Imagine waking up one day and deciding to give up beauty cold turkey. This means no makeup, a fuss free toiletry regimen (including infrequent body hair removal and no fancy luxuries such as conditioner or shaving gel), no new clothing or accessories for a year, no jewellery worn, and chopping your luscious pampered locks off (if you are lucky enough to have luscious pampered locks). It’s hard to fathom putting oneself through such torment for a week, but author of ‘The Beauty Experiment’ Phoebe Baker Hyde decided to do just this, for OVER A YEAR (which makes my wardrobe workout look like a leisurely stroll in the park)!
Hyde’s ‘Beauty Experiment’, from my critical science based back ground, is far more a personal journey, or psychological battle with her internal demons, than a measurable experiment. Her story begins as an expat living in Hong Kong dealing with a newborn baby and a partner who is away for work. She begins to slip into a downward spiral of masking her unhappiness in makeup and the search for a perfect outfit. Her decision to quit beauty follows on from a regrettable designer purchase that looked ‘perfect’ in the store, but did not reflect her ideal of perfection on the eve of the event she bought it for, or in the photographic evidence that soon followed (who hasn’t had a moment like that *cough* school debutant ball*cough*). She lops off her crowning glory, makes a list of things she is no longer allowed to use or buy, then spends a year dealing with consequences of this decision.
Hyde is a great writer and the content is fascinating, but I found ‘The Beauty Experiment’ a difficult and somewhat sad read. I am fortunate to have never experience a struggle with an inner ‘negative’ voice in the way that Hyde explores in her book and it upsets me to think that there may be many other women out there dealing with such a negative critique of their physical appearance coming from within. The book mostly documents Hyde’s struggle to battle her inner critic, and is definitely a personal journey into motherhood, female body image, and depression. A battle she fights fairly but hasn’t completely conquered by the end of her experiment.
There are a few fascinating insights and snippets of ‘results’ from the experiment (including a Beauty survey that Hyde conducted), however the ‘experiment’ is a little undercooked and difficult to follow in places (especially the way the chapters just from during to post experiment in no chronological order). I did not feel I personally connected with Hyde’s experiment but drew a parallel between us when she had to break her rules to purchase new swimwear as hers had ‘disintegrated’. It would have been nice to see areas of the the book that touched upon the statistics found in her survey extrapolated upon and backed with historical beauty literature and data to make the read relatable to those who don’t battle with personal ‘beauty demons’.
Overall ‘The Beauty Experiment’ was a fascinating look into the psychology behind one woman’s physical appearance, and the conquest in fighting her critical inner ‘Voice’. I would recommend it for anyone who has fought their own battles regarding their appearance, or for those who would like to gain an insight into motherhood, ageing, and the struggle to maintain a ‘hollywood’ vision of perfection.
Image from: chicstreetstyle