The Restrictive Notion of Beauty

Question: What have been the important moments in the history \r\nof the beauty industry? 

Geoffrey Jones: The modern industry begins in the 19th \r\ncentury, but its predecessors go back to every known human civilization.\r\n I can hardly think of a single product that we use today that wasn’t \r\nused 400 years ago, 1,000 years ago, even 3,000 years ago. So, \r\ninflection points really are the late 19th century when products that \r\nwere primarily used by relatively few people, made by craft methods \r\nsuddenly started to be turned into brands and suddenly started to be \r\nsold not just locally but first regionally then nationally then \r\nglobally. And that’s really when much of what we think of as the modern \r\nindustry really, really gets going. 

Then if we’re looking at \r\nstages and its subsequent growth, I think Hollywood was really very \r\nimportant because Hollywood kind of I feel like, raised the stakes of \r\nappearance, and it also served as a medium for taking beauty ideals \r\naround the world. And by the '30s, people in towns almost everywhere in \r\nthe world have access to a cinema; they could see representations of \r\nbeauty, particularly hairstyles, particularly the use of cosmetics. And I\r\n think that was enormously important. And if I’m thinking of a more \r\nrecent inflection point, I would probably say the 1970s, when we first \r\nbegin to seek some really serious criticism about some aspects of the \r\nindustry, in particular its impact on people’s health—here’s a giant \r\ncancer scare about hair dyes—and concerns that the industry was \r\nover-promising. And there begins to be a backlash from then on, which \r\ndoesn’t kill the growth of the industry, not at all, but which begins to\r\n reshape it and redefine it. 

Question: What has \r\nchanged since the‘70s in terms of how we think about beauty products? 

\r\nGeoffrey Jones:
If you go back to the early 19th century, every \r\nsociety and every culture defined beauty in their own ways. People \r\nlooked completely different around the world. For example, in Japan, \r\nearly 19th century Japan, the epitome of female beauty was very narrow \r\neyes, whitened faces, and black teeth. Elite men, aristocratic men in \r\nJapan used cosmetics. They also whitened their face. And you could tell \r\nthe same story about every other society. 

What happened over \r\ntime was this: you could call it, homogenization of what it meant to be \r\nbeautiful spreading out throughout the world. And beauty consumers came \r\nto see beauty in very much more uniform or, you could say, restrictive \r\nterms. And this conception of what it meant to be beautiful was \r\nreinforced by television, by Hollywood, by the whole ecosystem of the \r\nbeauty industry area, of magazines, the gatekeepers of beauty. So if you\r\n were to take a long-term historical perspective, consumers' conception \r\nof what it meant to be beautiful narrowed and homogenized dramatically.

Recorded on April 21, 2010

Consumers have been changing their perception of beauty products since the 19th century.

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Lonely? Hungry? The same part of the brain worries about both

MRI scans show that hunger and loneliness cause cravings in the same area, which suggests socialization is a need.

Credit: Dương Nhân from Pexels
Mind & Brain
  • A new study demonstrates that our brains crave social interaction with the same areas used to crave food.
  • Hungry test subjects also reported a lack of desire to socialize, proving the existence of "hanger."
  • Other studies have suggested that failure to socialize can lead to stress eating in rodents.
Keep reading Show less

A Chinese plant has evolved to hide from humans

Researchers document the first example of evolutionary changes in a plant in response to humans.

Credit: MEDIAIMAG/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • A plant coveted in China for its medicinal properties has developed camouflage that makes it less likely to be spotted and pulled up from the ground.
  • In areas where the plant isn't often picked, it's bright green. In harvested areas, it's now a gray that blends into its rocky surroundings.
  • Herbalists in China have been picking the Fritillaria dealvayi plant for 2,000 years.
Keep reading Show less

Who is the highest selling artist from your state?

What’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota?

Eminem may be 'from' Detroit, but he was born in Missouri
Culture & Religion

This is a mysterious map. Obviously about music, or more precisely musicians. But what’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota? None of these musicians are from those states! Everyone knows that! Is this map that stupid, or just looking for a fight? Let’s pause a moment and consider our attention spans, shrinking faster than polar ice caps.

Keep reading Show less

MIT breakthrough in deep learning could help reduce errors

Researchers make the case for "deep evidential regression."

Credit: sdeocoret / Adobe Stock
Technology & Innovation
  • MIT researchers claim that deep learning neural networks need better uncertainty analysis to reduce errors.
  • "Deep evidential regression" reduces uncertainty after only one pass on a network, greatly reducing time and memory.
  • This could help mitigate problems in medical diagnoses, autonomous driving, and much more.
Keep reading Show less