Beauty and Perfectionism

We have heard about the dangers of perfectionism and know it can lead to frustration or even worse. We know it’s unattainable. But how do we find a balance between rejecting the destructive patterns of perfectionism and embracing positive self-improvement – especially in the area of beauty?

Women are constantly being shown how to look BETTER. The beauty industry did not get to be worth billions of dollars by not marketing their latest and greatest products to women every single day. Better skin, better hair, better nails! Be more youthful and beautiful! Firmer and sexier too! Not to mention, the women on the advertisements look utterly flawless, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

We see and hear these messages so often, and we start to internalize them: I need to be better. Desiring improvement is one of the best things we can do as human beings, but, at the same time, this emphasis on “better” can easily become a dangerous slippery slope that leads straight to perfectionism.

What to do?

The lovely Brené Brown, Ted Talk sensation, scholar, and research professor behind popular books such as Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, has a lot to say on this matter in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. First she explains what perfectionism actually is:

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

If I look perfect…I can avoid…the painful feelings of shame. That’s where it all stems from: we fear painful feelings, so we grasp at whatever we can to avoid them. We don’t want to feel the shame of other people thinking we aren’t beautiful or judging our outward appearance. We don’t want to feel the shame of negative self-talk in our own heads. We yearn for acceptance and sometimes convince ourselves if we look perfect, it will come.

But here’s the truth for us all: we have no choice but failure with this pursuit of outward perfection. You will never look in the mirror and see a perfect image staring back. We’re human; all humans are flawed. The shame we feel through beauty comparison (She has fewer wrinkles, a tighter tummy, better bone structure, thicker hair, etc.) is deadly to our mind and bodies. We begin hating our imperfections, hating ourselves.

We cannot pursue beauty perfection; it’s impossible and harmful. But that does not mean we cannot aim for positive improvements.

Brené also writes, “Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?”

This concept of healthy striving is a much more positive way for women to embrace the beauty industry and improve their skin/hair/bodies. Instead of being motivated by avoiding shame and pursuing acceptance, we can look at the beauty industry as a method of self-care.

We have one body to use, and we need to care for it. We can keep it healthy and strive to improve it. These are lovely ambitions for every woman. In fact, they are acts of SELF-CARE. Skincare, makeup, hair care, and other beauty products are means in which we can make our own bodies a priority.

We can say: I am WORTH having youthful, radiant skin; strong, smooth hair; and healthy, manicured nails. I am WORTHY of genuine care.

This outlook comes from a place of worthiness, not a place of shame. Healthy improvement is driven by doing what’s best for you, not what others “expect” of you.

It would be nice to utilize the offerings of the beauty industry to improve ourselves and create a happy, healthy, cared-for body. Not to turn them into a feeding frenzy for a perfectionism addiction.



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Green Tea with Tamami Mihara

Dewy, young, glowing skin? We want it! Ko & Humble caught up with makeup artist Tamami Mihara in New York City. Originally from Japan, Tamami has a unique perspective on makeup and skincare, through her years working in fashion and beauty. Some campaigns (among others) include Clinique, Mikimoto, Cartier, Elle, Harpers Bazaar as well as individual clients like Al Pacino, Yoko Ono and Jennifer Lopez. Her first job in the United States was at the Shu Uemura boutique on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After the boutique closed her passion for the line to be reestablished in New York led her to work more closely with Shu Uemura himself in the enviable position of Creative Consultant developing new products. Charming and self-effacing, she prefers to be behind the camera. The following are excerpts from our interview over green tea and macaroons. Her portfolio of work makes skin look luminous and luxurious and can be seen here. 

Photo Courtesy of Tamami Mihara

Japanese skincare is so lauded worldwide. What differences do you see between Japan and America and what women do with their skin? 

Japanese women are curious about new makeup and are inundated with advertisements, I feel like much more so than in America. There is much more focus on skincare. I think one of the main differences is cleansing, the emphasis of several musts in the cleansing process. Japanese women spend more time on their skincare routine, with many steps. When I was growing up in Japan, the way the media represented American women in advertisements and movies gave me the impression that American women used more makeup. Now that I have been in the states long enough however, I understand that there is a balance and women here also value more natural and comfortable looks as well. No matter what the trends are American women are more focused on makeup to suit their particular lifestyle. They seem more comfortable being themselves. In Japan when I was growing up, putting on makeup was a part of good manners, like politeness. Makeup was a way to make you feel ready to go outside and face your work and daily life in a sharp, dignified manner.  


When we think about trends in beauty and skincare in Asia, we see over and over again the look of dewy, fresh skin.  What can women do to achieve this look?

  • Everyday hydration with water and good rest every night; moisturizer and staying positive in your everyday outlook.
  • As a special practice:  using a toner (on a damp cotton pad tapping skin all over), followed by moisturizer, and facial massage.  This boosts circulation; press from the outside to the inside of your face.  
  • Exfoliate periodically to make sure you are sloughing off dead skin cells
  • Exercise to improve circulation
  • Quick emergency fix: if in a true rush, a moisturizing sheet or gel mask really helps.  You can see a difference in as little as 5-10 minutes.  [Ko & Humble recommends Amore Pacific's Moisture Bound Refreshing Mask, and Peter Thomas Roth Cucumer Gel Mask or Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Mask]. 

