beauty

"4 beauty and health myths I've finally ditched now I'm in my 20s."

I don't remember the first time I shaved my legs, but it was probably around the time I got my first period. When I was that age, it seemed like shaving my body hair was as inevitable as getting my period  -  it was a rite of passage, even. 

The idea of removing and maintaining body hair is so ingrained in women’s minds that there are entire industries dedicated to waxing, plucking, and threading it. 

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A woman must be well-maintained. Groomed, even, down to her smallest of strand of pubic hair, in order to be considered in good health. And this maintenance is directly equated with a woman’s worth, particularly in the public eye. 

Growing up, one of the hardest parts of being a woman was constantly being told that you could look better. You could be better, if only you were more beautiful. Businesses create products and advertise them as the secret to beauty — which ultimately translates to the secret to health. 

In my experience as a twenty-something woman, these are four of the most common beauty and women’s health myths I bought into but subsequently kicked from my mind completely. 

1. Having hair on your body is unclean.

Many myths such as these construct a narrow point of view of what constitutes “good health” among women. When women have hair on their bodies, it’s common socially to equate that hair with being “dirty” or unclean. 

When I was in high school, sometimes I’d feel ashamed if I went too many weeks without shaving my legs. If someone saw the dark, coarse strands protruding from my ankles on hot summer days, I’d feel a pang of embarrassment. It meant I was unkept, lazy, and “letting myself go.” 

In hindsight, these emotions were such a waste of valuable time. 

Humans don’t have hair on their bodies for no reason. A human being is still an animal, after all. Hair is meant to insulate our bodies, to protect us, and provide sensory functions. 

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It’s no accident we have it on the parts of our bodies that we do.

I’ve never once, literally not even one time, heard someone say a man was unclean because he had leg hair. 

Hair is complicated because, for women, it’s constantly tied to our identities. Beauty or health fads, such as having a shaven vagina, is so often associated with a woman’s health. 

As the fad changes, perceptions of women’s health changes. This phenomenon doesn’t happen nearly as often with men. 

2. You can buy a product that will shrink your pores. 

For years, I thought my acne was due, in part, to having large pores (thanks dad). I thought if I could find a way to shrink them, my acne would go away.

I completely bought into all of the marketing of beautifully packaged, creamy products that promised to shrink my pores after only three uses. 

I tried every single one, to no avail, thinking it was somehow my fault or that I was the outlier when the product was actually working for everyone else. 

When I saw a dermatologist about my acne when I was 15, he looked at me and almost laughed when I told him this. 

“You can’t shrink your pores with topical beauty products. It’s physically impossible,” he said, jotting notes down on his clipboard. I was stunned. 

It had never occurred to me that it would be physically impossible when all the marketing for the products said the complete opposite. But nonetheless, it was true. 

Your pores are your genetics, and they are a part of what makes you unique and beautiful. Even though I have extremely large pores on my face, it actually ended up having nothing to do with my acne. 

3. You can recover split ends. 

When I was 13, I desperately wanted long, lush hair. When I wasn’t growing it fast enough, I started to just think I was unhealthy. I thought maybe I just wasn’t taking the right vitamins, or drinking enough water.

I bought and consumed vitamins, scooped dollops of hair masks from their clean packaging and ran it through the ends of my hairs — all with the hope that I’d get several inches of growth in return, and the hope that my split ends would somehow glob back together.

Of course, none of it worked for me.

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All of my hairdressers confirmed for me that the only real cure to split ends is to snip them right off. 

That seemed counterproductive to me in the journey to grow my hair out . Thus, came the endless products that promised to glue your split ends back together. But make no mistake, the only way to treat that is to cut your hair, and your health has nothing to do with how long you can grow it. 

4. If you have acne, it means you’re unhealthy. 

I struggled with acne for most of my teenage and adult life. 

When I was in university, I was really insecure about it. Having it made me feel like I was unhealthy, unhygienic, and unattractive. I thought if I just ate the right foods or used the right face wash that it would go away.

Even though according to various doctors, I was perfectly healthy, I felt incredibly less than. 

When topical ointments and creams didn’t work, it only made me feel worse. I tried to get treated and the treatment failed. It had to be my health. 

That all changed when I visited the dermatologist who changed everything. 

For the first time, I felt like my doctor was truly listening to me, my body’s history, and the treatments that hadn’t worked before.

After prescribing me a hormonal antibiotic, which cleared my acne entirely within three months, I couldn’t believe how much the beauty industry had lured me into the myth of clear skin by way of more products. 

It didn’t matter how much water I drank, how many creams I used, or how often I washed my face. I had a hormonal imbalance that simply needed treatment. I realised I had to focus on the inside of my body first — not the surface of it. 

When will we stop equating beauty with women’s health?

Health is truly internal. It’s in your organs, your blood, your mind. The way we look sometimes has nothing to do with how healthy we are. 

Ultimately, the faster I started to believe that, the better I felt. I could truly begin to focus on what made me me, outside of my appearance. 

If you do that, too, I promise what you’ll see will be beautiful. 

Feature Image: Getty.