Beauty: Can Cosmetics Teach Us About Self-Love, by Kristen Ma

Image credit: Magdan Tania/Dreamstime

I’ve been seeing the story about Tracey Spicer, the Australian news anchor that has publicly committed to phasing out “extreme grooming”, around the internet for a while now. But it wasn’t until I heard a segment about it on the radio that I really decided to sit down and contemplate it. Sure, beauty is something I think about a lot – and I mean a lot – but since it’s been in the media so much, I thought it would be a good to really analyze stories like these.

It seems pretty straightforward: Spicer’s message highlights the pressure of physical perfection, the result of a consumerist culture and, probably most talked about in its coverage, sexism. While I consider myself a feminist, I’m also a cosmetic formulator and beauty care professional, so how does this make me feel about my belief system in relation to my career? Furthermore, did it bother me that commenters on the internet seem to be championing Spicer and even scorning “feminist hypocrites who wear makeup”? Maybe some of you would think that I would feel uncomfortable by an anti-grooming move like this, as if it threatened my own beliefs and what I commit myself to day in and day out.

In fact, I really appreciate it. I simply hope whatever beauty and grooming choices we do decide to engage in are healthy and safe for our bodies and promote well-being (this of course includes emotional wellbeing). I think discussions around how how the way we look influences the way we and other see us are important, because physical beauty is a very real part of our culture. If you don’t believe me, just think about how titillated people get from makeup-free celebrity pictures.

But the pressure to be beautiful is not only for women. It’s also a reality for men (and of course other genders – however they identify), and it’s only getting more common. The men’s grooming segment is booming as a result. As a skincare professional, I have read many trend reports on male skincare as an area of growth and opportunity and I have seen first-hand an increasing number of men come into Pure + simple worrying about crow’s feet, fine lines, and wondering about skincare supports post-Botox. This concerns me as equality should not come in the form of universal insecurity. And while perhaps men don’t always rely on skincare and cosmetics, they are definitely affected by the way they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. Men have, along with women, had their own sources of insecurity over physical attributes for as long as insecurity has been around.

I have a male friend who is quite short – and it really influences his self-esteem.  It makes him feel that others do not see him as powerful and this plays a role in his career advancement. It’s not only about beauty but a lack of plain old self-love. And for some reason when I think about most problems in the world, it comes back to this. If I’m honest, I struggle with many unloving feelings towards myself that drive habits that aren’t the best for my spirit. When we reduce it down, whether it’s makeup or some other device, we’ll find that it’s about the struggle to love ourselves in spite of everything.

So, stories like this one about Tracy Spicer are important. They help us realize that we need freedom of choice over how we decide to present ourselves to the world – but also that they are some very real barriers to overcome to be able to exert this choice. Some are systemic while others are personal – but in the end if we are to be given this choice it must start from a place of love within these arenas for ourselves and others. And isn’t that true beauty?

Kristen Ma PhotoKristen Ma is the co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of Holistic Spas with its own line of Natural Skincare and Mineral Make-up.  She is an Ayurvedic Practitioner who has studied in Canada, the United States and India.  She is also a Certified Esthetician with eight years of practical experience, having worked in Canada as well as Australia.  Most recently, Kristen has authored “Beauty: Pure + Simple” which was published by Mc Arthur and Company.  Kristen has written on the subject of Holistic Beauty for Vitality Magazine, Blink and Jasmine.  She is also a regular contributor to B Magazine, Tonic and Sweat Equity Magazine.

For more information on Kristen, please visit