Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beauty advice you can actually use

I wear makeup, paint my nails, futz with my hair, and I don't apologize for it.  I understand where radical feminists are coming from with their "makeup supports the patriarchy" position, but, in the end, I think it's possible for me to be critical of the demands of physical attractiveness and the rituals required to achieve it while also participating in them.  Most of us have jobs, want to meet cute boys or girls, and enjoy looking nice, so I think grooming is here to stay, like it or not.  BUT, that doesn't mean we need to get our grooming advice from sexist sources that demand we invest unreasonable time and money in said practices.  Reasonable grooming is the new bra burning.  Get on board.  (Very much so kidding, in case not obvious.)  So here's the best of the internet's offering on reasonable fashion and beauty advice.

The problem with most beauty and fashion advice sources is that their source of revenue are the makers of the products they're hawking.  That means that the number one thing they're there to do is to convince you that you need stuff.  Many fashion blogs are also supported by advertising, but they tend to be more up-front about their influences, acknowledging when they've received free products, or are reviewing a product from an advertiser.  Moreover, many feature user reviews, which provide a balanced opinion (unless written by a company mole!) when taken in aggregate.

The best site I found for unbiased reviews of beauty products was totalbeauty.com, which features both editor and customer reviews of tons of beauty products.  Their "top" lists are nice, but I like the "bottom" lists even better, for products not to bother spending your money on, such as "9 supposedly long-lasting lipsticks."  For nail polish, a good source is the blog All Laquered Up, which does something amazing for those of us often tempted by the seasonal nail polish colors put out by the likes of OPI: its author procures the colors, paints them on her nails, and offers a full review of color, ease of application, wearability, and any duplicates that might already be out there, which is extra amazing if the duplicates come at a cheaper price.  For general beauty tips, check out Jezebel's great series "beauty 101," where readers have shared their best tips on everything from waxing to eye shadow.  For skincare questions, I of course recommend you check out our earlier guide to taking "reasonably good care" of your skin.

Hair advice can be found in the form of product reviews, which will be available with general beauty product reviews, or step-by-step styling info.  For re-creating hair-dos you've seen look amazing, the hairstyler has a really neat feature on how to create hairstyles with info on how difficult they are and what sort of faces they look best on.  Unfortunately, they all seem to require a half-dozen products and steps.  For more down-to-earth advice, I've found Curls.biz to be a great resource for curly hair care info.  They're clearly hawking their products, but that's explicit, and they offer a ton of great advice along the way.  For general info, give about.com or wikihow a try--they have articles on everything from giving yourself a blowout to creating a fishtail braid.

For fashion information, try the budget fashionista (who has done amazing things like track down cheap swimsuits for tall, petite, plus-size, and pregnant gals), the lingerie series over at sexy is for everybody, and another Jezebel series, dress code (in which they offer practical advice for building a wardrobe and preparing for occasions with examples, not pricey commandments).

And, of course, there's always the dozens of you-tubers who provide fashion, makeup, and hair tips with live demonstrations.  Anyone else have some good advice for online fashion/beauty tips that don't support a crazy imbalanced obsession with perfection?


  1. Good link roundup on this topic. I will say, however, that the "radical" feminist perspective on this doesn't seem that radical to me. Standards of beauty and grooming seem to be really arbitrary and socially dictated. To me, maintaining these practices seems like the clearest example that The Patriarchy (TM) has conquered not just womens' bodies but also their minds. I completely participate in this as well, as many of us do, and I think that's why it's uncomfortable to be truly critical. For my own personal life, rejecting these standards falls into a category of aspirational morality, in which I am a vegetarian, fully environmentally conscious, donate much more to charity, and volunteer a lot more hours. But what can you do?

  2. I agree with you that the reason we are compelled to invest time in our appearance is due to persisting inequalities between men and women (this is a current research area for me), but what I don't like about a lot of the makeup-bashing I've seen on various feminist sites is how often it turns into blaming the victim--criticizing the women who comply with society's demands instead of the system and incentives that create those demands. On a Feministe thread, someone actually compared wearing makeup to wearing a T-shirt that said "Rape=LOL." That is not helping. Instead of beating up on women, we need to ask how we lessen the unrealistic demands on physical appearance that they face.


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