7 Common Beauty Stereotypes Demystified ...

Anyone who's ever owned a Barbie has been exposed to beauty stereotypes. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be blonde with blue eyes. I dreamed of the day I'd wake up, go to school and have people asking who that little blonde girl was sitting in my seat. The fact that I'm about as blonde as a piece of charcoal is beside the point. I've since learned to love my brunette-ness, but there are a lot of women and girls who find themselves feeling inadequate because they don't meet some stereotype. Even the ones that don't affect a person's self-image can get in the way of looking our best. Let's de-bunk a few of those beauty stereotypes once and for all.

1. Beauty Really Only Comes in One Package

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One of the biggest beauty stereotypes is about exactly what constitutes beauty. The reason I wanted to be blonde is because that's what all the pretty women looked like in the 80s. It was even worse for my friends of color because there were *no* examples of beauty for them. None. Even now, there aren't very many, and the ones who *are* there - for example, Beyonce - have light skin and straight hair, both of which are considered Caucasian-eque features. It's getting better, though. I can't think of anyone who would look at Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu or Gabrielle Union and say they're not beautiful. At least, not with a straight face. Besides, men tend to be a lot less picky about our looks than we are. I've leafed through a few of my husband's Maxims and seen Latinas, blondes, Asians and coffee-skinned beauties that look a lot more "real" than any Cosmo model. As a friend of mine put it, "We like them all." Related to the above...

2. Beauty = Thin

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Luckily, this one is slowly dying. We still see the scrawny types in magazines, but many of today's icons of beauty - Beyonce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and the like - clearly haven't missed many meals. That isn't to say that all thin women starve themselves so much as that we shouldn't feel as though we have to go to unnatural and unhealthy means to be beautiful.

3. Beauty is Expensive

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I've heard of face creams costing anywhere between $300-$700. For $700, I'd better come out looking like Heidi Klum! Luckily for us "little people," there are plenty of options in our local drugstores that can look just as good as the expensive stuff. For instance, Wet n' Wild has excellent lipsticks and nail polishes that cost $2 at the most but in so many great colors that it's easy to find a match. Also, don't discount the store brands; some of the Walgreen's and Kroger versions of facial cleansers are actually more effective and gentle on your skin than the national brands. As for household goods, one of the best exfoliants I've ever used is store-brand baking soda! Even salon products like Paul Brown Hawaii's Diamond Heads cost a lot at first, but the stuff lasts forever. You don't have to spend a ton of cash to look good.

4. Darker Skin Tones Have Less Need for Sunscreen

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A lot of people think that, because of the higher levels of sun-protecting melanin in their skin, people with darker tones do not need sunscreen. This isn't quite true. I'm olive complexioned, which means my skin has yellowish undertones and tans easily. Perhaps we don't burn as easily as our lighter-complexioned friends, but we still benefit from protection from the sun's damaging UV rays. In fact, olive-skinned ladies still have to follow the same protocols of skin care as our rosy-cheeked sisters. If we don't wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and moisturize our skin, we can come out looking like a Naugahyde sofa. Ugh. My darker-skinned Indian and African-American friends never burn, but they can still get wrinkles and skin cancer. It doesn't happen often because of the higher levels of melanin, but it does happen. In fact, any skin cancer we get is more likely to be fatal because we tend to overlook the warning signs our fairer-skinned friends notice early on!

5. Beauty Has to Hurt

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High heels. Spanx. Plucking your eyebrows hair by hair....that makes me hurt just thinking about it. I can't help you with the Spanx, but I can tell you that there are gentle waxing kits for eyebrows that actually work. Sally Hansen and Nads both have several products you can get from the drugstore that I can honestly say work well without hurting nearly as much as I thought they would. I'm not saying that yanking hair directly out of your skin with wax will be comfortable, but it's much better than plucking the hairs out one by one. Think of removing a Band-aid; it hurts, then it's over. Less agony = good.

6. Women with Oily Hair do Not Need Conditioner

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The "explanation" for this is that using conditioner only makes limp, oily hair worse rather than better. The fact is that the oil in oily hair comes from the scalp, not the hair itself. It might not feel as dry as dry hair, but it still needs moisture. If oily hair seems greasier after using conditioner, it's much more likely to be from not washing all of the shampoo and conditioner out of your hair than from the conditioner itself. The same is true for oily skin - oily skin has oil, not moisture. It might not feel as dry and tight, but it still needs moisture because many products used to cleanse oily skin can dry it out in the process. It's best to use products such as CeraVie or Dove that provide moisture and oil control at the same time.

7. Women Lose Their Beauty as They Age

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Um, no. For some people, age really is just a number when it comes to their looks. For instance, have you seen Tina Turner lately? The woman is 73, meaning she is older than my father, but still looks like she can dance circles around a teenager any day. Sophia Loren is pushing 80, and you can't tell me she's not gorgeous. Madonna's in her 50's and Susan Sarandon is in her 60's and they still look great. You might not have access to personal trainers, makeup artists and hairstylists like they do, but you can still look great at any age if you take good care of your skin. Use sunscreen, hydrating cleanser and facial serums to help your skin hold onto the moisture that tends to deplete as we grow older. This won't stop the aging process, but it's something anyone can benefit from. And, for the love of God, please don't smoke! Nothing makes you age faster than a lot of smoking and drinking.

Stereotyping is something that comes natural to a lot of people. However, just like anything else, beauty always has "exceptions to the rule." What are some beauty stereotypes you'd like to see busted?

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