(Un)Natural Beauty

Nobody wants to look like they’ve had any work done, and yet more people have than ever before. Why?

Ani Dimi, Studio Firma, Sergey Narevskih/Stocksy, George Marks/Getty Images

Letter From The Editor

A few days ago, I looked in the mirror and audibly gasped. There it was — an ominous line snaking across my forehead, proclaiming, “You are aging, sweetie!” Heart racing, I grabbed my phone and drafted an email to my dermatologist, pressing send with the swiftness of an Olympic sprinter. Knowing that a quick prick of Botox would bring my forehead back to the texture of a freshly-peeled egg gave me solace. And yet, for the rest of the day, I felt unsettled — mostly by my reaction to something quite literally so miniscule.

I’ve never wanted over-plumped lips and bionic-looking cheekbones (although I enjoy seeing them on my TV whenever I’m watching Bravo, which is a lot). I do, however, want to keep looking as effortlessly well-rested as I did in my early 20s. Apparently, I’m not alone — Botox, with its magical line-smoothing ability, consistently ranks as the most-requested minimally-invasive procedure each year. Plastic surgeons tell me their clients aren’t bringing pictures of celebrities to their consultations anymore — they’re bringing photos of themselves when they were younger or smoothed out and Paris-filtered. I guess, in some ways, this is a positive change: We no longer want to look like someone else — progress! But the paradox of looking “naturally” beautiful in its very narrow definition — wrinkle-free skin, smooth hair, flushed cheeks and lips akin to a Glossier model — is that it’s just another beauty standard women are held to, and one that’s far from inclusive (there’s a reason the CROWN Act exists — Black women have been discriminated for their natural hair texture for years).

In Bustle’s (Un)Natural Beauty package, we’re exploring the concept of looking effortlessly beautiful in 2022 and the time, effort, energy, and money it actually involves. You’ll find beauty secrets from attractive people around the world, fascinating facts about Botox (it was discovered from poisoned meat!), a deep dive into society’s new obsession with the “warped hourglass” body type, and more.

As it turns out, my dermatologist is booked until March, so my forehead line and I will be getting to know each other better over the next few weeks. In our forced closeness, I’m trying to find acceptance, and maybe even a little joy. What’s wrong with looking a bit older after a year that’s been anything but easy? My wrinkle, she’s a survivor — a reminder of life experiences, both crushing and joyful. I’m working on showing her — and myself — some kindness until my next appointment.

- Faith Xue, Executive Beauty Director

Real Talk

We Did Not Wake Up Like This

The cost of “natural beauty” can be considerable. Here’s how to decide if it’s a price worth paying.

Enes Evren, Cat Gwynn, lambada, Peter Dazeley, Shana Novak, Yulia Reznikov, Iryna Veklich, Nenov/Getty Images

Beauty Tripping

The Global Guide to Looking "Naturally" Hot, By City

From Los Angeles to Nairobi.

By Calin Van Paris
Body Myths

The “Warped Hourglass” Is Here — But It’s Nobody’s Natural Body Shape

Why are we obsessed with this unrealistic ideal?

By Amber Rambharose
Weird But True

The Fascinating Evolution Of Botox

It's not just for line-smoothing.

By Rachel Lapidos
Curl Quest

A (Not-So) Natural Hair Journey

Senior beauty editor Erin Stovall dishes on going from 4C to relaxed and back again.

By Erin Stovall
Getting Work Done

Tweaks Of Nature

Inside the rise of non-invasive treatments.

By Erin Stovall
Hot Shot

Your Comprehensive Guide To The Brazilian Butt Lift

The unfiltered truth on why they're so popular.

By Kaitlyn McLintock