Breaking Outside The Beauty Box: Review & Giveaway of “The Beauty Experiment”

By Sunday, January 26, 2014 9 0

Diamond-Cut Life is about being rich in what matters, like joy, creativity, loving relationships and integrity. We can grow these things in our lives, rather than, for example, buying into media-driven ideas of how we should look, and the vast number of things we should buy in order to look that way.

The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde is the funny, honest story of a woman who feels the same way, and did something about it. She spent a year without any beauty products, new clothes or salon haircuts, and almost no jewelry. And she gives us snapshots of her current life, five years later, which is less austere than the year of the experiment, but much simpler and happier than her beauty-obsessed life prior to it.

This book is so good, I’m not just adding it to my Good Books page. I’m giving away a copy to one of my readers. To get into the drawing, subscribe by email to Diamond-Cut Life, to your right. I’m doing the drawing January 31st.

Phoebe Baker Hyde

Examples of the ways Ms. Hyde, age 36, broke outside the box of our culture’s costly beauty norms:

  • She stopped shaving her legs – and wore shorts when taking her daughter to the park.
  • She partied at an upscale bar dominated by the pretty people – in plainface.
  • She covered all the mirrors in her house for a month - and had a huge upsurge of creativity.

Did you know the average woman in the U.S. spends $15,000 on makeup, alone, in her lifetime? Who among us has not toiled and fussed unhappily in front of the mirror, changing our hair and clothes and makeup before we exit the house, hoping to be evaluated positively by the world? What are some other ways of breaking outside the confining beauty-box of mainstream culture, short of going cold turkey as Ms. Hyde did?

Well, some of you know that I had a vanity crisis last spring, at age 52, when a child on a playground asked me if I was someone’s grandma. My panicked trip to Nordstom’s make-up counter, plus hearing the Dalai Lama speak here in Portland on the exact values I’ve been writing about since 2007 here at Diamond-Cut Life, led to my writing Dealing Well With Aging. (I’ve never received as many impassioned comments as I did on that post.) My vanity crisis was valuable because it  landed me here:

I’m determined to age gracefully, and focus on who I am and what I do with my time on earth, rather than how I look.  For example, being of service to other people pulls me blessedly out of my vanity. The homeless person searching for his next meal is more important than my prettiness quotient. So are children born with cleft palates, who will grow up in social isolation without the simple surgery that will give them normal faces, and lives. I now give $40/month to Operation Smile, which does cleft palate surgeries in developing countries. (Phoebe Baker Hyde also does some philanthropy as an outcome of her simplified approach to beauty).

Conserving the earth’s precious, finite resources can be an equally good motivator for breaking outside of our culture’s beauty box. The more we simplify our closets and collections of beauty products, the more lightly we are treading on the earth.

The Beauty Experiment is the tale of Ms. Hyde’s bravely breaking outside our culture’s beauty-box to become richer in what matters:   joy, creativity, integrity, time and energy for loving relationships and meaningful work. It’s a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.

Get into the drawing for a free copy of The Beauty Experiment by subscribing to Diamond-Cut Life, below. Be sure to click the verification email you’ll immediately receive. I will never share or sell your email address.

Receive future posts on how to be rich in what matters:

Coming up this winter and spring at Diamond-Cut Life: How To Deal With Hoarding, and How To Find Work You Love.


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  • Debra Yearwood
    February 13, 2014

    What a brilliant idea. Its so easy to get sucked into self criticism that is based on things that are only skin deep.

  • Heather J @ TLC Book Tours
    February 2, 2014

    I’m happy to see that you can appreciate your vanity crisis for the benefits it (eventually) brought you!

    Thanks for being on the tour and sharing your experiences.

    • Alison
      February 2, 2014

      Heather, thanks for making me part of the book tour. I’d love to do more of these, especially when they involve books as values-driven as this one.

  • My Inner Chick
    January 27, 2014

    I LOVE the idea of just “Being Me.”

    But I ‘m scared as hell.

    That books sounds Empowering & Identifiable.

    BTW, Grandmas are HOT nowadays!!! Xxx

  • Phoebe
    January 27, 2014

    Alison, many thanks for taking the time to read The Beauty Experiment. I’m glad parts of it spoke to you! I think craftygreen poet makes an interesting point about the Big Self-that persona we wear to parties and other ritual events, and that’s an essential component of the human psyche. Sadly, glamorized TV anchors and models in magazines and on billboards skew our perception so it’s become easy to confuse occasional theatrical artifice and enhancement with what’s required of us every day. My experiment helped me distinguish one from the other and ultimately embrace both… in their places. Happy January! Phoebe Baker Hyde

    • Alison
      February 2, 2014

      Phoebe, I think you’re right about our confusing artifice with reality.

      it was a real pleasure to read and review your book. It seems to me that anyone who reads it can’t help but become a bit wiser, and richer in what matters.

  • craftygreenpoet
    January 27, 2014

    I’ve never shaved my legs, never worn make-up, have cut my own hair for twenty years, I’ve never understood the obsession with artificial beauty.

    Having said that, I’ll more than happily dress up (in nice clothes bought from second hand shops) and put glitter on my face to go to a party.

    • Alison
      January 27, 2014

      Ms. Poet, that’s wonderful. The time you have saved over the years by not shaving and applying make-up has probably gone largely into your writing, bird-watching and nature walks — much more meaningful activities, in my view. You broke outside the beauty box long ago, or rather, you never got trapped inside it at all, I gather. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  • Mike
    January 26, 2014

    Wow, on the $15,000/year, Alison! That is so awesome on your supporting Operation Smile. I’ve seen some of the pictures and those poor kids need so much help. It’s heartbreaking. Great giveaway, our friend! :)