Beauty as a Virtue: tips from a beauty junkie

Pagan Blog Project 2013 Week 4: Beauty as a personal practice.  

So, last week I explored what it means to recognize beauty and hold beauty as a virtue.  Holding beauty as a virtue or something with inherent good means looking for, recognizing, and respecting it in your life and the world.  Beauty can also be a practice: both the practice to look for, see, and create beauty but also a practice to be pleasing to the gods.  For me, a part of worshiping Aphrodite (or really any deity I think this could apply) is taking pride in my appearance.  So, because it’s cold and I’m lacking anything else to talk about this week – and birch tree lore has been done to death it seems – I’m going to talk about simple natural beauty rituals and tricks and some not-so-natural beauty tips I prefer.

I believe that one can be both beautiful and not fit into society’s standard ideas of beauty.  It’s not so much about fitting in with the trends and whatever – I mean, I love a good trend when it suits me.  For example, I am totally rocking this neon color thing until it fades and is incredibly gauche to wear it – and even then, you might still catch me wearing neon pink.  Whatever trend you love, and you feel confident in, go with it.  If you like me are aghast at this resurgence of 80’s fashion and won’t be caught dead wearing a boxy sweater and leggings, awesome – feel free to ignore whatever doesn’t suit you.  Real beauty, and real “style” is about confidence and feeling good about yourself.  If wearing a full face of makeup makes you happy and you like how it looks go for it; and if you hate wearing makeup and can’t think of anything worse than putting on makeup every morning don’t: but please understand both are valid expressions of feminism, beauty, self-esteem, self-love, and fashion.  Taking pride in your appearance is, in my opinion, a virtue and I think important to self-esteem and self-care.  How you manifest the idea of taking pride in your appearance is your own personal choice – as feminists I believe we need to work on respecting all of our peers choices in this area.

One thing though that’s important across the board I think is skin care.  Skin care is the basis of all “beauty” regimes because if you wear makeup, your skin is your canvass.  If you’re against makeup, having “good” skin is important to health – many traditional medicine practitioners judge overall health by observing the skin.  So, skin care is both healthy and a part of taking pride in yourself. Now, I’ll also say that SOME skin care products, especially acne products, while they make be effective at changing tone, texture, and appearance of the skin do not always actually improve skin health they simply mask problems.  So it’s important to read labels and know what the active ingredients actually do, one of the big name acne products’ advertised heavily (and it’s quite expensive) has hydrogen peroxide as the main active ingredient.  Now, if you apply hydrogen peroxide to your face daily yes your acne will dry up and the skin’s appearance will improve BUT it will also dry your skin out excessively and unless one is very young, in the long run this may cause more problems with dryness, premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles (which in my opinion there really isn’t anything wrong with in due time: your 20s may not be the time for that).  Tips behind the cut.

1.) Wash your face before you go to bed!  It’s simple really but not washing your face before sleep impairs your body’s ability to repair your skin, leads to acne, and over time increases aging.

2.)  Extractions: learn to do them.  It’s not difficult really, get yourself an extractor, make a steam bowl, take a hot bath or long shower, grab a mirror and remove blackheads and whiteheads.  It’s gross I know but everyone gets them, getting the gunk out of your pores not only removes and prevents blackhead formation but also over time minimizes your pore size. (This works because the longer the “gunk” sits in there and blocks the pores the more it stretches your pores out, larger pores mean more gunk has a chance to collect, gunk stretches…. it’s a vicious cycle.)  I do extractions every week and a half, or sometimes sooner because actually it can be strangely therapeutic.  I would recommend seeing a professional esthetician or dermatologist for mila (white heads near the eye area) or any pimples or cysts that don’t come to a head.

3.)  Food is the best medicine – for both what ails you and your skin.  I have had great success with the health of my skin and hair following the Ayurvedic diet* for my dosha (which you can self-diagnose thru some places online but also feel free to see an Ayurvedic practitioner).  Now, this worked great for me but there is a lot of information out there about healthy skin diets.  I can also personally recommend Dr. Jessica Wu’s Feed Your Face Diet book for more information which talks about the benefits of eating low on the glycemic index.  My real take away from this book are spikes in blood sugar are bad for you – and also increase signs of aging in the skin and if you want to lay in the sun eat cooked tomatoes afterwards!

