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What’s inner beauty?

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What’s inner beauty got to do with how we look on the outside?

The notion of beauty has changed over the decades and no longer conforms to a singular body type or a specific, enhanced physical feature. Instead, more women are embracing beauty as a multifactorial concept, with wellness at its nucleus and a recognition that beauty is not simply external, but also comes from within. Inner beauty once related solely to your character, or soul, but it’s developed beyond that and when we speak of ‘ beauty from within’ we no longer just mean on an emotional level, but on a physical level too. Simply put, what happens on the inside affects how we appear on the outside.

The cosmetic, hair care and skin care industries are changing as many women across the world are rightfully equating wellness and healthy living to the concept of what is beautiful. Inner beauty is taking more of a centre stage. This progress may have come from the health and wellness spas of larger global cities and those services are becoming increasingly popular in more provincial areas. There is also some global inspiration from places like China, where acupuncture — the essence of wellness there — is commonly utilised for beauty treatments.

Beauty is an ever-changing concept

Concepts such as nurturing your inner spirit, understanding your energy cycles and decreasing stress are becoming common in beauty routines. Whereas before the beauty industry would sell consumers the hope for beauty in a jar, now they recognise that consumers want a more holistic health approach.

Popular ideas such as ensuring your skin is healthy instead of covering up unhealthy skin with makeup or taking supplements with biotin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) to ensure hair health, are becoming the norm. Similarly, instead of a focus on being skinny or on thinness, women are opting for body image preferences that lean more toward fit and toned.

Women are beginning to believe that beauty is the offspring of wellness and health.

Intuitively we know that wellness and beauty are intricately linked. For women, aspiring to beauty is often a key motivator in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To put it bluntly, vanity can move us into wanting to take healthy action, although it doesn’t always move us into that healthy action.1 But seeing beauty, health and wellness as important values in our lives is far from narcissism. We don’t just see beauty visually — we feel, hear and sense beauty. It is so much more complex than just a physical attribute. Winston Churchill famously referred to vanity as “that vice that promotes so many virtues.”

Focusing on inner beauty is a motivator for those seeking external beauty

One study analysed how the desire for the appearance of healthier skin was a key motivating factor for increasing the consumption of vegetables and fruits.2

Another study had participants look at images of people with sun-related aging as a motivating factor for better sunscreen usage compliance.3 The study highlighted that the participants were less motivated by the discussion on the prevention of skin cancer than they were vanity!

But there is a fine line between utilising the desire for beauty as a health motivational tool and the quest for beauty turning into a shaming mechanism. It’s important to be realistic. When looking at celebrities or even quasi-famous internet personalities as inspiration, we need to begin with where we are first (not where that celebrity or YouTube host is at).

Using the inner beauty of others as inspiration for our own inner beauty

A newer term, “fitspiration,” refers to the tendency for ordinary people to look to others — mainly internet sources — for motivation in fitness goals.4

Often looking at posts on Instagram, videos on YouTube or pins on Pinterest can give us ideas for health and beauty; but there is a fine line if they are also making us feel inadequate or if the goals these online personalities are portraying are unattainable.

Perhaps the bimodal approach of utilising both beauty and health to inspire is the appropriate medium. Researchers looked at smoking cessation through the double lenses of both oral health and physical attractiveness of smokers.5

If it’s largely a motivator for outer beauty, is inner beauty important?

Whether motivated by the desire to look healthy or feel healthy, inner beauty is important. The same researchers that looked at smoking cessation found that the two-pronged approach of combining health and beauty were quite motivating in getting the subjects to want to quit smoking. Yes, we do want to look beautiful but we also want to feel beautiful – both are motivators.

The stories of others who we can relate to are often one of the most inspirational and motivating factors. Finding one or two bloggers or Instagrammers you feel are most aligned with your beauty values and health objectives may be beneficial in helping you to achieve your goals. Make sure they have something that you feel is achievable and realistic for you and allow seeing them reach their goals to encourage you to strive for your own.

  1. Pan, W, and J Peña. “The Exposure Effects of Online Model Pictures and Weight-Related Persuasive Messages on Women’s Weight-Loss Planned Behaviors.” Journal of Health Communication, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29020539 []
  2. Whitehead, R D, et al. “A randomized controlled trial of an appearance-based dietary intervention.” Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23527517 []
  3. Tuong, W, and A W Armstrong. “Effect of appearance-based education compared with health-based education on sunscreen use and knowledge: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24508292 []
  4. Simpson, C C, and S E Mazzeo. “Skinny Is Not Enough: A Content Analysis of Fitspiration on Pinterest.” Health communication, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27326747 []
  5. Semer, N, et al. “Development and evaluation of a tobacco cessation motivational program for adolescents based on physical attractiveness and oral health.” Journal of dental hygiene : JDH, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16297311 []