The Value Of Beauty Cultural Studies Essay

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Since thousands of years ago, people have granted that beauty holds great value in their life. For beauty has power, hence people do not mind putting so much effort in search for beauty. To be beautiful, to look the best is what all people - men and women - desire. They are constantly looking for something new or better to enhance their appearance. They want others to have good impressions on them; be admired, appreciated, and respected. Having the same desire, it could not be avoided that the search for beauty has motivated unceasing competitions among the people.

Nevertheless, it is not only the physical beauty that people search for. They also want to feel good, because it would enhance their beauty as well. In these days, more and more people are looking for a chance to get pampered; an "escape", a "time-out" to enjoy self-indulgence.

The beauty industry exists as a respond to these demands, to help men and women to look and feel better. Offering various types of products and cosmetics as well as services such as hairstyling, beauty treatments, and spas; the beauty industry lead people to one apparent issue: the tendency to consuming beauty.

Beauty services have remained as one of the rapidly growing industries. In Singapore itself, there is a strong demand for beauty industry. From 1995 to 2007, the amounts of consumer expenditure for personal care products increased by 36.7%. Additionally, there is growing number of salons since 1990s. In 2002, there were about 1507 salons in Singapore (Buying Guide, 2002/2003) and the number has been increasing with many new salons opening up in various shopping centres. In the mean time, there are approximately 1511 hair salons and 1802 beauty salons in the country.

This essay aims to discuss about why people are consuming beauty and the phenomenon of consuming beauty in Singapore context. Over and above, it is also the intention to explore designs for "spaces of beauty" - particularly for hair and beauty salons - in relation to enhancing consumption of beauty.

2. Consuming Beauty

2.1 The Search for Beauty

Why does beauty matter?

The Dove Global Study conducted in April 2007 described how the sense of beauty are important in affecting how women feel about themselves, and also how they act and take part in life. Many women would feel better about themselves if they were prettier. They feel more confident and self-assured, being admired and appreciated by people around them.

The Dove study conducted survey on Australian females and found out that when feeling badly about how they look, many females choose not to participate in social events or parties or go to a beach or pool, but instead choose to stay home, watch TV or exercise. (Dove Media Release, 2007)

Looking from another point of view, beauty serves to attract the opposite sex. People are more attracted to those with good looks. Dr. David Buss, a professor of evolutionary psychology from University of Texas conducted a survey on human matting preferences. He found out that out of 10,000 people of thirty-seven cultures, a woman's beauty was at the top or near it on every man's list. Further to this, he also concluded from the study that nothing is more important to a marriage-minded woman than her good looks. (Buss, 1989 cited in Patzer, 2008, p. 6)

However, it can't be avoided that a lot of people are worried they are not beautiful or attractive enough; that no one would want to couple with them. As a result, there is an unceasing competition among the people. Women compete to be more beautiful than the other, in order to attract the best men. At the same time, men also compete for positions of power and dominance in order to complement their ability to attract the most beautiful women.

As people - especially women - grow older, the desire to enhance their appearance increases. Perhaps it is because of the advertisings we see regularly - overwhelmed with images of beautiful models - that shaped such an ideal of beauty, which makes women afraid of becoming old and unattractive. They want to stay young. The Dove Global Study revealed that in Australia, 87 per cent of women aged 18-64 said that they wanted to change their appearance.

Beauty markets exist because there are regular demands to look young, be pretty, and have good self-esteem. (Xomba, 2010). The beauty industry these days is no longer "women-only" subjects. Both women and men nowadays give special importance for self-grooming and self-indulgence. This circumstance has enhanced the demand for beauty products and services, at the same time increases the growth of beauty industry.

2.2 Singaporeans Attitude towards Consuming Beauty

Singaporeans want to look good, and they don't mind paying top dollar to feel good either. (Palanisamy, 2008)

For Singapore women, personal grooming is very important. Many of them are engaged with jobs, working hard everyday. In many cases, they are also taking on double responsibilities in the household and at work. In order to keep looking good and feeling good, they need and do not hesitate to treat and indulge themselves by consuming beauty care products, visiting salons and wellness spas.

Having a good image is especially important for women entering the workforce; since they need to meet with clients and deal with diverse corporate appointments. Beverly Skeggs (2001, p.22) said that for working class women, the concern with appearance is central to the attempt to secure economic and symbolic capital. Women entering workforce have higher expendable income. Because of this, they are able to spend more for beauty care and self-indulgence.

