Lessons from fairy tales: beauty beyond skin deep

A study by Purdue University sociologist Liz Grauerholz and Lori Baker-Sperry, an assistant professor of women’s studies at Western Illinois University had suggested that fairy tales are sending strong messages about the importance of having a beautiful appearance. “Beauty or ugliness is referred to in 94 percent of the Grimms’ fairy tales; the heroines are usually beautiful in the Grimms’ tales, and ugliness is seen as a sign of evil in 17 percent of the stories”, according to the study. I’ve been re-reading some of these fairy tales and to my surprise, I found there are some hidden beauty lessons to be learnt from them. So today, I’m sharing with you my interpretation of beauty beyond skin deep in seven of these classic tales.

Princess & The Pea by Hans Christian
Story: A prince found his real princess, who endured a sleepless night because she was sensitive to a pea placed on a bed and buried underneath 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds.

Lesson: Besides the fact that princesses need beauty sleep, real ones do not toss and turn all night long on their beds if they want to maintain their beauty. They understand that the importance of a good bedding, which allows them to sleep on their backs on night long so that they would not develop sleep wrinkles when they accidentally push their face on the pillows. That, or they get their rich papa kings to get them good quality silk pillow cases.

Cinderella by Brothers Grimm
Story: With the aid of her fairy godmother, poor suffering Cinderella went to the ball dressed beautifully complete with a delicate pair of glass slippers to meet the prince. However, she must return before midnight for the spells would be broken and she would go back to being the simple country wench she was.

Lesson: To upkeep one’s beauty and remain desirable, a woman must be rested at home by midnight and preferably be alseep by then. A real beauty understand that no matter what challenges she’s been presented, she must never forget that the optimum time to sleep is between 10pm and 3am.

Rapunzel by Brothers Grimm
Story: Rapunzel was being locked away in a tower in the middle of the woods by an enchantress. She has long golden hair, which she would let out of the window so that the witch can climb up to visit her each day, bringing fresh food. It was also her long golden hair that finally got her saved by a prince.

Lesson: Beautiful, voluminous strong hair will always save a damsel in distress and give her a good hair day. And sometimes, a new haircut signals a positive change of luck as well.

Hansel & Gretel by Brothers Grimm
Story: Brother and sister chanced upon a cottage built of gingerbread and decorated all round with candies and icing. Being ravenous after days of not having anything to eat, they stuffed themselves silly without knowing that they would soon be in the clutches of a cannibalistic witch who built the house to entice children so that she may eat them.

Lesson: Sweets and candies are bad for your health and beauty, not to mention your teeth too. Sugar is a bad skin food and it can make you fat as well. If you’re not careful, sweets may even get you killed.

Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault
Story: A princess disguised herself using a donkeyskin to fled her castle so that she won’t have to marry her father. She was considered ugly by all because of her disguise until she found her prince.

Lesson: Beautiful princesses know that added protection is necessary when it comes to their skin. Even with no sunscreen invented, they could always don extra clothing or accessories, even if they look unsightly. Everyone can laugh but at the end of day, these princesses will have the last laugh with their beautiful skin.

Snow White by Brothers Grimm
Story: The vain queen who tries without success to kill Snow White as she wants to be the most beautiful woman. She eventually died an envious woman after learning that all her efforts were wasted as Snow White remained the fairest of all.

Lesson: Have you ever heard of an angry, beautiful woman? No? That’s because emotions filled with anger, fear, jealousy and hate can actually create acid-forming chemical reactions in the body according to Jeanette Graf. M.D. and rob your beauty.

Sleeping Beauty by Brothers Grimm
Story: Princess Briar-Rose was cursed at birth to die when she touches a spinning wheel’s spindle before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday. The curse was eased by a blessing and the princess fell asleep for 100 years instead. She was eventually saved by the kiss of a Prince Philip.

Lesson: Dr Graf also mentioned that joyous, love-filled emotions tend to create alkaline forming chemical reactions that is good for our skin and health. You must have heard the saying that women are the most beautiful when they’re in love. So in the same vein, make-believe romances do the same as a bit of heart-throbbing excitement makes a great supplement for healthy skin since these fantasies excite the secretion of endorphins – natural hormones that your brain releases when it senses happiness. It can make your complexion glow and in the case of Princess Briar-Rose, wake her from a coma.