4.)  Exfoliate!  More if you’re younger, less if you’re older, experiment to find what works best for you.  I exfoliate every other day.  Also, when you exfoliate I recommend chemicals or rounded, even exfoliators.  This is one area where natural skin care products lose my vote: if when you are rubbing the product around (like a very popular fruit pitt scrub) feels like it’s scratching you STOP.  First and foremost, you may be rubbing too hard.  Second, if it feels like it’s scratching you: it probably is and if you don’t see the marks with your naked eye it could be microscopic damage – which can create scar tissue on your face and pretty much I think everyone agrees that is not ideal.

5.) Not *everyone* needs a moisturizer, but most people do – even if you have oily skin.   If you have oily skin I know it’s tempting to say “my skin is oily enough, I don’t need a moisturizer” but actually, many people classify their skin as oily when actually their skin is not oily because of genetics but increased oil production is from improper skin care.  Over use of harsh cleansers (like those marketed to youth for acne) can actually increase your skin’s sebum (oil basically) production – to mitigate these effects, use a moisturizer so your skin won’t freak out and overcompensate – and also, look into changing your cleanser.

6.)  Skin care changes with age: what works for you now may not work in five years and probably won’t work in a decade.  Additionally, skin care changes with the seasons: many people notice dryer skin the winter and it becomes necessary to protect delicate skin like the lips from the dry cold air outside.  Whenever you see a problem pop up, re-access your skin care regime first.

7.)  Anti-aging products are not magic – they work best as PREVENTION not as correctives.  So if aging is something you’re worried about: wear sunscreen and address other issues before they are a “problem” since turning 25 I use an eye cream. (Most of which ARE just moisturizer but formulated to be lighter for the delicate eye area, I would not recommend using heavy facial moisturizer on the eye area unless you like the look of milia!)  For the record, a really great moisturizer will also do wonders in reducing fine lines and signs of aging.

8.)  Don’t mix AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic acid) or BHA (like salicyclic acid) with retinoids.  From experience I can tell you this burns and may result in redness.  Science says it diminishes the effectiveness of these chemicals.  All three chemicals are used in anti-aging products.  Retinoids also increase sun sensitivity so many dermatologists recommend using retinoids at night and AHAs in the daytime, this is what I do but I use retinoids only every other night.

9.)  Be gentle on the earth, look for quality products that are fairly toxin free (good for you and good for the environment) and go easy on products with a lot of packaging. I love Lush for their lack of packaging but also have some awesome fairly local-made soap manufacturers.  I am a huge fan of body butter bars.

10.) I am not a fan of this no-poo and DIY natural homemade beauty.  Some things are great.  I was really into it in my teens.  I swear to you I would mix up a mask out of any kitchen ingredients, I’ve tried oil cleansing, no-poo, and almost every other crazy ass trend you can think of (not because I “have” to I actually think this is fun). I am here to tell you though for the most part, the results just weren’t up to snuff.  No-poo advocates occasionally recommend using apple cider vinegar and baking soda on your hair – which is bad m’kay?  Natural homemade lip balms rely on beeswax (which protects lips from the elements but will not penetrate the skin to add any lost moisture/won’t fix chapped lips) and heavy butters – which give me the most unsightly blackheads around my lip line…  Basically, after trial and error, I’m throwing in the towel on this kind of thing.  I did it a few years ago and you know what?  I haven’t looked back: I look great, my skin feels great – I don’t regret it at all.
The only “natural” beauty trend I am a fan of is not using antiperspirants (does that mean you will be wet: well yes, but I layer with powder and have no shame in stripping down in a public restroom to reapply in the summertime) and natural deodorants.  Underarms are sensitive areas with delicate skin, for sure they absorb more toxins than say your legs or arms.  The Body Shop, Lush, and Lavanila make good toxin-free natural deodorants that have worked well for me.

*For the record, I am not a fan of Dr. Oz it just so happened I liked this article and though it explained the beauty skin care aspects of Ayurveda better than Wikipedia and it also has a dosha quiz – and I got the expected dosha result.

Disclosure: These are my personal opinions and the result of my research.  I have not been paid or asked by any product manufacturer, author, or publisher to be reviewed or mentioned on the blog. All products mentioned I have purchased with my own money.

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About Pixie

I'm just your average 20-something trying to figure it out. I am also a theologian, yogi, witch, pagan, dirty hippie, activist (progressive politics), feminist, knitter, environmentalist, and friend. I've also been accused of being a hipster - I am not sure about that. I am sometimes happy to be Gen Y (go Harry Potter) and most of the time confused (seriously guys... ) by everyone else. My hobbies including knitting (and maybe crochet), quilting, recycling, cooking, writing, reading, and biking. I'm finishing up a masters in public policy and when I worked worked in political nonprofits as an activist.
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