Just like the women, Singapore men also pay great attention towards beauty and personal grooming. Singapore men these days possess a strong aesthetic sense and are willing to spend more time and money on personal grooming efforts to enhance their appearance. (Euromonitor International, 2009), as they require good personal presentation in their careers. They are also more interested fashion and personal care trends, in contrast to traditional masculine men. Responding to this fact, nowadays there are salons that specialises in men's grooming; not only including hairstyling services, but also massage, facials, slimming, and spas.

Figure 1

ACE Salon for men

1 Raffles Place, Singapore

Figure 2

Hydrating Facial Treatment

at Urban Homme

Face and Body Studio for Men


According to Euromonitor International (2009, p.82), consumer spending in Singapore on personal care products such as cosmetics and toiletries rose by 36.7% during the review period 1995-2007, going from s$2 billion in 1995 to S$2.8 billion in 2007. (See Appendix 1) The increasing amount is because Singaporeans enjoy better incomes these days. On that account, they could expend more for beauty care products.

2.3 Singapore Lifestyle: Influences to Consuming Beauty

Consumerism has been so much a way of life in Singapore. This lifestyle has brought considerable impact to the demand and growth of the beauty industry. Essential factors in Singapore lifestyle that affect the beauty industry in Singapore are the fashion trends, the media, advertisings, and the fast-paced lifestyle.

2.3.1 Fashion Trends

Singapore is well known for its up-to-date fashion styles. From the exclusive international brands by prominent designers to the local brands; all conveniently gathered within the island's ubiquitous shopping centres. Even lately, more and more shopping malls and fashion retail outlet are built in order to fulfil the high demand on fashion. It is mentioned that there are currently a lot of fashion retail stores housed in more than 250 malls fabulously arrayed throughout the country, offering consumers various fashion styles and trends from both Asian and Western countries. In addition, there are also regular fashion events such as the Singapore Fashion Week and Singapore Fashion Festival. All of these contribute in letting consumers to stay up-to-date on the latest fashion trends.

Fashion trends are always associated with hair styling and make-up. The young residents of this country, who are aware of the latest fashion trends, would like to have new hair and make-up styles that would be suitable with the latest fashion trends. So this will increases the demand for beauty products/cosmetics and beauty services like salons.

2.3.2 Mass Media

Singaporeans enjoy comprehensive and highly developed telecommunications network, enabling information and advertisings to be spread around easily. There are various means of mass media such as television programs, videos, books, magazines, and websites; all showing images that "glorify youth and beauty" everyday. The images that people see regularly from the media in fact play big role in promoting beauty consumption. The media have given homogenous beauty perceptions to people; delivering the message on "maintaining high standards of beauty, featuring images of thin celebrities (Donnellan, 2006). These standards tend to be accepted by women. To be able to achieve this standard of beauty, they would not hesitate to consume more and more beauty products and services. Still, men also could not avoid the influence of the media and advertisements. Nowadays there are numbers of advertisements promoting personal care products for men, employing models with good looks and figures that resemble those of bodybuilders. Fed by these ads constantly, men could not help but interested to consume those products to become like the models.

2.3.3 Fast-paced Lifestyle

As a further matter, in this fast-paced lifestyle of Singapore, people frequently suffer from excessive high levels of stress and pressures. In order to overcome this issue, nowadays people care more about their well being, and this leads to the growing self-care trends. People are looking for treatments that could get them feel pampered, rejuvenated and refreshed. Beauty and wellness centres that offer self-pampering services have become popular among many Singaporeans, especially the busy working professionals with hectic schedules who desire to relax after work and rejuvenate. As mentioned by Lim (2003, p. 12), "in this stressful society, both students and executives need time to relax themselves. Visiting a salon that offers a good haircut and other services in a cozy ambience is an enjoyment."

2.4 Designs for Spaces of Beauty

Beauty is currently exactly what the design market will bear. As consumers have become more educated about the potential for design to enhance - or detract from - their experience of the world, they are demanding that the places they visit to invest in their ideal of the beautiful reflect it as well. (Eakin, 2005)

In the past, design for spaces of beauty tends to be overlooked. But along with the escalating business of beauty industry, architects and designers began to expand their works to create spaces that would contain this activity of consuming beauty. Spaces of beauty such as salons and day spas are being exposed to a remarkable turn over; becoming more contemporary and unconventional.

