From time to time consumers have approached the Guyana Consumers Association asking our advice as to what are the better cosmetics or even shaving lotions. Except when we have specific complaints, we have avoided making any general comprehensive statement on cosmetics because such products are very personalized and individual. Our Committee now feels that we must make a comment on the issue.
Women, throughout History and in every Civilization, have evinced an atavistic desire to be clean, well-groomed, distinctive and beautiful and have used “cosmetics” to help in this process. The use of modern cosmetics, as we know them today, begun with the ladies in the Courts of the French Kings of the 17th and 18th centuries and from there, spread to all classes.
In the 20th century, this was reinforced by Hollywood which employed many cosmeticians in the film industry. Max Factor, for example, served Hollywood before venturing into the wider national and international markets.
In Guyana, the most common cosmetics used are hair-dyes and hair-straighteners, skin lotions and creams of many kinds, even skin-lighteners, lipsticks and nail polishes of many hues and eye-shadows and of course, there were always perfumes. To keep their bodies shapely and healthy many women now engage in controlling their diet and indulge in regimes of physical exercises, Yoga being the most popular and effective.
Cosmetics have always changed or adjusted to the changing concepts of beauty. Two or three generations ago, cosmetics were largely of the nature of masks. Lipsticks and nail-polishes were all red or scarlet and rouges were very common. Hairstyles were also elaborate and were used, among other reasons, to create the illusion of oval faces, then regarded as the ideal shape of the feminine face.
Today, the “natural look” holds sway and this is assisted by emphasizing certain strong and desirable traits of the female physiognomy. For example, a face which may have been once regarded in the past as indifferent is now metamorphosed into a striking one by emphasizing distinctive eyes or other particular features such as mouth or forehead.
Elaborate hairstylings have been succeeded by having the hair hanging down loosely towards the neck or shoulder or by the stylized disheveled-look. These hair-styles were first popularized by the French actress, Bridget Bardot, over a generation ago.
In the Guyana cosmetic market, there is a large number of products produced by a variety of producers, some of them from Asia. The cosmetics on offer by the reputable stores tend to be middle-of-the-line. The expensive top-of-the-line products from such companies as Chanel or Balenciaga are not very common.
Not all cosmetics on the market are safe and it is wise not to go for the cheap ones. For example, some of the very cheap lipsticks peel the very thin upper skin of the lip after a few usages, leaving the lip looking raw or whitish. The cheap hair straighteners could damage the scalp leading to loss of hair.
Not all cheap toilet powders are healthy and could sometimes lead to itchy skins or even skin rashes. In buying cosmetics, one should be careful to check where the product is made for there are a large number of forgeries of the major brand-names sold on the local market. Almost all these forgeries come from East Asia.
Before we conclude this offering, it is apposite to say a word about perfumes. Perfumes are one of the oldest cosmetics used by both men and women. In the East, perfumes tend to be oil-based while in the West, they are alcohol-based. The odours of very cheap perfumes disappear in a few minutes and many of them end up by having the smell of food essences. It is always safe to buy at least middle-of-the line perfumes though the better investment would be in top-of-the-line products.
And top-of-the-line products seem never to go completely out of fashion. Whenever they are used they always remain distinctive. For example, at functions or occasions attended by affluent ladies. Most may use top-of-the-line brands of perfume like Chanel #5 but yet there is no sameness or lack of distinctiveness among them.
This is due to the fact, as a French perfumier explained to us, that individual body odours and personality become synthesized with the perfume.
At risk of this article being longer than permitted, we would like to enjoin ladies to always strive after the “natural look”. Nature, in its wisdom, has decked Man and other living things in colours reflective of their climate and general ecology. For instance, it is characteristic of those living in the colder northern climates to have light or blond hair and those in equatorial and tropical zones to have dark hair.
For someone with a brown or fairly dark complexion to dye one’s hair in a deep sparkling blond may look incongruous. (GRA’semail:[email protected])
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