By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In Texas, a group of teenage girls did something unusual during their morning routines. They didn’t reach for any beauty products such as foundation, mascara or even lip gloss. The make-up-free event was in honor of Operation Beautiful. In addition to going to school without make-up, female students also filmed a video where they admitted to spending anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours getting ready for school. The campaign, which focuses on inner beauty, caught the attention of the national media.
The goal is not to banish make-up, but to help females prioritize their inner beauty and be confident from within. Many of the students said they didn't like to feel the pressure of having to look a certain way.
I spent middle school in a cloud of hair spray. I never timed how long I spent in the bathroom getting ready for school. However, I do recall insisting my brother get out so I could pull out my arsenal of hair products and curling irons. In the fifth and sixth grade, curled, “poofy” bangs were trendy and “big hair” was an important part of fitting in. I teased, curled and then sprayed my hair into a stiff poof of curls. My brother, who accidently got in the way a time or two, received a fine coating of hairspray on his arms and head. Barely 13-years-old, I envied the girls with bigger curls. It was the first time I disliked my straight brown hair.
Mom was strict on make-up. She let the curls and hairspray slide, but set her foot down when it come to heavy eye make-up. At 13, we picked out foundation, blush, sheer lip gloss and clear mascara. No amount of persuasion could change her mind. There would be nothing else until my 16th birthday. But I felt the pressure to look older than my 13 years. Teenage acne didn’t boost self-confidence. I would look in the mirror and scrutinize the image staring back. Athletics saved me from a lot of those inner struggles with beauty. I wasn’t worried about my hair or lack of make-up on the basketball court. On my 16th birthday, I clutched my black mascara like a magic wand, hoping for something beyond my reach. When I wore eye make-up hardly anybody noticed the change in appearance. I left school disappointed and foolish. I believed the subtle change would create a new identity, or fulfill society’s expectations of beauty. It did neither.
I still wear make-up, but there are days when I skip the beauty routine for a fresh face and a ponytail. There are always flickers of self-doubt, and probably 50 mascara tubes since that day in the mirror. Those moments show up at random. I am standing in front of the beauty magazines. Or I am shopping for a new beauty product. Suddenly, I feel 16. But I am a woman in her 30s shopping for eye cream that claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines. Their words, not mine, but I want to believe the 95 percent claims on the back of the box — just liked I believed eye make-up would do more than just enhance my brown eyes. Maturity has eased my worries. I am comfortable. The woman in the mirror smiles at the reflection. Who cares if the eye cream doesn’t work 95 percent of the time? Life is so much more.
Operation Beautiful may have started at a local high school, but the principles transcends every generation. It highlights every female, from the stay-at-home mom of three to the busy career woman putting in the overtime. Both women and men are set up to a standard on how to dress, act and live. I wish I had an Operation Beautiful when I was fighting the mirror and clouding up the bathroom with hairspray. It brings into question whether or not we are doing enough to help young adults deal with self-esteem. My mom took the initiative to set guidelines; she taught less is more and inner beauty is more desirable than any beauty product on the market. A $100 bottle of make-up is no match for real beauty in the form of grace, joy, sincerity, kindness and optimism.
One of these days, if I ever have a daughter, I am going to talk to her about make-up and beauty. I am going to explain the differences between inner and outer beauty and I am going to expose her to clear mascara, just like my mom. How do we pass on real beauty? We use our inner beauty every day. Make it a habit — just like the morning routine - to be kind, joyful and sincere. After all, inner beauty never goes out of style.
Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.