A dangerous new standard for beauty

Photo by Allie Ghisson

Unattainable beauty standards have always been a problem from corsets to Barbies to Instagram models. Everyone likes to think they are more progressive than previous generations but the truth is that we are getting worse. Instagram and Facebook allow anyone to become famous on looks alone, which has led to an entirely new type of celebrity. These celebrities come from upper-class families and generally don’t have traditional jobs because they spend all of their time working out and posing for photos. These “influencers” have started trends that negatively impact beauty standards and businesses. 

One of the many beauty tools that has taken off recently is the waist trainer. Waist trainers are most often used during workouts to shape the waist into a traditional hourglass figure. While less damaging than traditional corsets, waist trainers still compress your organs leading to acid reflux, bruising and lack of oxygen, especially when exercising. Changing the shape of the human body is no easy feat which means that in order to actually have an effect on your waist, they have to move organs around. Popularized by the Kardashians and quickly adopted by Instagram models, waist trainers have no place in the 21st century or among the fitness community. Influencers have hijacked exercise and health food to be for looks only regardless of health or strength. 

Diet and exercise are important parts of a healthy lifestyle but starving yourself and over-exercising are not. Fad diets have persisted for far too long despite research and proof that they don’t help. Restricting yourself too much will hurt more in the long run because the change isn’t sustainable. Weight loss teas are only diuretics that leave you dehydrated and don’t contribute to your overall health. Keto and paleo don’t work for everyone, and rather than following specific rules, it’s best to focus on limiting calories and getting the nutrients you need. While switching to veganism or vegetarianism is potentially good for both you and the environment, too many people forget to supplement their protein intake which is essential if you work out. 

Finding exercise that you enjoy is also more important than the way you look. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you can achieve a perfectly toned and fit body from cardio alone. Finding your best self takes time and is much more likely to happen when you stop focusing on the way you look and concentrate on the way you feel. Working out should be to empower yourself and if you achieve that by the way you look that’s fine, but comparing yourself to people who have an army of trainers and nutritionists will only destroy your motivation. Money is a big factor in the way people look, which is why influencers have such an advantage.

Anyone can fit society’s beauty standards with enough time, disposable income and effort. Instagram is littered with ridiculously long fake nails, hair extensions, eyelash extensions, dark tans, lip injections and colored contacts. Not only are fake nails and extensions expensive, but they’re also impractical because they damage your natural nails and hair and require extra maintenance. 

Even though it’s well accepted that natural tans are dangerous and cause wrinkles, the trend of tanning has not subsided ­­— models use filters and fake tans to try to convince people that they’re naturally darker. Lip injections and long term colored contacts require help from a doctor — which most people struggle to afford even when they get sick — so there’s no chance for the average American to keep up with trends. In addition to cost, all of these beauty treatments take time and effort, two things in short supply for people who have traditional nine-to-five jobs. 

Overall, influencers promote beauty trends and ideals that no one, save themselves, can actually achieve and that can do significant and lasting damage. 

As social media becomes an ever-growing presence in our daily lives, we will continue to be inundated with images of a new, unrealistic standard for beauty. And while the danger of this is subtle, it can contribute to an unhealthy view of ourselves.