“Challenging Standards of Beauty through African Culture”
Body image differs from culture to culture. For example, in American culture, being thin, wearing sunglasses on your eyes and wearing bright, fruity EOS lip balm is considered beautiful, or at least, to attract attention.
However, in African culture, being more curvaceous and voluptuous is being seen as the ideal body shape. Then again, the concept of African beauty is not necessarily what some might consider conventional–it is just unique. This is especially true when it comes to hair care and skin care as well. Some African women utilize various products that might or might not be used outside their communities. Some of these products include otjize, hair relaxers, and oil moisturizers, which bring diversity to the cosmetic and fashion world that we perceive it as today.
For instance, the Himba women of northern Namibia are unique in that they use a special concoction that is particular to their culture: otjize. This is “a paste of butter, fat and red ochre, which [Himba women] apply to their hair and skin” and has been found to be beneficial for their health, as well as looking good and fresh. More on it can be read in this article here.
Even further, the beauty product line L’Oréal has stated that “the main focus [of our outreach campaign] is going to be hair – or at least it is going to be the first priority we address – specifically with relaxers, hair foods and oil moisturisers.” There is research to suggest that hair relaxers are going down in popularity, however. According to one article here, “Market research firm, Mintel, estimated that the Black hair business is worth $774 million and relaxer sales are aimed to decrease 45 percent before 2019. This decrease in demand for relaxers suggest an increase in products to replace them.” With the rise of more and more African women choosing to put down their relaxers and go au-naturel, it’s a great way to show how beauty standards are changing in Western society.
Another beauty product that is used are oil moisturizers. “All-natural and organic skincare is all the rage now, and the African skincare industry isn’t getting left behind. We’re seeing a lot of brands incorporate organic products into their line, and new, all-natural brands are popping up every other day,” according to this article in the Huffington Post. Lots of times these moisturizing substances are made from natural ingredients that are either not available or not normally found in other beauty products. In the case of one product, according to HuffPost, “products are packed with vitamins and agents that boost the skin’s moisture as well counter the ageing process.” No wonder that many African women look incredible at just about any age!
Overall, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to certain standards of beauty that govern us in Western society. We should also look into other possibilities in the cosmetic and fashion industries from other countries around the world and their cultures, as well as celebrate the beauty of their differences, e.g. in African hair care and skin care products. This, in the end, will contribute to a wonderful and cultural change, one beauty brand at a time.
This is a guest post for The Finicky Cynic.
— The Finicky Cynic
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