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How To Avoid Looking "Fake"

May 16, 2012
In the post You Can Control How Attractive You Are, I reiterated the point that most unattractive women aren’t genetically unlucky, they just aren’t trying hard enough. Recently, a reader brought up a good question in the comments section of that post: how far can a girl go to fix up herself before she is considered "fake"?

The question is a good one because at first glance, looking fake seems to be what happens when a girl tries too hard. We’ve all seen girls with caked-on makeup, boob jobs, spray tans and shitty hair extensions; and we’re all familiar with the male consensus about them – they look terrible. In fact, you probably don’t even need men to tell you this. So how do you avoid it? How do you strike a balance between “not enough” and the “fake” extreme?

The problem with this question is that it is based on a misunderstanding. It wrongly puts “ugly” on both ends of the effort scale, because it presumes that the girls with boob jobs, thick make-up and cheap hair extensions are putting in a lot of effort. This is decidedly not the case. These girls haven’t put in more effort than the average girl. Layering on make-up, or sitting in a tanning booth longer than necessary – while it does take more time – is rooted more in confusion than concerted effort.

These women are like a chef who is obsessed with a single spice – salt, or garlic, or thyme, or whatever. True, these spices all have their proper place, and can make a meal outstanding when placed on the right dish in the appropriate quantity. But in excess they destroy all dishes. A woman who layers makeup is like a chef who dumps inordinate amounts of garlic in everything he cooks. Neither the make-up girl nor the garlic-chef understands the concept of moderation or balance. The girl ends up looking “fake” and the chef has every other plate returned by unsatisfied customers. Although there is a certain amount of added effort involved in the additional mirror-time, or the extra crushing and dicing of garlic cloves, you don’t need me to tell you that both the make-up-obsessed girl and the garlic-obsessed chef are poor role models.

Sarah Harding

The mistake is a preference for quantity rather than quality. Too much effort does not result in a “fake” appearance, uneducated effort does. The chef who understands balance and complimentary tastes has invested orders of magnitude more effort and time in reaching that expertise than the one who simply saturates everything with salt. And the girl who realizes that her natural complexion only works with certain make-up tones, or knows how to suit her hairstyle and cut of clothes to her face and body shape has likewise invested miles more time and energy in her look than the girl who just cakes on extra make-up, or resorts to a boob job to enhance her chest. If you think that “more effort” means “more make-up” or “more tan,” you are spending your smarts in the wrong place – or rather, you aren’t spending them at all.

Nicola Roberts
If you really want to improve your look, you need to become your own stylist. You need to learn how to make your hair shine, and how to add volume in the right places. You need to study your body shape and try different outfits until you know precisely what cut makes your features pop - or subdues them, if necessary. You need to read books on color, and try every shade until you know which ones are your best. You need to learn everything you can about fitness and dieting so that your time in the gym is efficient and your meals compliment your workouts. You need to push your comfort boundaries with different styles, perhaps looking awkward occasionally just to rule out the possibility that your aversion to a certain style is really based in its inappropriateness for you – and not some childhood prejudice. You need to fix your posture and get serious about sleeping right. You need to watch how much you drink and learn how to care for your skin.

I am not suggesting that every girl should obsess over her appearance, but you see what I mean. This is real effort – not the “extra garlic” approach, which results in the fake look we are all so familiar with. Be smart about your efforts and, generally speaking, the more effort you put in, the more you will improve your look, not compromise it.

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