and swears by the results. No more armpit shaving for her!

Waxing. If shaving gives anyone the shivers, just wait until you think deeply about what waxing involves. I can just imagine that moment of a 13th century woman time-traveling to our era and landing right outside a waxing salon. She asks what it all means, and I explain that we take sensitive areas of our body, allow hot wax to be poured on, then someone rips the wax off — taking along with it unwanted body hair. That poor girl might think we’d perfected medieval torture in our era.

That said, I know many wives who feel better about their bodies because they can turn a unibrow into two brows, remove a how-is-this-faIr? mustache, and wear a swimsuit without worrying about being mistaken for a she-ape. It’s a personal choice, of course. But it’s more dedication to body beauty than I’ve had thus far.

By the way, if you have nerves of steel, check out threading.

Piercing. I’ve often wondered who was the first woman who said to herself, “You know what would make me prettier? If I took this needle, stabbed it through my skin, and then dangled jewelry from the hole. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

Ladies have pierced everything from ear lobes to noses to belly buttons to eyebrows to places I can’t even mention (and make me cringe at the thought). What we pierce has everything to do with culture. For instance, the Bible mentions women wearing nose rings, with Rebecca receiving them as a gift and enticement to marry Isaac (“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms” Genesis 24:47b).

Some places on your body seem more amenable to piercing than others. If the thought of it makes most of us wince, maybe you should reconsider.

Undergarments. I remember when the “Wonderbra” came out, promising to make every woman’s mammaries into amazing cleavage that rocked the world. Since then, we’ve seen the introduction of thongs to avoid panty lines, body-shapers, and butt-enhancing underwear.

In the past, there were corsets, girdles, petticoats, and bustles. Anyone else remember the famous movie scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett O’Hara’s maid was wrestling her waist toward a 18½-inch diameter? Makes a pair of Spanx look like comfy pajamas.

As much as I want to roll my eyes at the undergarment industry at times, I’m actually in favor of taking some extra care choosing underthings that make a gal pretty. You don’t have to go overboard with a undergarments that make you feel like you’re in traction. But finding things that emphasize your assets and downplay your not-so-lovelies can make a wife feel more beautiful about her body.

For instance, I recently changed the style of undies I wear, based on this video tutorial from Her Room. And women are notorious for wearing the wrong bra size, so figure that out. (Video links are NSFW and for women only!)

What does the Bible think about all this? Is any of it way too far?

The Bible talks favorably about some beauty tactics. For instance, God analogizes His relationship to Israel by referring to His people as a bride, and then says: “I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck,  and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (Ezekiel 16:9-12). Obviously, adornment and beauty practices were just fine with God there. And Queen Esther endured “twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics” as part of gaining her crown and access to save her people (Esther 2:12).

But the next section in Ezekiel points out: “But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his” (16:13). Ouch, that hurts. And outer beauty is not all that got Esther her coveted position. She received the king’s favor again and again, for her demeanor with him as well.

Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” And the apostle Peter reminds us: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Most beauty measures I’d have a hard time defining as morally wrong. But some are unwise.

Make sure your steps are to put your best foot forward — that is, beauty tactics that make you feel confident about the beauty God already made you to be. Remembering all the while that what matters most is the woman you are inside — a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.

“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty.” – Psalm 45:11a

30 thoughts on “The Crazy Things We Do for Beauty

  1. Ham

    I recall reading years ago in what I believe was “The Mother Earth News,” of all places, that Catholic nuns as a group had the best looking facial skin, because they generally didn’t use any kind of makeup or lotion or anything.

    Reply
  2. libl

    I have an acquaintance who makes all natural cosmetics using historical recipes. She avoids lead, though. Lol!

    Read Victorian Secrets by Sarah Christman. She explains corsets and how they weren’t torture devices and the myths, including bedpost silliness. I want to corset, but hubby says no.

    Historically, upper class women practiced hair removal. Ever notice the absence of pubic hair in classical paintings?

    It goes to show there’s nothing new under the sun and thank God we aren’t putting rings around our necks. Discs in our lips or binding our feet.

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  3. nylse

    Its not all crazy – threading is wonderful; clay masks are deep cleansing; moisturizing is necessary so you dont get that worn leather look; i’ve never had the need to shave my legs so I guess I’m lucky in that regard.; you didn’t mention manicures and pedicures but dead skin removal on the feet does a world of good; I dont think Esther endured her beauty rituals as if it was a hardship for her; I think it was part of her culture and possibly something she looked forward to. Anyhow all these rituals should enhance not become idols.

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    1. Ham

      Well, Keelie, I can understand how you feel about Brazilian waxings. Pouring melted wax over any section of your body hair and then ripping the wax off, taking the hair with it by the roots is serious! But a lot of women do it, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s not just to please their husbands with that “nude look.” I encouraged my wife to try it because I thought it might enhance her experience of oral sex, and I was right! She’s a believer in waxing now. I like it, too. I liked the look of the hair and the feel of it, but the texture of it in my mouth had been just a means to an end of satisfying my wife. It’s better now. And she says it wasn’t nearly as painful as she’d imagined. She didn’t scream or shed any tears. A good salon, like European Wax Center, has what they call “calming cream,” which helps deaden the experience a little bit.

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      1. J Post author

        Still not happening for me. But you make a good case, Ham! (Are you “manscaping” for her? Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.)

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        1. libl

          I shave “there” bare. I did it before I met hubby because I hate pubic hair on me. Loathe it! But, I do NOT want hubby to manscape. Just because I go bald doesn’t mean he has to. He loves my bald look, I love his hairy. But ultimately, it is my choice and I shave for me, not him.

