From botox to vajacials, the evolution of ‘necessity’ in beauty

The ever-increasing array of beauty procedures and products on the market give us the illusion of choice, while snatching our grooming liberty from under our botoxed-noses

Share

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that it should be every woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her vulva.

Yet, when I heard last week about the latest craze for ‘vajacials’ (that’s a ‘facial for your vagina’, fact fans) my initial reaction was one of horror. Whilst the name of the procedure might conjure visions of a beauty therapist enthusiastically attacking your nether regions with a cleansing wipe, it actually involves hard-core exfoliation achieved by means of a plastic tube and Salicylic acid. (May I take this opportunity simply to reiterate? Acid! On your nethers! *shudder*).

Last Friday I was invited onto This Morning’s sofa to ask whether this latest development in female grooming was a step too far. Myself and opponent Nicola Bonn, a beauty writer who subjected herself to the treatment in the name of research (the things we do for our art) bantered playfully, whilst host Eamonn Holmes’ hilarious facial response was gleefully reported in the following day’s Sun Newspaper (under the pun-tastic headline ‘Eamonn’s Red Facial’). We tittered our way euphemistically through the discussion, mindful that the time of day and the fact that school children were on their Easter holidays prevented us from being too graphic.

The debate, however, does have a broader and more sinister context, taking place in the same week the Metro reported that 92% of 8-16 year-olds in the UK have been exposed to hard core pornography.  With porn omnipresent on the smartphones and in the classrooms of our child and teen generation, it isn’t just their understanding of what constitutes a ‘normal’ sexual act that’s being influenced, it’s their perception of a ‘normal’ body, too.

It was during the 1990s that programmes like Sex & the City introduced the Hollywood wax to the public mind-set and thousands of women flocked to their beauticians in a quest to become entirely fuzz-free. Whilst popular, the procedure was still considered something of a novelty and rather extreme in nature, back then. Fast forward a decade and its pubic hair that’s considered unusual, with an active expectation placed on particularly younger women to go bare ‘down there’. The absence of pubes in the public eye has similarly influenced the tastes of a whole generation of young men, many of whom tell me that the mere idea of any body hair on a woman makes them feel ‘physically sick’.

It isn’t just our genital grooming choices which are spiralling into the extreme. Treatments which were once the remit of the rich, famous and a tiny bit reckless are now more affordable and accessible than ever. Facelifts, chemical peels and the oh-so-socially accepted botox (which, I am forced to remind you, reader, is POISON injected into your FACE by a non-medically trained professional) are now commonplace.  Our foremothers would baulk in horror at the things we casually consent to and the ever-growing list of body parts which we consider it necessary to tamper with.

There’s even a television advertisement entreating us to be ‘embarrassed’ by the ‘dry, cracked skin’ on the back of our heels. What parts of our body will be the next source of shame? Elbows perhaps? Or will we go internal with a treatment to make our livers look FABULOUS?

When it comes to beauty, I’m pro-choice. (I can almost hear your derisory laughter but really, I am.) After all, I wasn’t born with two-tone hair (on my head) and I believe it is for every woman to navigate the worlds of fashion and beauty and draw her own line in the pressed-powder masquerading as sand. What concerns me, however, is that the ever-increasing array of beauty procedures and products being introduced onto the market are merely giving us the illusion of choice, whilst in reality snatching our grooming liberty from under our botoxed-noses.

Our future, if we continue on our current projectile, is one in which an increasing amount of time, energy and money is spent in the pursuit of moulding our physical forms into a socially accepted blu-print and a diminishing amount of time is devoted to doing anything else. Our understanding of ‘necessity’ in beauty is constantly evolving. Women now speaking of ‘needing’ a manicure and pedicure the way their mothers spoke of ‘needing’ a haircut. Similarly, our daughters (and I mean this in the broadest possible sense since I remain childless as you know) are likely to talk about ‘needing’ a vajacial.

The vajacial is, in most camps, considered rather ludicrous in 2013. By 2050 women who don’t submit to one will be considered ‘lazy’ or ‘dirty’ just like women who don’t wax are now.

Nicola argued on Friday that this wasn’t the case, that women should be confident enough to pick and choose the minutae of their own beauty routines and tell any man who dismisses her privates as not coming up to his standards to sod the hell off.

In theory, of course, she is absolutely correct.

As a reasonably confident woman in her thirties, I can say with some assurance that I’m happy in my genital grooming choices (of which the general public will remain ignorant) and would have the gumption to give aforementioned fictitious male critic his marching orders. But I am no longer a teenage girl.

I do, however, remember being one. I remember the opinions of both my male and female peers being paramount in my self-perception. I remember the terrible sense of shame I felt when, aged 13, I realised I was the only girl in her class not shaving her legs. I remember my first trips to the pub aged 17 and the desperation I felt for sexual validation, avidly soaking up the male patrons’ opinions on the pin-ups of the day (Kelly Brook featured strongly, I seem to remember). I defy anyone, during a time when they are just discovering themselves, not to be influenced by popular opinion on sex, sexuality, beauty and desirability.

As older women, every beauty decision we make, every beauty treatment we undertake simply because it’s there, or try because we think we probably should, filters down and becomes commonplace amongst our younger sisters. It’s what I’ve dubbed ‘mindless grooming’ because we aren’t really sure why we’re doing it and it’s done to conform, rather than to stand out. And so the biggest kindness we can do for future women is to take a stand as a gender and to use the introduction of some ludicrous, unnecessary titivation or adornment of our most intimate parts, be it a vajazzle or a vajacial, to collectively say “No! Enough now!”.

If we do not, we condemn future generations of girls (and, indeed boys) to spending more and more of their lives in the beauty parlour (I know it’s a ‘salon’ now but I just love the word ‘parlour’ - it’s so evocative) just to feel acceptable and less and less time actually living.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law