Beauty vs minimalism: can you have both?

beauty v minimalism 2(1)

You may have noticed that, despite being a blog about simple living and minimalism, I write about beauty products. Eh? How does that work?

Well, let’s face it: cosmetics are not at all necessary. Sure, it’s nice to wear them and it can feel like you’d die of embarrassment if anyone saw the zit on your nose, but we don’t need them for survival. But let’s say you fully committed to this minimalism lark. If you don’t need cosmetics, what else don’t you need? I mean, do you really need jewellery? Family photos? Vacations? Flowers? Alcohol? Gifts? Art? Any food that isn’t 100% calculated to meet your nutritional needs? Sure, your feet might bleed without shoes, but people around the world go to work barefoot every day. As for your smartphone, pfft. You definitely don’t need that.

You see the problem.

It’s a common misconception that minimalism is the same thing as asceticism. Asceticism is a way of life where one renounces all indulgences, from personal possessions to food and shelter. It’s often practiced out of religious devotion or other beliefs, and in these cases, skincare and makeup would be considered the height of excess. But minimalism is not the same as asceticism – it has a much broader definition, and one that changes from person to person. Where one person feels their life is enriched by giving up their possessions, another might feel they benefit more from keeping a few of them around.

The pursuit of beauty is often viewed as frivolous, but in truth, it is just as unnecessary as many of the things people consider to be essential. And, if it adds more meaning and goodness to your life than you would have without it, there is no rule that says you can’t be a makeup-wearing minimalist.

But what about the cosmetics industry? It’s unethical right?

The truth is: it depends. The beauty industry as a whole has some big issues, there’s no denying that. It tests on animals, it uses nasty chemicals, it promotes a unhealthy fixation on our bodily flaws to sell products. But that’s a generalisation.

There are a rising number of ethical, independent companies that don’t do any of these things. They source things locally, avoid harmful ingredients, and are cruelty-free. That’s why I try to feature those companies on this blog. There are also many Etsy sellers, start-up companies and market traders that are great examples of what the cosmetics industry could look like.

For many, buying less is the cornerstone of minimalism – but buying better is just as important. tweet this

At the end of the day, money talks; companies are much more likely to make changes if lots of people start spending theirs elsewhere than if a tiny, committed handful stop spending altogether. This is not to say you should buy cosmetics – just that it’s possible to do so without buying into the bad side of beauty.

As for unrealistic beauty standards, they have a lot to answer for; this is another of the cosmetics industry’s big problems. Again, though, this does not apply to every company. Increasingly, people are rejecting the kind of advertising that makes women in particular feel shitty. There’s still a long way to go, but if anything that’s why engaging with cosmetics mindfully, rather than avoiding it altogether, is more productive in the grand scheme of things. The only reason unrealistic beauty standards make for a great marketing tactic is because they work, after all. Companies will stop using it as soon as we stop valuing it.

In summary…

Simple living isn’t about self-denial – it’s about self-care. tweet this

If, for you, that means eradicating harmful messages, unnecessary stuff and vanity from your life, fair enough. There’s a lot to gain from doing this. But for many people, ‘getting ready’ is an act of self-care. Clear skin, rosy cheeks and shiny hair can be some of the simplest pleasures going, and in this sense, cosmetics can be tools for loving, not fixing, ourselves. In my idealistic mind, that is what the future of personal grooming should be, and for this kind, compassionate brand of beauty I think there is a place within simple living. Realistically, we can no more become joyless ascetics than we can 6 foot supermodels. How we handle the middle ground is up to us.

How do you view cosmetics and beauty? Is it important to you? Let me know in the comments!

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