What is natural beauty?

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Written By JohnBarnes

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Take a look at anything related to “natural beauty”—the ads, magazines, websites, and billboards. They all seem to look a little monochrome, no? All the women seem to have the same skin tone (fair), the same shape (slim), the same hair (long, tousled). It’s like there’s one sole definition of beauty—one that leaves a whole lot of women out of the picture.

Not to mention the fact that the beauty industry has gotten us all a little too focused on what’s on the outside. It’s all about fixing our perceived flaws (too wrinkly, too dark, too whatever) with products that they sell (how convenient). What about a more holistic view of natural beauty? One that cares just as much about our compassion as it does our concealer?

It’s time for a new face of natural beauty—one that celebrates the vast diversity of people on the planet, encourages women to unabashedly own their style (whether that’s a cat eye and red lip or just a smile), respects our values, and honors the fact that some days we just don’t feel like putting in the effort (and that’s okay).

Redefining natural beauty won’t happen overnight, but it starts with listening to the voices of all women and amplifying the ideas of people who aren’t typically invited to the conversation.

Here’s what nine strong, opinionated women shared when we asked what natural beauty means to them—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Natural beauty gets creative.

“Natural beauty is an interesting phrase when a major part of your body is literally artificial. My left leg is amputated above the knee, and so I wear a prosthetic leg to move around the world. For years, I had a ‘cosmesis’ (the cosmetic cover that goes over a prosthetic limb) that was meant to emulate a ‘real’ leg. It was a piece of soft foam carved to the same shape as my right leg. I wore thigh high nylons over it to match my skin tone, but of course, my skin tone doesn’t have a matte finish or a consistent combination of color—it’s human and can be scratched, scarred, bruised, hairy, sunburned…so it always looked fake.

“I decided that since it looked like a fake leg, I might as well get creative with it. I picked out a floral linen upholstery fabric that I adored and had it laminated to the fiberglass shell. The result: A stunning accessory that looks like a hand-painted work of art and is part of my body. And while there’s nothing ‘natural’ about it, it’s an integral part of my mobility, my identity, and simply part of what makes me whole.”

Christa Couture, 39
Toronto, Canada

Natural beauty surprises you.

“When I think of embracing natural beauty, I immediately think of wearing my natural hair. Throughout elementary school and middle school, my mom blow dried and straightened my hair for me every single day. I didn’t even know that I had curly hair until I was in ninth grade and I let my hair air-dry one day. Even after I discovered my curls, I still felt the need to straighten my hair to feel ‘presentable.’ Four years later, my curly hair has become one of my favorite features about myself because it’s something that I didn’t know I had growing up. I think any characteristic that accentuates someone’s diversity is a marker of natural beauty.”