Modern Well Being

In the 1960s and 1970s naturism and wealth coincided on the warm and sunny Pacific coast of California, and produced a luxurious 'New Age' theology of body culture that ultimately became the 'well-being sector'. 'Hippie' teenagers who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s formed the core group of affluent health enthusiasts who rediscovered multicultural medicine in the 1980s and 1990s;and in the United States, where personal health insurance was expensive or simply not affordable, and individual preventive health care strategies were even more essential, New Age holism was rapidly adopted and massmarketed as a new moral 'wellness' crusade: 'Your health is your responsibility... don't just sit there, do something,' as one American best-seller energetically put it.45

Therapeutically speaking, modern holistic medicine is a revival of ancient humoralism, and starts from the premiss of a holistic physical interconnection between mind, body, and the universe, derived from both eastern Asian and Western classical-vitalist cosmologies. It pays close attention to the action of primary elements (earth, air, fire, water, metal, and wood), and to the old existential or environmental categories such as air, food and drink, exercise, sleep and work, the evacuations, and passions of the mind. The body is seen as existing in a biological envelope through which the cosmic physical forces of 'bio-energy' (or ying and yang) flow with a transcendent psychic energy that can be either harmful or benign. There is a particular interest in the tonic therapeutic actions and reactions of the five senses (acting not only through the nose, but through the eyes, the hands, the ears, and the voice) and in psychosomatic medicine generally;the term favoured by progressive holistic GPs is 'biopsychosocial medicine'.46 The techniques used to control bio-energy are mainly those preserved and developed in the ancient practical-medicine traditions of eastern Asia, such as reflexology, aromatherapy, aerobics, Shiatsu, astrology, colour therapy, crystal dowsing, hot-stone massage, laughter therapy, and, more recently, Reiki, Shen Qi, Tui-Na, Feng Shui, and Qi Gong.47 Aromatherapy, deep breathing and meditation, and massage are considered particularly good for easing psychic blocks of energy flow, and overworked or 'stressed-out' individuals (rather like Roman citizens) are urged to cool down, 'chill out', lie back, unwind, relax. The famous cleansing or purging 'detox' regime starts with full 'colonic irrigation' of the bowels, followed by fasting and a planned dietary programme of pure foods and liquids, gentle exercises, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and skin-cleansing, taken straight from the naturopathic textbooks. The much-desired 'state of relaxation and health' that these therapies enshrined also eventually led to a re-examination of the old non-natural category of 'work and rest'—now popularly called 'work-life balance'. But any references to ancient Western medical therapeutics are rare.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, humoral medicine itself has developed and moved on, but in harmony with ancient traditions. The dual Western-Eastern medical policy of Chinese state medicine is well known. Japanese engineers, on the other hand, have taken several ancient diagnostic procedures to their ultimate conclusion with their technical redesign of the toilet. Japanese electronic toilets are famous for their water-washing and air-drying facilities; less well known perhaps is the so-called 'smart toilet', which not only weighs you, but analyses your stools. Based on these readings, it can tell you whether or not you have had too much alcohol, too much protein, or too much of anything harmful, and can inform and act as your doctor. It can prescribe a special diet, order it from the supermarket, and have it delivered to your home, ready to be microwaved.48

Beauty care has made a big comeback. Glowingly healthy, attractive self-presentation knows no social or geographical boundaries. The beautiful people who flit through the pages of late-century health texts are self-empowered, strong, and pure, inside and out. A 'Gaia philosophy' advice book from 1995 told its readers:

In a state of relaxation and health, the body is perfectly designed to be self-cleansing, self-regulating and self-healing. But the toxic overload in the air we breathe, the water we drink, our food, our work places, and our homes undermines our health and immunity... Body Tonic is a practical handbook for everybody in our polluted world. It features unique questionnaires to assess your own level of toxicity, and suggests appropriate programmes of diet, exercise, cleansing and meditation for detoxification and long-term well-being.49

Diet, exercise, and a good spiritual attitude are essential for producing the holistically perfect beautiful body, which lives in spotlessly clean, white, natural, and minimalist surroundings (not unlike a virgin's or monk's cell). The virginal theme reappears in a new ethic of intensive grooming. Total cleansing and a purist attitude towards cosmetic care has replaced the 'killer glamour look' in certain elite circles: skin moisturizers instead of foundation paint, tinted lashes instead of mascara, expensively pedicured feet and manicured hands, organically treated glossy hair, scrupulous depilation, and a understated dress code that is modest, even severe, yet wildly expensive. As one fashion stylist put it, 'My clothes are quite minimal ...the main attention goes on body maintenance—facials, saunas, nail upkeep. I don't drink and I try to keep a balanced diet. Virtuous? Maybe, but it's not until I've done my exercise that I feel balanced and clean.'50

These higher standards of personal hygiene seem in fact to have come about incrementally in the wider population, in the last fifty years. In 2001 British cosmetic and toiletry sales totalled £4,115 million (up 18 per cent over four years)—a sharp contrast to 1949, when the total was £120 million, with an average personal 'spend' of 3s. 10d. a month. In 1949 British women apparently did a hair-wash 'on average between once a week and once a fortnight'.51 By 1965 over half were using underarm deodorants daily, and shaving their underarms;and recently it was found that 'more than four-fifths of the population change their underwear every day...One in 10 women carries a spare pair of knickers everywhere. Almost all of them change every day. More than half shower daily.' Shaving, waxing, plucking, and moisturizing the body became a general habit during the 1980s, while full-body depilation (beyond the 'bikini line') is an old ganika art that re-emerged as a fashion accessory in the 1990s, to complement the all-over tan;tanning machines (and fake tanning lotions) are available in every high street or shopping mall.

