The Beautiful Fight for Supremacy: Tradition or Science

When a beauty product or treatment claimed to be used by Empress Cixi, it instantly gained the attention of many but how sure are you that these treatments are really safe and backed by science?

May 10, 2021 | By Joseph Low

To declare something as beautiful takes a host of considerations that involve striking a balance between objective criteria and subjective ideals, and an ability to discern order, symmetry, and harmony. When these factors interact with each other and achieve an equilibrium, almost like a well-orchestrated symphony, then beauty is conceived. On the other hand, when a constituent part is out of step, it translates into the realm of the “unaesthetic.”

Since time immemorial, ancient civilizations have always sought to define beauty. Depending on where you are from, the standard of beauty follows the culture and tradition set forth by the previous generations. Hence, for a long time beauty has followed these rules and we are simply just abiding by it because it has managed to serve us for the most part of our lives. Our beauty “traditions” have constantly been referred back and in recent years there has been a renaissance of sorts with ancient beauty treatments. Think traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda treatments. 

One such product that has infiltrated our vanity tables is the jade roller. It is touted to be the simplest way to achieve facial perfection, the TCM-inspired beauty tool has swept across social media like wildfire. The jade roller has been vouched by countless beauty vloggers and celebrities including Meghan Markle, Kim Kardashian and Alicia Keys. While this may be “new” mostly to the Western countries, jade rollers are said to have been a part of beauty routines among Chinese elites since the Qing dynasty, which began in the early 17th century. “In Chinese medicine, jade is referred to as the ‘stone of heaven’ and represents health, wealth, longevity and prosperity,” explains Misty Stewart, spa director at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.

Aside from jade rollers, it seems that the beauty industry has also taken fancy of other traditional practices and incorporated them into mainstream utilisation. Another example is yoga, which has blown up disproportionately last year. It seems that more people are pivoting and placing more emphasis on wellness and less on invasive treatments such as Botox, laser and other invasive procedures. If we were to compare the efficacy, no doubt the ones performed by a certified practitioner is going to have better results as they are backed by scientific research and approved by the relevant authorities. Essentially, you are well-taken care of as you are under supervision and there is accountability should these treatments fall short. 

Now, that’s not to say that traditional treatments are less effective but rather our fixation on engaging treatments without supervision can endanger our lives and the intended results could backfire. It’s rather extreme to label non-Western practices as dangerous as many of them have been around for centuries and endorsed by generations as effective. It was rumoured that Empress Dowager Cixi has been an ardent user of the beauty tool and the roller belonging to her is now housed in one of the museums in China. The added credibility of someone famous helped to “verify” its potential uses —this is much like how celebrities endorse certain products.

Digging deeper into the issue of using prominent celebrities or historical figures as spokesperson of a certain product tells us that perhaps, society does not trust science entirely. Despite undergoing scrutiny and getting the results peer-evaluated, public opinion is that these findings can come off as too academic, and they would rather have someone share their experiences. The human factor is what propelled consumers to make their final decision. Understanding this aspect of decision making, brands jump on any instances that they could humanise their product, to make it more relatable to the users, either appealing to them through traditions or prominent persons. This warrants greater trust and more likely to give the products a try. 

Beauty treatment rooted in science can offer higher assurance to its user as there is greater accountability; Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

To employ this marketing tactic can sometimes be treacherous because beauty treatments directly affect one’s body, it should always be accompanied by certification by the relevant authorities—backed by scientific evidence and qualified professionals. Therefore, the next time you come across a beauty product that has bold claims, be sure to give it a thorough check and that it is really safe to use before starting in them. 

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