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    2. a. nony

      I’ve never gotten one, but I’m giving it a go the morning of my wedding! If we both like it, I reckon I’ll stick with it. Fortunately the growing trend now is what’s called a “full-bush Brazilian” where the waxer leaves behind everything “on top” and only removes the hair on the sides and underneath.

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      1. Meredith

        Congratulations on the wedding. But can I beg you to NOT try waxing for the first time on the day of? The last thing you want is a rash and high sensitivity (not in a good way) the whole day. And if you’re going anywhere with sand afterwards? Ouchie ouchie ouch. Give it a trial run a month before!

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      2. alchemist

        You may want to reconsider the morning of if it’s your first time doing that. What if you’re allergic to something??

        A week before, or a less extreme waxing even further in advance might be advisable. Just to make sure you don’t have an unexpected allergy.

        Reply
        1. a. nony

          Haha, I should have mentioned, I’ve done it before myself! I know how to deal with the post-wax bumps (cheap Stridex pads in the red box, if you can believe it, are awesome for fending off or healing razor burn or post-waxing bumps) and it honestly doesn’t hurt, I just wanted to go to a pro for my wedding day! 🙂

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      3. Ham

        Dear a.nony:

        Wife saw this and says don’t do this the morning of your wedding. Do it three or four days before, because you will be tender and sensitive, not in a good way, that first day or two, which would not be at all ideal for the consummation of your marriage. Just sayin’

        Note to J:

        Yes, I keep my own stuff shaved and the surrounding area neatly trimmed. If a husband wishes to receive as well as to give, and what guy doesn’t, shouldn’t he try to make himself as presentable as possible?

        Reply
  4. Brittany

    When I was younger I would not leave the house without my hair and make up being done, and being dressed in nice clothes. Nowadays I throw my hair up into a ponytail call it good and really only put make up on if I’m going somewhere other than work. If I am not at work I usually wear a tee shirt and yoga pants, presentable and comfortable. Looks are only skin deep. True beauty come from within 🙂

    Reply
  5. Lynn

    I’m very fortunate because, though I am not an objectively beautiful or particularly attractive woman, plus I am grey-haired and overweight, my husband makes me feel beautiful because I am beautiful to him. Did you ever see a movie called ‘The Enchanted Cottage’? Pure romance – an ugly woman and a disfigured man marry and they find that when they are in their cottage together, they are beautiful/handsome.

    I hadn’t read your lingerie post from 2014, just read it now, and I want to share: last week, on a whim, I came into our bedroom wrapped in a long, semitransparent fringed scarf that I bought fo r$10 at Charming Charlie’s, and I just played with it a bit, Well, the reaction from my husband outdid anything my much more expensive lingerie could do!

    You are absolutely right when you say, we need to believe our husbands when they tell/show us we are beautiful. (As I often tell my husband, ‘Well, I’m the best you could get.’)

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      So I finally got to go look at these. I read a few, and wow, you’re funny! Enjoyed the reads. Thanks!

      Reply
  6. a. nony

    OH and also! Nerdy history time: 13th-century Middle Eastern and South Asian women probably would have seen someone getting a wax and said, “You’re doing it all wrong!” Sugar-waxing has been around for a couple THOUSAND years at least, so those women would have been experts! 🙂

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  7. susan in st louis

    What about high heels?? They are awful for our alignment, bone density, pelvic floor, and more…and yet, we women have such a hard time giving them up!

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  8. alchemist

    I really want a corset. It should not be uncomfortable. According to my research, it should feel like a hug 🙂 Some people even say it helps with posture and anxiety. I don’t want to waist train. I’ve seen a girl with an 18 inch waist. That’s a bit extreme for me. I just want a nice, properly constructed overbust corset. Why? Cause I like the aesthetic.

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    1. Lynn

      I have two fancy corsets, and have even worn them (over a blouse) to go out to dinner or to a play. It’s not necessary to lace them tightly, and you still get that nice ‘line’. My husband loves them.

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    2. Eric

      My wife gladly tossed her corsets into file #13 shortly after we got married, at my request. She’d been wearing them because she was embarrassed at having an hourglass figure with more than half the sand on the bottom half. But she did find them uncomfortable. And I found that hugging her there was like hugging a tire. No fun at all.

      Eric

      Reply
  9. e2

    All the recent posts about beauty got me thinking. As a man, I find a real difference between being beautiful and being attractive. I know many women whom I consider beautiful who are not at all attractive and many women I find attractive that I would not consider beautiful (at least as the beauty industry defines beauty).

    Reply
  10. Anne

    Live the post but Just a minor point concerning biblical interpretation. Just because an action is noted in the bible does not mean it is endorsed. There are many examples but your mention of Esther stood out to me. Esther was by all accounts just a teenager, caught up in an ungodly patriarchal society, and forcibly summoned to be used sexually by a pagan King. We know God’s bigger story and providence was the preservation of his people in the midst of difficult circumstances. But I wouldn’t take her 12 months of treatments as any endorsement. It’s not like she had a choice about much of anything in her life, which makes her courageous obedience to God very beautiful.

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  11. IntimacySeeker

    Sadly most products are marketed as items that will magically fix something that is WRONG with us (eyelashes too short, breasts no longer firm, skin tone uneven, etc.) I appreciate your statement that we should use products to enhance who we are, not cover us up. Media teach us that a woman’s worth is based on her physical appearance and only her physical appearance. Even though we know better, we are influenced daily by media and their persistent, powerful messages. Imagine if women spent more on education and making a difference in the world than on cosmetics and such.

    Reply

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