Do You Prefer the Before or the After? (Day 217)

(photo credit: Brats dolls being refurbished by waferboard on

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came upon one of those pull-you-in articles with before and after pictures of women. The before pics are au natural. In the afters, the women have had their hair and makeup done. In every case, the change is significant.

While looking at the pictures, I was struck by how much the “after” pictures troubled me. Granted, the women looked polished and smooth and in most cases prettier in a social media kind of way, but something about the perfect wave in the hair and the blemish-less quality of the skin reminded me of celebrities on magazine covers. The celebrities (and the afters, and a few people I know who’ve gone a little too far with the cosmetic work) don’t look like real people as much as they look like flattened faces and bodies on a glossy page.

There is no there there. Or very little.

A month or so ago, my daughter and I were at the mall shopping for some back to school clothes when we stopped into the Kiehl’s store so I could buy a face wash that I use. The girl (woman) behind the counter was helpful and got me what I needed. I may not have behaved as well as she did. The problem was that the entire time during our transaction, I couldn’t stop staring at her face. Not her eyes or lips or brows but her skin. It was flawless. Not six month old baby flawless but dewy, even-toned, untouched by sun ever in her life flawless. The makeup she wore looked more like a mask to me than something beautiful.

I’m sure I put my own insecurities on this poor young woman, but she looked to me like somebody who didn’t want to be seen. I felt like every action she took, which as I mentioned before were all reasonable, must be a fake because the face she put out to the world felt like a lie. To me.

Meanwhile, my daughter, after I asked if she’d noticed the salesperson, said, “yes. she had perfect skin.” My daughter’s comment was honest from her perspective, which may play into why those before and after pictures bothered me so much.

I don’t ever want my children to hide so much of their true selves that the people around them don’t know who they really are. The worst thing, in my mind, is to hide yourself from the world because to do that you have to push the things that make you you so deep down that you are bound to get lost. And possibly depressed.

We all do a little bit of smoke and mirrors when we’re in certain situations (job interviews, performances, special events), but day to day, I prefer to see the person I am with rather than be in awe of their flawless, made-up skin.


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2 thoughts on “Do You Prefer the Before or the After? (Day 217)

  1. When I think about skin, I think about teenagers — including the three in my house. I felt that I have an average face, and I wonder what it must be like to have a face that always drew positive attention.

    Before teenage-hood, most of us have perfect skin. But then comes acne, and suddenly we are overly self-conscious about our looks and how we believe others may perceive us. Some kids come out of this state with perfect skin and a perfect mind, but others are scarred for life — physically, emotionally, or both.

    1. It’s stunning to me how much impact the side effects of puberty (body changes, acne, etc.) can impact a person’s growth and sense of self. I wish people had the confidence to accept that puberty happens in ugly ways to many but that it is a stage and not a statement of who we are and what we are able to share with the world.

So what do you think?