My local shopping centre has seven nail bars, two waxing salons, and a brow bar. A cosmetic surgery clinic touts ‘facial line softening’ and ‘hydra facials’. A laser skin clinic offers cosmetic injections. Three other beauty temples offer ‘cool sculpting’, ‘eyelash perms’, and ‘light therapy’ for skin. I live in a gentrified, working-class suburb in Melbourne’s inner west. I’ve never set foot in these beauty shops, but they’re replicating like cells.
It’s almost thirty years since Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth was published. Wolf’s 1990 analysis of the economic power structures underpinning our seemingly ‘natural’ beauty ideals was ground-breaking. Reading this book at the time, I fumed. Yet I was hopeful, too. Women might reject the industrial-scale body policing (cellulite, facial hair, breast shape) and create different definitions of beauty.