Redefining beauty standards

In 1937, Walt Disney Production released “Snow White and the seven dwarfs”. The animation, well-received by the public and acclaimed as a critical success, easily became a standard for its genre. The story is a classical one. We have a princess endowed with many qualities: beauty, kindness, compassion. Even her name, Snow White, suggests her heart’s purity. There is also an antagonist, the Evil Queen, Snow white’s stepmother, depicted as dark, heartless and full of envy. The movie apparently revolves around a clash of their characters. Upon a closer look, the viewer may easily see how “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is just another movie about beauty standards. The two of them are not exactly rivals. The queen wants to hold the power while Snow White, the princess, is not so passionate about reclaiming the throne. She is bound to do so only because it is her legacy. What sets up the conflict is the queen’s desire to be the most beautiful woman in the entire kingdom.

Unfortunately, as she grows older and her physical aspect changes, beauty becomes an obsession. The queen feeds it through repeated questions in front of a mirror. To emphasize even further the fact that a woman’s beauty is often understood from a male’s point of view, the mystical object’s voice is that of a man. The queen asks: “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” in the beginning, the mirror claims she is the most beautiful. As time passes and the queen looses much of her physical qualities, another woman takes her place. Snow White is younger. It is her beauty’s turn to be acclaimed. What one notices in the “snow white and the seven dwarfs “ is that, most times, fiction imitates real life.

Beauty is a social construct of such importance in today’s society that people pay thousands of dollars to change their physical aspect. Millions of women invest in their cosmetics more time and money than in any other part of their lives. History shows us that beautiful women were turned into standards. They were loved and envied, adored and despised at the same time.  Today, beauty is less of an ideal and more a key factor in sustaining one of the biggest industries out there: Cosmetics.

Billions of dollars are made annually. Women, more than men, are expected to attain rather unrealistic beauty standards. Mass-media is one of the main culprits. Many of the faces we see on the covers of the magazines are photoshopped. Even when the cover girl is naturally beautiful, photographers still do some retouching here and there.

What is far from being realistic is when a magazine picks, lets us say, Helen Mirren to be on the cover, and her skin looks like the one of a 30-year-old. After decades of playing various roles, one would expect her to have visible expression lines. Younger actresses and singers are in the same situation. If such is the case, what should girls understand if beauty seems to be more important than intelligence or kindness? Moreover, how are women over 50 supposed to feel when all their lives they have been chasing something which was so easy to lose after attaining it?

Numerous studies have shown that the human being is aware of the physical appearance since very young. At around the age of 7, many little girls begin to be conscious of the two concepts of beauty and ugliness. Attractive people are generally more popular and appreciated than others. But what is there to do when this obsession of being beautiful takes up a large part of one’s life and often leads to anxiety and depression?

It is no surprise that teenage girls suffer from one of these two conditions. Also, some women over the age of 50 are prone to depression. After an age, most of what was considered to be attractive fades away in the absence of self-confidence and self-respect, many women do not know what to do without the appreciation of those around them anymore.This is why it is essential for mothers to teach their little ones the value of self-esteem.

The concern with appearance is not just another social fad. Sadly, women struggle with it for most of their lives. What one should understand is that while outer beauty is appreciated, other qualities should receive the same attention. This way, the individual can happily live without needing constant assurance that he or she deserves either appreciation or love.

Regarding the aging process, women should understand that it is a natural and healthy one. After an age, there is no need for praise coming from others because it goes without saying that self-confidence originates from the inside. In spite of the studies made on the subject, attractiveness is but another quality. Being attractive does not necessarily mean being beautiful. Beauty is innate, something which stems from the inside. Being more aware of other qualities could be the essential step in redefining beauty standards. This implies leaving aside what society has promoted for such a  long time.

What are wrinkles?