At the same time, the owner of beauty services are trying to attract more consumers by providing services in spaces that will give the consumers innovative and unique experiences. Their objectives are clear: to make consumers keep coming back for services in their beauty shops. AIDA's Hair Salon in Manhattan designed by ARCHI-TECTONICS for example; seeks to attract more consumers with its unique design features. The form of the spaces seems like it is being distorted because of the folded wall and ceiling. The folded wall could transform into desk, seating elements, and at the same time created integral system of lighting, floating mirrors, and sound systems. The sculptural façade gives dynamic effect, inviting people from the outside to be curious, wanting to come into the salon and see what's actually happening in the salon.

Figure 3

AIDA Hair Salon, New York

A view of the bluestone façade

Figure 4

AIDA Hair Salon, New York

A view to the waiting area and outside

The design for hair and beauty salon at Clemenceau Avenue, Dhoby Ghaut, Singapore intends to encourage the activity of consuming beauty. Unlike most of the salons, which are located inside shopping malls, the salon is established in a stand-alone building for the wish to have exclusiveness and privacy. The salon offers wide range of hairdressing services and beauty treatments, giving everything consumers need in one convenient spot. The salon intends to create a retreat from the hectic lifestyle of the outside world; a place where people could not only receive beauty treatments but also feel totally relaxed inside.

Situated in the urban area of Singapore, the salon is surrounded by various amenities that give the location several advantages. It is in the vicinity of numerous shopping centres, office buildings, educational institutions, and high-end residential properties. This enables the salon to attract more consumers of various social circumstances: students, working professionals, or even housewives.

Comfort is a very important key in the space for consuming beauty. It is what consumers seek while enjoying beauty services: to feel comfortable in a pleasant ambience. Aware of this fact, the design endeavour to create unique experience and pleasant ambience so that the consumers would feel satisfied, and therefore they are willing to come again to the salon.

Inspired by the idea of braided hairstyle, the spaces are articulated in layers and overlapping, playing with split-levels. The zigzag manner of the braid contributes to the angular form of the space. All of the spaces are interlaced and linked together by a triple- volume space in the centre that serves as a lounge.

The spaces for hairdressing services and other beauty treatments are separated in different levels. This is to make the consumers enjoying both services to feel more relaxed; not getting distracted with too many activities going around. Because of the layering of split-levels, each space could have interaction to the other, letting people from one space to know what is going on at the other spaces. The use of translucent material like frosted glass also helps to enhance this possibility.

Communicating the form of the interior space, the façade has angular openings as well; designed to leave a strong impression for people from the outside and attract them to come inside; to enjoy beauty services offered by the salon. The openings let pedestrians passing to catch a glimpse of what's happening in the interior space. Simultaneously, it also provides views to the urban environment from the inside.

To create the sense of repose, natural elements are incorporated into the space. One of the natural elements is the water, which could be seen from the shampoo area. The shampoo area is not directly exposed to the styling and colouring area, with subdued lighting that allows people to loosen up while lying down and having their hair washed. At this point, they could see water feature above that is contained on top of transparent fibreglass. This water feature overlaps with the spaces on the second storey. So people on the second storey would pass through and could see this water feature while enjoying their beauty treatments. The lounge is presented with a view to the garden at the side of the salon.

3. Conclusion

Beauty does matter. As more people realize this fact, everyone is trying their best to be beautiful; competing to be more beautiful than the others. Likewise, feeling good also contributes to one's personal beauty. In this hectic and fast-paced lifestyle, people need a good time to relax from all their hectic daily routines. They wish to be pampered with various treatments that would make them rejuvenated and refreshed. To fulfil those desires, they are willing to spend money to consume beauty products and services.

It is true that the beauty services are what the consumers seek in the first place. However, there is another concern that should not be ignored: the environment and spaces that holds the activity. People demand for an ideal environment to enjoy their beauty services and treatments.

This is how design takes part: creating spaces and environment for the activity of consuming beauty. Not just ordinary spaces but spaces that could give consumers unique experience. Having beauty services in spaces with pleasant ambience and unique experiences would satisfy the consumers. Once they are satisfied, they are definitely willing to come again. In addition, they would share their experiences to others as well, which results in bringing more and more consumer. Ultimately all of these would lead to enhance the behaviour of consuming beauty.