THE TWIN TOWERS OF BEAUTY AND INSECURITIES by Josephine Awuah-Dapaah

Your first gentle cry lit up a room, and mama, although unsure of her world with you, clad and cradled you delicately in her arms. When you are that young, your innocence is as pure as snow, your soul is joyful, unscathed, and your witty smile, enchanting. Very soon, you’re thirteen and aware. Society preys on you with all of its chaotic biases, constructs, and crazy stereotypes. Beauty is no longer undemanding and pledges to be ridiculously priced.

The thing is, beauty standards may never go extinct. Ancient Egyptians celebrated the concept of beauty in the most fascinating way. To them, the use of cosmetics wasn’t merely a necessary beauty routine but an emblem of a spiritual and symbolic regimen that they could never live without. They unarguably established much of what is considered the beauty ideals of today.

From the breathtaking shores of Sao Paulo to the beautiful city of Seoul, men and women around the world contribute to building the world’s most perverse yet flourishing industry. The global beauty industry is estimated at a whopping $551 billion, with 98% of beauty brands active on social media. This is not surprising because social media has become a convenient tool used to reach people from all walks of life. The problem, however, is that this has heightened the rate at which influencers push brands without seemingly testing their authenticity, value base, or effectiveness. Social media trends are undeniably catchy, and beauty influencers have hacked this.

Beauty brands understand that when they manufacture and sell their products they control the standard. At first, having big lips and big butts, especially in the western world was deemed ugly. In fact, some black women were mocked for having those features. You just had to be thin, your face flawless without acne and your hair had to be straightened and not nappy. No wonder the emergence of body-positive movements consistently hammer on the essence of self-love because it has become overtly evident that insecurity is the weapon that drives production and sales, social media, the catalyst.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, approximately $16.7 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures with liposuction being its top procedure in 2020. South Korea is still the plastic surgery capital of the world with its beauty standards currently influenced by KPOP stars. These stars are usually as thin as Victoria’s Secret models, with flawless skin.

With the rate at which celebrities strive to maintain media attention and status, it is no news that they are one of the strongest links in influencer marketing. They use different cosmetic products; get nose jobs, facelifts, and other body modifications to look perfect. Popular celebrities like Kim Kardashian have influenced the Brazilian Butt Lift culture. These celebrities don’t just get these surgeries; they pay the paparazzi to ensure that their pictures are airbrushed. Despite these, even in music videos, their bodies are meticulously edited and modified for public appeal.

On the Ghanaian market, there are too many harmful cosmetic products sold to compensate for the gap created due to lack of funds, consumer wants, and the sluggishly low number of trained plastic and cosmetic surgeons. The Food and Drugs Authority has educated and cautioned the public on how dangerous it is to use products containing mercury, hydroquinone, and steroids. These cosmetic products are serious violations of the Standard Authority Act, 1973 (N.R.C.D 173) as well as Section 111 (c), 113 (b) of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 85, yet they remain on the market. They also warn that these products could lead to skin cancer, kidney failure, numbness, high blood pressure, and so on.

A small section of Ghanaians also rely on the use of glutathione pills and injectable drugs to reduce their melanin pigmentation. These are very expensive as an individual would have to pay as high as 1,500 or 3,000 cedis per session. Cosmetic and Plastic surgery in Ghana isn’t as popular as the bleaching menace, but it’s quietly gaining some traction.

The beauty industry still remains a dangerously unchecked industry that exploits the imperfections of many through the packaging of perfection in exchange for cash. If there’s only one ideal look then many would have to modify themselves; preaching diversity and representation would be chaotic. To be yourself, you’d have to suffer.
Maybe what we truly need is soul surgery. If nobody watched you or saw you, would you still want to change the way you look? Self-evaluation is key. Trends never end and beauty standards will change consistently and so I agree with what the body positive movement says, love yourself.