Aging is something normal. The human being goes through this process every day. Even so, it is only after we reach a certain age that we suddenly cannot accept the natural course of things anymore. Wrinkles are the most visible sign of aging on the body. These small folds that appear in the skin bother people more than they should. As people grow older, wrinkles are something one expects to have. The skin is an active organ with multiple functions in the body’s structure. Being its exterior covering, it maintains a normal body temperature and protects the tissues and organs from microbes and infection. The skin has 2 main layers: the epidermis and dermis. The epidermis is the outer layer which contains cells that are continuously shed and renewed. The dermis or the inner layer contains tiny blood vessels and nerve endings. Aside from these a protein named elastin as well as another one, collagen, are found in it.

Elastin is part of the connective tissues and is responsible for the skin’s return to its original position, after either contracting or stretching. Also, it brings the tissues themselves to their normal shape. Whether we talk about intestines or skin vessels, elastin is vital for all processes involving contraction and extension.

Collagen is a protein in the dermis and the most common one found in mammals. Collagen is made of amino-acids, grouped in chains which form long, thin fibrils. It is found in connective tissues, skin and bones and represents around 30% of the body’s protein amount. Unlike elastin, collagen is more resistant due to its fibril’s strength. It helps the skin maintain a firm aspect and is an active part of the cell renewal process.

They two of them may appear as similar. Still, while collagen is plentiful in the skin and sustains much of our body’s physical structure, elastin is rather the link between the collagen fibers. In spite of their difference, they have related functions, in that they maintain the body’ s tissues’ elasticity and keep the skin supple.

Like any other compound, elastin and collagen are prone to damage. When young, the body produces the two proteins at a fast rate. Cellular renewal and multiplication occur naturally without much effort. In time, the body’s protein production decreases. It becomes unable to repair the injured fibers in little time so the collagen and elastin chain production becomes ineffective.

After a while, the cellular walls weaken. They become more rigid. When the skin contracts and expands, it is harder for it to go back to its initial position. This is due to a lower collagen production. At the same time, when damaged, the elastin fibers become looser, hence the skin accumulation. When combined, the long elastin chains and the stiff collagen fibers lead to a more rigid aspect and skin folds appear. Often, one has the sensation that skin hangs on the face rather than adjust to it. Another consequence of collagen and elastin decrease is that the skin requires longer periods of time to heal. In young skin a large number of cells are constantly shed and renewed. The process is a fast one. People recover even from severe wounds easily because the injured cells are replaced by new ones correctly and efficiently. Aging influences the collagen and elastin fibers’ repair. Wrinkles appear as a result. The skin is more fragile, with little veins being visible underneath in after a certain age.

Tendons and ligaments lose much of their elasticity. Likewise, because it is a major component in the hair’s structure, the protein’s absence also affects its appearance. The hair looks brittle and lifeless.

The aging process, while being the main responsible, is not the only factor leading to wrinkles.[1][2]

Causes of damaging the skin’s inner layers

  1. Age

Age is the number one cause of skin’s deterioration. Aging is normal so one cannot avoid it. Like any other organ, the skin is prone to cellular damage. It usually maintains a healthy aspect well intro the late 20s. After 30 years of age, it becomes drier and loses some of its elasticity. Now fine lines start to appear on the forehead, around the eyes and mouth. As one reaches the age of 40 and 50, much of the skin’s elasticity is lost. The elastin and collagen production is slowed down. Cells need longer to be repaired and replaced. The elastin fibers become loose and the skin appeared to me both rigid and enlarged at the same time. As one grows older, the skin looks fragile, almost translucent in some areas. Little blood vessels are visible underneath it. Also, it gains a dry aspect, with larger pores and the soft lines around the cheeks and on the forehead deepen.

  1. Sunlight

Young people love the sun. Its heat and radiance make them feel good. Even so, many of them do not use sunscreen as frequent as their skin would need. It is no wonder that, following sun exposure for extended periods of time, the skin begins to develop fine lines which in time turn into wrinkles. The sun rays cause more damage than one would think. The UV exposure destroys the skin cells and delays the renewal process. New cells are produced harder so the elastin and collagen fibers lose their ability to return to their natural state before stretching and contracting. Freckles and darker colored spots may appear. Sunlight can also cause skin lesions. They usually act as a preliminary stage of skin cancer. The medical condition occurs as the consequence of the abnormal growth of damaged skin cells. One should avoid sun exposure for long periods. Even after using protective creams, the sun rays are often more powerful and will eventually produce some harm.

