“Cleopatra was one of the first and Beyoncé one of the latest in a long line of unwitting advocates for what may truly be the world’s other oldest profession: the beauty business. Cleo, born 36 BC, had a huge arsenal of cosmetics made from rocks, minerals and plants. Eyes were outlined with black kohl, a mixture of powdered lead sulfide and animal fat; Lips and cheeks blushed with red ochre clay, its tint from iron oxide. Leaping forward a few thousand years, here comes Beyoncé, the pop superstar whose 2014 song “Flawless” urged women to embrace their natural beauty and resist “the pressure to be perfect.” The song included part of a feminist TEDx talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with lyrics that emphasized the lines “We flawless ladies, tell ’em. I woke up like this, I woke up like this.”
The hit inspired essays in publications like The New York Times, Slate and The Atlantic Monthly and a voluminous response in social media from Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lopez and women around the globe taking selfies of how they they looked, sans makeup, just as they woke up. (Go to iwokeuplikethisflawless.tumblr.com for selfie samples of the just-awakened.)
“Flawless” also happens to tap into the newest trend in the beauty industry: the look of a lack of artifice, the kind of beauty bestowed by nature rather than Lauder, MAC or the surgeon’s knife. In the recent round of Paris fashion shows, many designers featured models wafting down the runways, looking as if they wore no makeup or nail color. As if they just woke up that way. It’s a kind of baby-face look reinforced by Pantone, the color trend–forecast firm that determines what colors will reign supreme in fashion and furniture for each new year. For 2016, Pantone decreed baby pink (Rose Quartz) and baby blue (Serenity).
But this anti-artifice movement in no way threatens the beauty industry. It can require a lot of beauty products to create the illusion of wearing none. More important, the modern industry has traditionally been resilient through shifting trends and economic downturns. The most recent recession was no different. As other sectors of the economy went into free fall, the beauty sector merely wobbled a bit, its rate of growth diminished by just a few percentage points. Anti-aging skin care products are the industry’s bestsellers, and their sales growth merely dipped globally from 9 to 7 percent during the recession. Sales of men’s grooming products jumped by 70 percent from 2007 to 2012.
But huge changes are here and more are coming, due to major advances in science and technology. Never before in human history has it been possible for men and women to correct their perceived flaws so easily and permanently, with non- or minimally invasive procedures that diminish lines, wrinkles, blotches, zits, sags, even sculptural defects that make people feel less attractive than they’d like to be. The face-lift is becoming obsolete, as individuals use new procedures and injectables to correct specific problems as they appear, before the need for major surgery arises. Last April, for example, the FDA approved a new injectable called Kybella to eradicate double chins, a problem formerly treated only by liposuction or surgery.
Dr. Leif Rogers, a board-certified plastic surgeon who expanded his Beverly Hills practice to include an office in Pasadena, says he’s an ardent proponent of the newest advances in nonsurgical aesthetics. In a recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show to discuss ways to “drop a decade from your face” without surgery, he explained the virtues of phytoceramides, a plant-based supplement taken orally to keep skin moist and healthy. “When we’re young, the body manufactures ceramide molecules, a major component of our skin’s surface which helps keep skin firm and youthful,” he said. “As we age, ceramide production declines, decreasing skin’s ability to retain water and contributing to sags and wrinkles.” Rogers’ own formulation of phytoceramides is gluten-free and also contains vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Rogers has also adopted the use of bone paste, a long-proven product used by craniofacial surgeons to fill spaces where bone is missing due to congenital defects or facial trauma. In its new, minimally invasive aesthetic use, Rogers says he makes a small incision, injects bone paste in a malleable state, then kneads it into the desired shape to enhance chins, cheekbones, jawlines, temples and brows. “It hardens within 10 minutes, and within three months osteoblasts will form around it, using the bone paste as a scaffold for new bone, which eventually replaces the bone paste, leaving the patient with nothing but real, natural bone.” People with weak chins or sunken cheekbones who might never have opted for the more risky, invasive and costly silicone implants to improve their looks now have a faster, safer and more natural alternative, he says.
There are even faster ways to improve your looks — on the computer, at least, a plus for people hunting for jobs or dates. People who’d like to look great in photos, but don’t want to deal with makeup or medical procedures, can seek aid from PortraitPro V15 (portraitpro.com), the recently launched and enhanced “intelligent” face beautification software that corrects flaws and deficits in makeup, lighting, skin tone, even facial structure. It’s said to be “trained in human appearance” and claims to detect and correct everything from skin that’s too sallow or hair that’s too dull to an oversize schnozz or jutting chin.
And for women too busy (or too lazy) to leave home or office for a trip to the salon, there’s beGlammed (beglammed.com), an on-demand beauty service accessed through an app on your phone. It’s kind of like Uber, but for beauty. Use the app to bring a VIP salon experience right to your door, providing a full makeup, quick touch-up, hairstyling or a total package performed by experienced hair and makeup artists. Prices start at $65, and services are available in 16 locations, including Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and New York.