True or False: Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

Cynthia Bailey, MD|April 1, 2015


What makes you feel beautiful?

Italian fashion designer Valentino said,

I know what women want. They want to be beautiful.

~Valentino Garavani

But, what does that mean to you and what gets you there? In Dr. Bailey's dermatology blog, we talk about beautiful skin, healthy complexions, and feeling beautiful on both the inside as well as the outside. Have you thought about what that means for you - superficial versus real beauty? In today's world, you have to wonder if we get too focused on defining beauty by superficial and frivolous characteristics. We all know there is a deeper quality to beauty than what we see with our eyes. But do our inner thoughts and the words we say reflect that? To complicate the question, especially as it pertains to our goal of smart skin care, did you know that the common saying "beauty is only skin deep" originated 400 years ago from a poem by Sir Thomas Overbury called "A Wife?" The line is actually,

"All the carnall (sic) beauty of my wife is but skin-deep."

This is somewhat disturbing for a modern woman (for more on his scandalous ending and what this poem was actually about, check out Britannica's explanation). It's such a common saying these days and yet its origins are so telling. It has come to represent the idea that what we see on the outside is our definition of beauty. The truth is, beauty is more than skin deep. Think about that for a second. Do you really believe that for yourself? Sure, you think that about your sister or your daughter or your friend. But what about for yourself? In a world where we are seeing each other's lives go by in visual-centric social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, where we can pick and choose and edit the best photo to post out of the hundreds we take - how we define beauty has become even more complicated because it's so easy to rely on what you see through a lens as truth. 11052507_818601278176187_3309510805184864126_n Do you ever feel as though beauty is now a near impossible standard that no one, not even the famous who look out at us from the covers of magazines, can attain? Even the "beautiful" people we see in pictures and on TV and in magazines are a carefully chosen few who look a certain way, are shaped a certain way, and then are photoshopped into ultimate perfection. This, we've decided, is the definition of beauty and it's a powerful marketing tool. If you are one of the many of us that don't "measure up," how do you feel? What if, instead of taking those narrow physical definitions and boundaries to heart, we focused more on what makes us feel beautiful from the inside out? What if we stopped worrying about what we see in the mirror and thought more about what makes us feel alive inside?

"My mother used to say to me, "You can't eat beauty, it doesn't feed you." And these words played and bothered me, I didn't really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant by saying that you can't eat beauty is that you can't rely on beauty to sustain you.” -- From Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o's speech at the 2014 Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

And, taken further, what if taking good care of yourself (including your skin care) was entirely about nurturing the mind and body you are stewarding in this life? It's radical in our highly visual modern life, but what an idea! Take a minute and think about what makes you feel beautiful. I'm talking about the things that light you up inside, get you to take a deep full breath, smile from ear to ear - and feel beautiful. What makes you feel beautiful? "A good song I can sing and/or dance to. When I'm driving in my car and a Rolling Stones song comes on. I crank up the music, roll down the window, and just let the coolness that is Mick Jagger roll through me." ~Tammy "Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful." ~Sophia Loren "I feel beautiful when I think positive." ~Eleonora "I get a buzz from working on my jewelry because it’s time during the day that I’m devoting to myself and not to my kids or my partner." ~Alex "I feel beautiful when I am mountain biking on a dirt trail out in the forest. There is something about feeling strong and free. Who cares about helmet hair!" ~Suzanne "When I'm out in nature. Walking, hiking, biking, surfing...that's when I feel the most beautiful." ~Kelsey "I feel beautiful when I'm swing dancing with my husband" ~ Cynthia "So many things...I feel beautiful when I'm loving someone unconditionally." ~Katie What about you? What makes you feel beautiful?  

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