What are your top 3 tips for taking care of the skin?

Product-wise, cleansing and moisturizing are paramount.  Beyond these things, without exercise and sleeping nothing else will flourish.  A lot depends on if you are happy. Laughing and smiling is what keeps you young.

What are the top 3 products every woman should have?

Sunscreen (mineral-based), mascara, and an eye lash curler. I like Dejavu Japanese mascaras (before I would ask friends travelling to Japan to bring some back for me), but now they can be bought here. And I love the Shu Uemura eyelash curler.



How did you decide to make people beautiful for a living?

I dreamt of doing something creative and in the fashion world. As I started to learn more about makeup and invested in the training, I realized I can help people. I evolved thinking about hair and makeup as an enhancement of each person’s unique overall style, (it can be a daily “rebirth” so to speak).  We are beauty makers in a sense. I do believe people can pick up and affect each other’s energy, especially when touching face, skin and hair. I have to be of a healthy mind, body and soul so I can transfer good karma in both the energy and confidence they receive from my touch and my work to their particular stage and performance, whether it be on the real stage of the theater, film, concert, photo shoot, wedding or the figurative stage of their own lives at work and with family events. 

Of course you need proper technique and skill to work with a client. However, mastering your own healthful lifestyle is imperative to consistently influence beauty, confidence, and happiness in people. A good example happened one day early in my career when I, myself was not in a happy mood and had a client. Of course, I smiled and did my best to pretend everything was great, and technically did all the right things. However, because I actually have to touch the client’s skin when I am doing my job, the woman instantly knew something was wrong. She asked me what happened. So even though I was outwardly doing all the right things, the energy being down was apparent.

From that point on I worked on centering myself before every client interaction (aside from the strict technical training we received). I wanted to give the client a great feeling, like preparing her as an actor going on a stage. I wanted her to have a great feeling and a great smile. 



It is interesting you mention touch and this being very important. Estee Lauder used to say if she had the opportunity to touch a woman’s face to put on the product, she knew she would make a sale. It is such an intimate thing to touch someone’s face. Tell us a little about your work with Shu Uemura.

The opportunity to come from Tokyo to the US came by winning a “total look” competition in Japan. While in the US, by chance I discovered that Shu Uemura’s new boutique would be opening in New York and I started working there. This was the beginning of my association with the Shu Uemura company, and it grew to teaching make up technique to the New York employees, nail technique to the Tokyo employees, while also developing the New York boutique. Later I worked with “Shu-san” himself [Tamami would only address him this way in our interview, the Japanese equivalent to “Mr. Shu”] developing new products. 

Shu-san was a very open and down-to-earth mentor I respected very much. He was very curious about everything and would take time to personally speak with every person at the store. Showing up unannounced at his department store counters, he heard the true criticism and customer feedback for his products. He was always interested in people and in the truth. He originally studied acting, music, and painting, but eventually went into makeup, and was a true visionary in this field.  

He developed a now famous facial cleansing oil, which was a precursor to some very popular products today. I remember he would tell me his ideas were a concern for his marketing department because he knew he was revolutionary in his products and their “ahead-of-their-time” potential. And he was right because now something as simple as this cleansing oil is an accepted normal step in womens’  skin care, not just in Japan but all over the world. 


We know you never discuss some of your famous clients, but can you give us a hint of what it was like working with a few of them?

I feel that everyone you call “famous,” is the same as every other client that trusts me to work with them. Probably the common denominator for each of the more famous people I’ve worked with is that they are all very down-to-earth, and they take care of themselves inside and out. They “know” themselves very well. And all of these traits combine to give them the charisma that makes them famous in the first place. 

Al Pacino was very passionate about his characters’ details. He seemed to have a very “family” orientation toward everyone on his crew; giving to everyone. He liked to find something unique about the character every time, before every performance. He is a very genuine person, and very private. Extremely disciplined in his approach to hard work. I remember he was working both, in the theater with Chinese Coffee and Salome, as well as the movie Scent of a Woman in the same year. And I remember he was losing his voice. But when he was giving his acceptance speech for his Oscar for Scent of a Woman, he said “if I can do it, you can do it.”  And that was what it was like working with him; he gave you the feeling he liked working with you and encouraged you. He inspired me to continue and succeed in receiving my US green card as an artist. 

Yoko Ono has a very classic “Japanese” manner in how she was open and thoughtful with me. She is a very professional, punctual and beautiful woman. 

We saw Yoko Ono at her MoMa exhibit a few years ago and were amazed by her youthfulness and energy.

She was very down to earth, with beautiful full eyebrows and great skin and hairShe didn’t need a lot. No camouflage.

Mr. Shu gave women around the world a big gift when he said “makeup should not be camouflage.” It should enhance the natural beauty in each of us, and be cultivated by the way we live.

She had her own style of makeup but was open to try new things. It was a pleasure to work with her as she actually tried out the things I advised, she was curious and would follow up.



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