  1. Alcohol

Alcohol does not only affect the internal organs. Frequent alcohol consumption influences the skin appearance as well. Beverages have an adverse impact on the body in that they dehydrate it. In the absence of water, the skin’s aspect suffers as well. Alcohol also depletes the body’s vitamin A deposits, a high antioxidant essential for the skin. It contributes to the occurrence of rosacea. This happens because its compounds interact with the tiny blood vessels and dilute them. This leads to an enlargement of capillaries which become more visible.

  1. Smoking

Aside from affecting the teeth’s and fingers’ color, smoking also influences the skin. This does not happen around the mouth’s and eyes’ areas only because of the facial expressions one makes when smoking. Nicotine has, amongst others, the disadvantage to narrow the tiny blood vessels found in the dermis. This way, the blood flow is partially blocked. The oxygen and nutrients cannot reach all skin tissues anymore. Brown spots may occur either on one’s face or hands because of regular smoking.[3]

  1. Hormones

Estrogen is the primary female hormone made in the ovaries. Nevertheless, it is not exclusively found in a woman’s body. It is also found in a man’s. In regards to their importance to the skin, normal estrogen levels maintain it hydrated and neat. The hormone also increases the hyaluronic acid levels to keep the skin’s structure as youthful as possible. Following menopause, the estrogen quantity gradually decreases. The renewal process is affected and the skin becomes drier. The hair suffers changes as well

  1. Diet

Diet is a key factor in maintaining the body’s overall health. Diets deficient in nutrients and rich in meat and dairy as well as the need to lose weight as fast as possible can negatively impact the skin.

Other factors that rush wrinkles’ appearance are air and water pollution, wrong sleeping positions, environmental changes, stress and improper skin care.[4]

How to maintain a beautiful skin aspect in time?

Everyone wants to reduce wrinkles. Regardless of one’s age or social status, the physical appearance is maybe greater than it should. Rather than men, women are more passionate at expressing their desire to maintain a youthful aspect for as long as possible. Everyone goes through the aging process. There are people more prone to earlier wrinkle appearance than others. For reasons related to genetics, some individuals have a nice, elastic skin even well into their 40s. Nonetheless, there are solutions for everyone, in spite of the skin type or environmental factors. It is unrealistic to believe that the skin of a person aged 60 will have a similar aspect to that of a 30-year-old. Still, the more science evolves, the better the methods it offers to the world. Given today’s cosmetic industry’s development, one should not be surprised if the youthful aspect will be kept for longer in the near future. Here are some anti-wrinkle advices and remedies.

  1. Avoid the sun

Sun exposure for long periods is not damaging for the skin’s outer appearance only (spots, freckles, moles) but also for its inner structure. UV rays affect the skin’s structure in such a way that its normal renewal process is disturbed. Abnormal cells can multiply faster. Skin cancer is one of the unfortunate consequences. One should not totally avoid the sun as it would be impossible to do so, but only exposure to its rays when they are the most dangerous (during the day or in the summer). Sunscreen is always a good solution. Dermatologists regard it as a must-have object not only during torrid summer days but also when the sun rays appear to be stronger than usual. In spite of good genes and a family history of good looking skin, the sun can easily counterbalance them.

  1. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol

Smoking and drinking are two of man’s main addictions. Many people regard them as normal activities and include them in their lifestyles from young ages. Tobacco and alcohol do not only harm the internal organs. Lungs, kidneys and liver may suffer the most, but the skin is just as sensitive to their negative impact. Alcohol leads to dehydration which in turn causes less tissue elasticity. Smoking prevents the normal blood flow in all the skin’s regions. By avoiding nicotine and alcoholic beverages, one can contribute to a nice looking skin. It is true that the aging process cannot be impeded by nearly anything. Even so, there is no need to rush it. Smoking and drinking can make one look and feel older than his actual age.