Retail analyst figures provide some graphic insights into the modern history of cosmetics and toiletries, on a global scale. The 'well-being' industries have soared faster than any other retail sector; private gyms and health clubs took off in the 1980s;artificial 'spa bathing' has undergone a parallel economic resurgence (up 25 per cent in the United States) and the world's natural spas have recently become elite holiday destinations.52 Meanwhile, global cosmetics retailers are already charting their course for years ahead. The so-called 'mature' markets in the United States and Europe have been heavily 'segmented' into niche markets by age, gender, and income, but are apparently showing signs of market saturation; while the 'undeveloped' markets in Asia-Pacific, South America, and central Europe, on the other hand, are filled with new potential and contributed largely to the 9 per cent growth in the world market in 2004. As global urbanization continues and increasing numbers of women enter paid work, these regions are being targeted through direct 'home selling' (Avon, Oriflame), the Internet, local celebrity endorsement, sustained television campaigns, and buyouts of local or national companies. America and France are still the global market leaders—the United States with Procter & Gamble-Gillette, France with L'Oreal— and over the last ten years they and other companies have poured research and development into three new sectors: high-income older women, men's cosmetics, and the teenage market.53

Women still dominate the cosmetics market in all countries, buying mostly skin care and hair care products, followed by fragrances and colour cosmetics; but women in developed markets now prefer high-end 'value-added' goods. Organic and natural products showed the biggest (11 per cent) increase in the US and French markets, selling 'wellness products' that make an explicit connection between beauty products, diet, and vitamins—or 'cosmeceuticals', as they are now known in the trade. In the United States this 'cross-over' also spread into expensive organic baby care products, as women 'baby boomers' from the 1960s and 1970s had their children at a later age. Any sharp distinction between the male and female toilette has been blurred by the recent phenomenal rise of commercial cosmetic surgery for both sexes, correcting supposed bodily imperfections and signs of ageing, at middle-class prices.54 It was mainly older women (and 'metrosexual' men) in Europe and the United States who brought about the boom in anti-ageing dermatological products marketed by cosmetic surgeons and global companies—like Elizabeth Arden's half-strength botox Prevage Anti-Ageing Treatment and L'Oreal's vitamin C skin-serum 'skinceuticals'. Another potentially lucrative market has opened up with high-end 'ethnic' cosmetics scientifically developed to suit the different skin types and demands of black, Hispanic, and Chinese women (and men), especially after it was noticed that although African Americans made up 12 per cent of the US population, they accounted for 25 per cent of the total spend on cosmetics and toiletries.

The sales of men's cosmetics have shot up everywhere in Europe and the United States, kick-started in France, where male skin care products showed an extraordinary 67 per cent rise between 2000 and 2005;sales also clearly show there is an untapped market among men elsewhere in the world. Men may eventually start buying toiletries en masse, like women, but retail surveys of their current grooming habits suggest that there are many hurdles to overcome—not least the superconfident 'Retrosexual Groomer' (the majority, 57 per cent), whose body is adequately showered and washed, but whose grooming routine takes a swift ten minutes—twenty at most— and who refuses to use fragrances or expensive extras of any kind. Researchers have managed to find some groups of slightly more fastidious 'Practical Groomers', who will at least use deodorants;and some groups of older 'Natural Groomers', who use fragrances, skin care, and anti-ageing products, and who, like their younger counterparts, the 'Metrosexual Groo-mers', are 'clearly in no hurry to leave the bathroom', spending

23 Le Beau Male—masculine narcissism (c.2006). The French cosmetic and fashion industries worked together in developing the current niche market revival of male beauty products.

well over half an hour a day on a full range of grooming routines. Narcissus, of course, was a male god;and the cosmetics industry has faithfully mirrored the rise of the well-groomed, affluent, gay male economy, and the power of the so-called 'pink' pound/dollar/euro/yen. But the proportion of intensive male groomers is small (15 per cent) and studies show that boys, unlike girls, are generally 'taught to believe that what they do is more important than how they look or smell';fathers still pass on the traditional male right to perspire without embarrassment: 'sweat is a sign of hard work, nothing to be ashamed of, a fact of life'. In one deodorant survey it was often the more socially confident boys (or young men) who actually washed and groomed themselves less—alpha males in the making— which may explain why another survey found that it was frequently 'the bosses who are smellier, with manual workers and the unemployed changing their underwear more frequently: 82 per cent wear clean smalls every day, compared with 78 per cent of the middle classes'.55