Exclusive at Viva Woman only
Did you enjoy reading this? I hope so as I had a lot of fun writing it. I’ve never actually read a lot of fairy tales and if you ask me now, I’ll say the fantasies in fairy tales are not that great for children, especially little girls. But well, I guess they’ll grow up to realize that themselves. Still, it was quite enjoyable reading some of them to my boy now.

So tell me: what’s your favorite fairy tale?

(Images from Tales From The Brothers Grimm and Google’s image search bank.)


  1. Renee says:

    Sesame I truly enjoyed this post, what a wonderful topic! ? Thank you for posting this! You know, half the stuff they teach you in fairy tales/children’s stories are ridiculous and are quite damaging, but once in a while they do have something positive to say. You are making me miss university, LOL, because I actually did a big essay on hidden messages in children’s films concerning sexuality, femininity, self esteem and relationships. ?

    I’ll be sharing this post on twitter! ?

  2. AtelierGal says:

    This is one of the most enjoyable entry I’ve read from recent memory, combining fairy tales with beauty. But I’m more familiar with gory versions rather than the ones remade into Disney movies.

  3. sesame says:

    Yes, quite ridiculous…the stereotypes of beautiful princesses and prince charming plus everything is happily ever after. I refuse to read those to my son.

    And thanks for tweeting it. ?

  4. sesame says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. ?

    I was surprised to read slightly different versions of the fairy tales; wasn’t aware they have so many versions of the same story. It’s a bit like the game where you pass down the words and then either the words get truncated or come out different from the original.

  5. Jol says:

    This is a wonderful post combined with the classic fairy tales- I liked your interpretation on the Donkeyskin and sunscreen the most ?

    I guess back then I just took whatever it was written and didnt think much about the interpretations or if there was any hidden messages. My favourite has to be Cinderella – maybe it has got to do with my curfew of having to get home before 12md :p

  6. Farah says:

    Hm, those shallow authors!!! Hehe joking. But I also enjoyed reading this. Well my favorite fairy tale is probably…Scooby Doo…no that’s not a fairy tale lol. I think I’d have to go with Princess Anastacia because she saves herself. I’m tired of the pretty but almost helpless image of a princess, ooh ooh she needs a prince boo hoo. hahaha
    Man those princes kiss just about anybody, they just find some unconscious girl laying around somewhere and go: Hey how about a kiss?
    Excuse me, call 911 or rather the medieval doctor. The princes are such pervs lol.
    Anyway, I have a question I hope you can answer. Have you ever used Ecobeau products and if so are they good? Pros, cons?
    Thank you in advance.
    Have a lovely, sweet day. =)

  7. sesame says:

    We all read stories literally without second guessing the content; it’s normal. I was surprised myself when some interpreted Sleeping Beauty as forbidden fruit taste sweeter and premarital sex. I didn’t quite see the connections.

  8. sesame says:

    Your comment about the princes going around kissing anybody made me laugh out loud! That was a funny image! Who would want to kiss a woman who is supposedly dead, even if she’s beautiful? Perverts!

    Oh, I did wrote a review on some of Ecobeau’s products here:

    Maybe that’ll shed some light for you.

  9. BT says:

    I enjoyed your beauty fairy tales, thanks!

  10. sesame says:

    Glad you did BT! ?

  11. LittleCoats says:

    Oh My Goodness! I absolutely LOVE classic 14th century fairy tales – especially for their costumes, dances and music. This is a great post and I absolutely love and adore the fact that you have pointed out these wonderful, smart hidden beauty messages! Thank you very much, because they have actually helped me look up to how smart these princesses can be! And might I just say that the pictures are totally adorable, gorgeous, beautiful. I love this. This is more than a beauty post – it’s an art piece! ? Cheers!

  12. sesame says:

    I’m so pleased you view this as an art piece. The pictures were carefully selected – I love the illustrations too. ?

  13. Kira says:

    Thanks for posting this, very informative and entertaining ?

    I like reading cautionary tales, I think I’d even read them to my kids. Personally I think it’s more of entertainment and exercising one’s imagination than actually reading too much between the lines.

  14. Kira says:

    Btw, may I repost this on my blog in the near future? Will credit you of course ?