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain chemical compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer roles. One can counteract the adverse effect of toxins and free radicals by introducing them in the diet. The more radiant their color is, the better. This means they have higher antioxidant levels. Fruits and vegetables are best eaten raw or as juices. Increasingly more people have started to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets being aware of their benefits. People should consult a doctor if they find such foods appealing and efficient.

  1. Eat more fish

People with oily skin maintain a nice aspect for longer. Their sebaceous glands excrete more oil than normal. While it can lead to acne, the oil in the skin protects it from early aging signs. Moreover, it can delay the aging process, because the oil keeps it smooth and moisturized for longer. Aside from being a great protein source, fish is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids. They provide the skin with enough moisture as to avoid an elasticity decrease. There is plenty of fresh fish available on the market all year long. Including it in the diet will prove to be beneficial for the one’s health.

  1. Use cocoa

Everybody likes chocolate. It is sweet, diverse and its main constituent, cocoa, is a super food. While less popular than its processed counterpart, cocoa is more valuable. It contains many nutrients as well as two powerful antioxidants, flavonol and polyphenol. Researchers have recently conducted a study to show the importance of cocoa-based products’ consumption. They picked various fruit and vegetable groups and compared their flavonol and polyphenol levels to those of cocoas. Cocoa powder registered the highest ones. By fighting oxidative stress, cocoa’s antioxidants sustain the cell renewal process and contribute to the skin’s aspect.

  1. Homemade facial masks

Both inner and outer factors maintain a youthful appearance. Aside from eating lots of fruits and vegetables, replacing red meat with lean meat or fish and eating natural yogurts and goat cheese, women can use food for external use as well. Oily plants or those packed with vitamins are beneficial in this regard. Here are some examples:

  • When applied to the skin, the aloe vera gel improves skin’s elasticity; it can be combined with vitamins A and E and then put in the areas affected by wrinkles
  • Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamin A; its texture moisturizes the skin and keeps it smoother
  • Bananas are used in all kinds of facial masks, not only in those for wrinkles. After mashing a ripe banana, the paste can be mixed with avocado and applied on the wrinkled areas. Because its texture may give a dry skin sensation, it is good to use skin moisturizer after washing it off
  • Egg whites are used in treating mild acne and diminishing soft wrinkles; they are rich in proteins, magnesium and potassium, all of which either fight free radicals or slow down the aging process by toning the skin
  1. Moisturizer

Of all beauty products, the moisturizer is possibly the most important in keeping wrinkles afar for longer. A British study showed the positive effects of skin moisturizer: women who used such products on a normal basis had smaller chances to develop visible wrinkles than those with drier skin. Moisturizer is essential for skin protection, available in drug stores and affordable.

  1. Retinoids

Retinoids are chemically related to vitamin A, known for its antioxidant properties. Aside from reducing inflammation and acne-related signs, retinoids also prevent collagen breakdown. Specialists advise people who experience slowed down collagen production to use them because they are efficient in cell growth. Pregnant women should avoid them because some of their compounds can cause irritation.

  1. Topical vitamin C

The body’s capacity to effectively use nutrients decreases as time passes. What was regarded as sufficient in terms of vitamins and minerals is no longer enough for the body’s needs after a certain age. Skin is affected as well by the internal changes. That is why taking supplements is good for skin’s aspect. Vitamin C is one of the most powerful when it comes to its skin-related properties. Its effect is enhanced if applied directly on the wrinkled areas. Its topical antioxidant form allows for a faster and better absorption. The closer to the skin, the more efficient such a remedy is.

  1. Idebenone

Idebenone is a product similar in action to the coenzyme Q-10. Used in treating Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and alleviate liver and heart-related conditions, Idebenone has strong antioxidant capacities. It can successfully fight free radicals and oxidative stress. Idebenone is the main ingredient in wrinkle creams sold in the United States.

Aside from these, there are medical treatments that reduce wrinkles as well. Because they imply the use of chemical substances and specialized equipment, an expert’s help is needed if the individual wants botox injections, chemical peels, laser resurfacing and wrinkle fillers.[5]

 

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