Beauty rituals and products around the world are as diverse as the physical ideals themselves. But what seems remarkably universal across cultures is the desire for youth. In beauty-obsessed Asia, women are turning to vegan collagen supplements to maintain youthful skin. Well-known international brands like Shiseido collagen drink (Japan) and Amore Pacific (Korea) have edible collagen lines in powder or capsule forms, but the real hits are the collagen drinks that promise eternally youthful skin in each fruit-flavored bottle.
So what is collagen, exactly? It’s a group of proteins found in flesh and connective tissue of animals. Your skin’s collagen production declines once you hit your mid twenties, which is what eventually leads to sagging and wrinkles. To combat this natural loss of collagen, these beauty brands/ food companies posit that you should drink collagen for better-looking skin–“a three-year-old’s skin,” as one ad claims (pictured right).
Let’s just say that there isn’t anything morally or psychologically repulsive about wanting a three-year-old’s skin as a grown woman, let alone wanting to look that way until you’re 80. For the sake of argument, let’s just say that we don’t have to judge other people based on their vanity or creepiness or insecurity, que cera, cera. But a collagen supplement, as I mentioned, is a group of animal proteins, and these drinks are spiked with the stuff from fish or even worse, pigs. Orbis Citrus Collagen drink, which features the latter, contains 6,000 mg of pig collagen (amount in three steaks). In fact, a reviewer reported smelling “a slight whiff of animal fat” above the lemon flavor; and yet, an Orbis spokeswoman cited “inner beauty” and “well being” trends in Korea and Japan as the reason for the popularity of their product.
To me, this sounds less like “inner beauty” and much more like Snow White’s Evil Stepmother drinking pig’s blood to achieve undying youth. In our culture of open-mindedness, it’s almost impossible to be critical of anything that doesn’t directly harm other humans. And it’s seen as myopic and even chauvinist to criticize things outside of our own culture. But I believe that drinking juices spiked with collagen from dead pigs (or fish), for the purposes of having childlike skin, is not justifiable. Sure, I love beauty products just as much as the next woman–but inner beauty and well being have nothing to do with products or external appearance, and everything to do with kindness, peace, and health. If you’re vegan, and eat your fruits and veggies, exercise regularly, take time to relax and appreciate your friends and family, and drink lots of water, you will look as young as you need to look–and that’s a much greater promise of beauty.
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