But things may change in the future. Affluent young teenagers have become an ever larger part of the late-century personal hygiene market. The 'Afro' haircut of the 1960s was one of the first symbols of Western youth's liberation from its own culture. It was part of a youth fashion rebellion against everything that Western bourgeois hygiene represented, in youth groups ranging from the 'Beats', Hell's Angels, and hard-rockers, through to punk, 'grunge', and Green 'crusties'. Since the 1960s virtually all the ancient ethnic body-arts (nail art, hair art, face-painting, ring-piercing, tattooing, pomades, foot jewellery, thongs, etc.) have been rediscovered by young multiculturalists, and have lodged firmly in European and US teenage bedrooms. But today's teenage boys, by and large, prefer to wear American global brands or styles of sportswear that emancipate them from their past and/or connect them to their peers around the world, with a casual, pristine, 'locker-room look' that also requires that they use quantities of deodorants (Lynx, Axe), shower frequently, change their underwear, and care very deeply about the cleanliness of their face, breath, feet, and hair. Boys will never catch up on the girls, though. Between the ages of 7 and 10, girls are already treating grooming as a fun play activity— 'dressing up'—complete with cheap and cheerful body sprays, flavoured lipsticks, and glitter nail varnish;between 11 and 14 they go in for more sophisticated fragrances, deodorants, heavy showering, skin moisturizers, complex hairstyling, and a broader repertoire of make-up. By ages 15 to 19 girls already have established grooming routines, at a time when boys are just beginning to grapple with shaving. As a group, however, modern teenagers fully realize that smelliness is now socially unacceptable (you can even lose your job) and that personal cleanliness is a required norm. But the old primate grooming display urges lie close beneath the surface. In one 1980s teenage survey, 'wanting to have friends and to attract the opposite sex were cited as the main reasons for concentration on hygiene. All agreed that it gives you more confidence knowing that you are clean.'56

It is what the retail analysts say about the consumer lifestyles of their target 'undeveloped' rural markets that really brings the history home—the places where the old and ancient ways are still fully operational, and which so closely resemble the relatively recent past in Europe and the United States. So it is with a thrill of recognition that we read that rural classes in India prefer to use bar soap for 'head-to-toe body washing' (the strip wash);that many 'even use home preparations'—or purchase local 'generic products';or that there is a large trade in smuggled high-class cosmetics from overseas, as well as cheap local 'counterfeit' copies;or that 'rural consumers typically visit an outdoor barber' for shaving and haircuts—which is what most British men also did in 1949 (only the local barber was of course indoors), while many of them also bought all their toilet necessities there as well. (The majority still go out for a haircut, but shaving has been made easier at home, and supermarkets provide most of the products.) The consumer lifestyle in Turkmenistan is equally revealing. Turkmenistan is still a predominantly rural peasant economy (53.9 per cent) with very few 'premium outlets', and most of its population use traditional means of grooming.57 The men are always crisply turned out, even though all laundering is done by hand, without washing machines; the women use home preparations such as olive oil and locally produced fragrances to dress their hair, but generally do not use beauty products at all 'except on special occasions'. However, even in Turkmenistan things are changing, and these changes are illuminating. One key event has been that 'love marriages' were made legal in

2000: sales of cosmetic depilatories immediately shot up by a staggering 1,408 per cent, and cosmetic sales rose by over 200 per cent. Another (universal) trend is that many young Turkmenistan men and women are now moving into office work, where good daily grooming is essential. The message from the retail analysts is clear and very familiar: it is the new urban and suburban classes that are forcing cosmetic demand world-wide;and these upwardly mobile people are driven by personal ambition and the need to succeed in an expanded global marketplace.

The search for the body beautiful is truly relentless. Narcissism (the 'tendency to self-worship, absorption in one's own physical perfections') seems to occur among privileged groups during every period of prosperity; and the mind inevitably drifts to Ovid, and to all those exquisite gallants of courtly life, male and female, clothed or semi-clothed, and all those other keen gymnasts and self-improvers, throughout the centuries. The human body has undoubtedly been caught up in the twentieth-century celebration of godless technical materialism—this beauty is skin deep, and proud of it—but the twentieth- and twenty-first-century evidence gives us just a hint of what a powerful social force beauty is and always has been.58 If love, luxury, and leisure are the key determinants of successful health and beauty care, then rising global affluence has done the most of all to promote it. It requires only a few well-known changes in habits and manners for social aspirants to gentrify now within a single generation. At this point in time in advanced industrial countries, decades of increased personal hygiene and cosmetic awareness have finally paid off. Teeth are better, feet are rarely deformed, and gross skin diseases, and particularly gross facial deformities, have become almost non-existent; as one cosmetic surgeon put it, 'we catch them all much earlier now'. There are, quite literally, many more beautiful and unblemished people around.

Think Clean and Green to Flawless Skin

Think Clean and Green to Flawless Skin

Lets accept the fact: many of us are skin conscious. As much as possible, we wanted to have a fresh, good looking skin. However, many of us failed to recognize that simple steps are the best ways to attain it.

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