Five interesting thoughts about unconventional beauty

The biggest weekend in beauty wasn't all about tips, tricks and products — some of our favourite moments from the IMAGE Beauty Festival were the frank and honest discussions around beauty standards, societal pressures and unconventional beauty that were had across the weekend.

On Sunday, owner of nail salon Tropical Popical Andrea Horan hosted a brilliant discussion entitled Beauty Outside the Box, where she sat down with Anthony Ussher, hair colourist to the stars and to Coterie Salon Dublin, Amanda Nordell, nurse turned facial acupuncturist and Sinead Rice, head of education at The National Gallery to discuss the lesser spoken-about ideas of beauty.

Throughout the discussion, our panel was honest and thought-provoking with their opinions about modern beauty, and never shied away from confronting the big ideas — here are some of our favourites.

"Aesthetically pleasing" isn't all about looks

We live in a time where we are absolutely bombarded with the visual all the time — from Instagram to reality TV, how 'aesthetically pleasing', especially on a screen, is often viewed as the most important. But as Sinead Rice, head of education at the National Gallery, pointed out, we are often missing the point of what aesthetics really is. Stemming all the way back to the ancient Greeks, the idea of aesthetics refers to how it impacts all of your senses, not just your sight. For something to be truly aesthetically pleasing, it has to be pleasurable to all the senses — something to think about when we get caught up in a spiral of obsessing about how we look.

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Related: Overheard at #IMAGEBeautyFest: Our favourite quotes from our big beauty weekend

Working with judging appearances can affect how you see the world

When Anthony Ussher first moved to London, he often worked at casting models for major campaigns. Having a certain look to watch for, and approving or disapproving models based on whether they fit the mold was a tough job to keep up. It wasn't until Anthony found himself on the bus judging other passengers' hands and ankles, that he realised how being image-obsessed was warping his perceptions of beauty. When we spend so much of our day immersed in image-centric media, it can be hard to break out of that cycle — but catching yourself in the act is the best place to start.

The Kardashians are a paradox for modern feminism

Are you a feminist who's conflicted about how to feel about the Kardashians? You're not alone — our panel had the same problem. Andrea herself talked about the internal monologue she regularly has about the Kardashians, and how it's come into conflict with her feminism. Are the Kardashians hard-working businesswomen who are hounded by misogynists trying to take them down? Or have their impossible beauty standards and encouragement of Instagram culture done more harm than good to their fans? Are they really taking ownership of their own bodies, or being controlled by patriarchal beauty standards? Anthony Ussher thinks the family have a lot to answer for — Kylie Jenner, who famously played a major hand in the cosmetically-enhanced lips trend that is going on today, is what ten-year-old girls are now aspiring to look like — even though it may be financially out of their reach.

Why is being 'beautiful' the most important thing to be?

With so many body-positivity campaigns on the go at the moment, many women are feeling sick of being told to feel 'beautiful' in their bodies. Is being beautiful a default state, or is it something we should be focusing less on? Our host Andrea quoted a recent survey which found that just 4% of women questioned would say they felt beautiful — but why, she asked, was that the only thing they were asked? Why weren't they asked if they felt intelligent, happy, loved? Why are we, as women, so caught up in the need to feel beautiful? The panel agreed that there is too much emphasis on beauty in today's society — and more importantly, too much pressure on women to fit into a beautiful, body-positive, confident ideal.

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So how do we take the emphasis off beauty?

The panel discussion ended with a question: how do we begin to take the emphasis off beauty? Amanda offered that diversity and embracing our differences and the value in them can be the start of the process. As Sinead said, we are so much more than just visual — we should push for a more total experience of what we are.


  • Related: Patrick Ta: Getting fired, working with Gigi Hadid and ditching heavy make-up
  • Related: Five things we learned from our body positivity discussion
  • Related: It's a wrap: Our highlights from IMAGE Beauty Festival 2019

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