If you ever want to see a diverse array of women’s bodies in Los Angeles, go to a Korean spa. At these spas, the hot tubs, saunas, and cold plunges are for women only, birthday suits mandatory. There are women of all shapes and sizes…no one body type fits all and it’s wonderful; it’s the opposite of Hollywood, which is just a few miles away.
When I arrived in one of these special sanctuaries in Koreatown, I was delighted to find everyone getting their relaxation on. There is something primally satisfying about walking around naked and not caring about the five extra pounds you can’t seem to lose from your last pregnancy, or that your boobs look different than they did at 24, or that you’ve discovered some skin dimpling that turns out to be Adiposis Edematosa, a.k.a. “cellulite.”
The first time I noticed my own cellulite, I had already been married for a year or so and I was sitting in our hot New York apartment wearing shorts. I looked down at my thigh for no particular reason and I remember seeing these dimples running up the length of my leg towards my butt. I was so fascinated that I had cellulite, I laughed out loud. After all, I was quite young and still very thin and fit (we’re talking pre-babies). I knew the fact that cellulite decided to show up on my body in my 20s meant nothing about my weight since one of my best girlfriends from childhood had had the butt dimples since we were about 12 and she was – and still is – skinny as a rail. Cellulite has always been a part of 85-98% of all women everywhere… except in the magazines. No matter what age you are in the fashion world, when your picture gets taken there may be dimples, dots, or discoloring, but by the time that photo reaches a magazine or a website, all those little “imperfections” are magically gone.
I read an article in Vogue recently that really made me pause. It was about a woman in her 40s or 50s who has hated her legs all her life because of her cellulite. Now she has discovered a doctor who can make it disappear; a simple procedure, and voila, her legs are smooth again. She reported that she can once again go to the beach in a bikini without shorts and all is right with her world. She is happy, she says in the article. But to me, this article rings all too false. One’s insecurities do not always disappear with a little nip and tuck. I understand that by running this article, Vogue is trying to introduce a new procedure to the masses, to show us that there is yet another thing on the market to make us feel prettier, younger, wiser etc. etc. etc. The problem is that now all the teenagers and young adults reading Vogue will go from knowing everyone has cellulite (since this is the truth) to thinking they need yet another procedure to make their bodies look like those of the women whose real, normal bodies have been reshaped by technology into an standard of health, beauty or fitness that only exists because of Photoshop. And what Vogue is doing, by showcasing one person’s story about how a medical technique made her life better, is promoting the idea that beauty is defined as bodily perfection at any cost.
We need to change this narrative now. I want my 16-month-old daughter to feel comfortable in her body. I want her to know that moms and grandmas do not look the same as preteens and twentysomethings. I want her to know that her freckles are pretty, that it’s wonderful to sit around and eat a carb-filled dinner with friends, and that her butt dimples are cute as hell, because they are hers and no one else’s, and because she was created out of love and there is nothing more beautiful than that!
The only way to truly change the narrative is to start with ourselves. We need to change the way we think about our own bodies regardless of the outside world’s perceptions of “real beauty.” For me, a realistic way of accomplishing this is to find or create experiences that balance our self-perceptions and put everything in perspective, like the Korean Spa does for me.
When she’s older, I plan on taking my daughter to the Korean spas to expose her to women of all shapes and sizes who respect and love themselves enough to take a day out of their week and give back to themselves. I want her to see and be inspired by the older women who sit and scrub their bodies down until they glow; their skin may sag and they may have fat in places swimsuit models never would, yet they treat their bodies like temples. They rejuvenate their bodies with R&R until they shine from the inside out. And that is how true beauty comes through, from the inside out.
I wish the beauty and fashion world would write as many articles on how to take care of ourselves on the inside as they write about maintaining and enhancing our outsides. As a professional makeup artist & hairstylist, I aim to help women fall in love with their already beautiful selves. While others may think that we are imperfect and therefore need makeup to cover up, I use makeup like an accessory, to enhance beauty that is already present.
I recently turned 34, and I am as proud as can be of my age and my life. My body does not look as “perfect” as it did in my 20s, but this body is way more experienced: it has gone to more places, has been more loved than the body I had at 20. For my birthday, I took a “me day” with my sister and you bet your dimpled bottom we headed to the spa!
If I’ve learned anything from my work in the beauty industry and from my time at the Korean spa, it’s that we will never beat the ticking clock. If it is not cellulite, it will be sagging boobs or less elastic skin that will come for us. But understanding that there is no clock on our inner beauty or our feelings means that if we decide today to feel good, and young, we can and we will, regardless of our age, or number of wrinkles or gray hairs, or any other sign of time marching on. It is not always easy – like everything else in life, it can be a struggle – but when we make it past our self-doubt and bask in the glow of our true selves, it can be so damn rewarding.
Aura Schwartz is a makeup artist, wife, mom and sister to 11 siblings…that’s right, 11! She loves all things inner + outer beauty and has never met a red lip – or a conversation – that she does not like. After teaching teenage girls to be confident and making clients look and feel fabulous, Aura always enjoys cooking a homemade dinner, sipping a glass of wine with her husband, and curling up with a book or that show on TV…ok, ANY show on TV. You can follow her around her kitchen or on Instagram @BeautybyAura and read her blogs at www.luckynumbernine.
Grok With Us
- How can we shape a healthy beauty narrative for the girls and women in our lives? How can we encourage both healthy living and self-acceptance?
- Do you read the articles about ‘body image’ in fashion magazines? If so, how do they make you feel? Do they help shape your ideas about health and beauty? If not, why not?
- What do you do to feel strong, confident and beautiful?
- How can we express our appreciation of the beauty of other people without relying on media standards of physical perfection?