  15. sesame says:

    I would say if you’re reading the stories for entertainment, just go with the stories instead of reading in between the lines. The latter only happens for those who wants to analyze the story. LOL.

    Oh, about reposting this blog on yours…I would rather not. You can repost 10% of it, say one of the stories and then link back to the entry. No sense for me to spend time writing this and not have pple come read it here. ?

  16. Kira says:

    I understand, no problem ? Good job on this entry, I had fun reading it ?

  17. N. says:

    I loved reading this! My favorite tail would be sleeping beauty or Rapunzel.

  18. chenyze says:

    whoa this is just really cool! (= great idea! and you found some really good illustrations there!

  19. zzzmadison says:

    totally agree. wonderful post! my fav would have to be Cinderella.. i love beauty and the beast too haha.

    didn’t know that we can get sleep wrinkles from pressing our face against the pillow. oh dear, i sleep on my stomach.. pretty difficult to change!

  20. sesame says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. ?

    I used to like Snow White.

  21. sesame says:

    Haha…the entry is a bit tongue-in-cheek really. ?

  22. sesame says:

    Yes, it does! I wrote an entry about it here:

    I didn’t know better either and used to use on my left side so I have more wrinkles around my left eye.

  23. fwy says:

    I love these stories when I was young. I guess it does influence how one perceived a good & bad person. However, we are adults now & no longer hold such shallow thoughts.

  24. sesame says:

    Ya, a lot of stereotypical influences. But some of the stories, like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, are good to teach the kids to be more vigilant when dealing with strangers.

  25. Yira says:

    Hi Sesame! Love your post. I enjoy it very much. Today a friend of mine posted in Facebook that MAC will be launching on September a makeup line dedicated to the villians of some Disney’s tales. It seems like those villians read your post hahahahahah! This is the link, maybe you are interested in seeing it: http://m.temptalia.com/mac-venomous-villains-collection-for-disney-information-photos
    Take care!

  26. sesame says:

    Haha…those villians are too crafty to get themselves on MAC as a collection! But I’m glad you enjoyed reading this post.

  27. CT says:

    This is so funny. You are so creative!

  28. sesame says:

    Thank you. ?

  29. Sandy says:

    Hi sesame,

    Can we use eye cream as a face cream? I recently purchased a set of skin care. My face moisturizer ran out but my eye cream still has half a bottom. I don’t want it to go to waste and I don’t like to mix with other skin care products either. Please advise.

    Thank you,


  30. sesame says:

    Yes, if the function of the eye cream is to remove wrinkles and fine lines. I use my eye cream on parts of my face before like my forehead with some lines and the corners of my mouth. But, it may not be as moisturizing.

  31. sesame says:

    Hey Sandy:

    I thought your question was interesting and have posted it as a discussion topic here:

    You might want to read what I’ve said in addition and follow the discussion if others have their POV to add.

  32. Sandy says:

    Thank you for your respond. Thanks for posting this question. I did a search on the web but couldn’t find anything. Most of the articles I found were about use the face cream as eye cream. But I question was oppose ? Thank you!

  33. Jacklyn says:

    Blast form the past with these fairy tales…nicely done. So many stereotypes to mention but imagine those tightly ties bustiers….AHHH! Sad that recent (animated) movie remakes have ‘enhanced’ certain charter body attributes to adhere to the 21st century appeal.

  34. Amela Sandra D. says:

    I loved this entry! There definitely are various versions of the same story. These stories are tall tales, they’ve been told, and retold all over Europe. As they got retold there have been some switching around so the stories had a few changes. These stories are actually are good for little boys.

  35. sesame says:

    Haha…good for the boys? I never thought of that though…usually associate fairy tales with girls.

  36. Sharda says:

    thank u for such insights. really enjoyed every piece esp since i too grew up on some good doses of the tales. my fav one is the Little Mermaid, the girl who has everything except the right body.

    i particularly like the piece on Rapunzel and my five year old daughter is picking up fast on her. she wants to grow hair shiny and long like the princess’ which i think is good because she allows me to shampoo and really clean her rather long hair.

  37. sesame says:

    Your 5-year-old has long hair…wow, that must be pretty! I like little girls with long hair. ?

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