Shelley Hon (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shelley Hon).

Women have faced pressure to look beautiful since the beginning of time. And the digital era has placed another set of demands on them: to create beautiful online avatars, whether in online games or in the Metaverse.

Many teen girls now spend hours every day using editing apps to alter their appearance. While, in theory, this can give them a sense of self-determination, it can also reinforce the belief that being beautiful in every environment is all-important. And it can distract girls from doing things that might bring true beauty into their lives, like spending time outside in nature, with real people—activities that can help them build confidence in themselves.

My belief, as a managing director in the beauty industry, is that the onus is on those of us in leadership roles to embrace a fresh approach to beauty, one where women make their own rules. Our marketing, advertising, and brand messaging can play a powerful role in reinforcing the idea that the beauty of a woman’s soul and personality is far more important than conforming to whatever standard is hot right now.

Women’s wellbeing is riding on this. Teen girls are experiencing record rates of depression and anxiety, and the pressure to be beautiful 24/7 and in every possible environment contributes. And it is not only teen girls who are suffering. One tenth of woman ages 18 and up take anti-depressants, reports Harvard Health Publishing.

That is not to say that beauty doesn’t matter. But women should be free to present themselves in whatever way they deem beautiful, whether that is a natural look or one that includes cosmetic surgery. And they should be free to do this not just in their lives in the “real” world but in any digital universes that come along.

My hope is that the future of beauty will be about self-determination. Consumers are asking for more diversity, inclusivity and gender equality from brands, and they have new perceptions of beauty. As leaders in the industry, we have more opportunities than ever to respond to their preferences to serve consumers from many cultures, and serve them well.

This has started to happen. In a more global world, for instance, Asian influences––such as K-pop––have made their way to the West. And many cosmetic shades are now available for different colored skin from brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. But there is a lot more work to be done to achieve true diversity and inclusion.

As Plato said, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” We in the beauty industry have the opportunity of a lifetime to put those words into practice, in every realm where beauty is important. I hope more companies will accept the challenge. Women’s wellbeing is riding on it.

Shelley Hon is managing director of Austasia Holdings, an omni-channel cosmetics company that distributes international brands to more than 2000 spas, retail stores and e-commerce platforms across China. She is also the founder of cosmetics brand, ODELE, which aims to integrate beauty concepts from East and West. She is a member, which sponsored this commentary.

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