Wednesdays without Will: Dove and Defining Beauty

For every society in the world, the history of makeup and cosmetics dates back several thousand years. However, makeup didn’t become a main part of the American culture until the early twentieth century when Hollywood began making it more mainstream. Quickly catching on, the flapper culture embraced and used makeup for personal use by the 1920’s. Over time, makeup has become a product of necessity—particularly with women, or it’s at least advertised that way.

Makeup and femininity seem to go together like peas and carrots, but is this truly the case or is this another result of advertising driving the market? There was an instance in recent American history where there was an anti-cosmetic movement, mainly in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The movement was simply done to prove that cosmetics were nothing more than an accessory to continuously please men, women stopped wearing makeup. But nothing really changed after this. In fact, it seems as if media does nothing but further push the idea that “sex sells,” even though results vary. (Sex in this case being an exaggerated, unrealistic version of the female body, acting flirtatious or seductive in any form or fashion).

Even without a sexual connotation, advertising is still putting out an exaggerated, unrealistic version of the female body and psyche. If the digitally touched-up actress or model on the front cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan isn’t the real image of female beauty, then what is?

Earlier this year, Dove conducted a campaign to define women’s real beauty. “Dove recruited seven women of different ages and backgrounds and had FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora create composite sketches of them based on descriptions of their own facial features.” Later, Gil created composite sketches of the same women based on descriptions from other random participants.

 

 

By conducting the following campaign, Dove was able to show and identify women’s inner shame. In turn, it brought to light that, “you are more beautiful than you think,” which is also the campaign’s tagline.

This type of advertising is something American media does not see enough. In an age where self-image is happiness, young girls and women struggle to meet the pressure to feel beautiful.

In the U.K., parliament officials have even taken this a step further by banning makeup advertisements that appear excessively Photoshopped, stating that the advertisements are “misleading.” This was the case for the Lancôme ads for foundation makeup featuring Julia Roberts. Although the United States doesn’t use any such power with advertising in the U.S. concerning the use of Photoshop, it’s refreshing to hear a stand against the mass media’s control on beauty perception.

Ultimately, makeup and beauty products will continue to sell and be associated with the idea of beauty. However, it’s unclear how the cosmetic industry will continue to market and advertise their products in the future.  Will they market a more realistic perception of beauty or continue their false ideology of happiness and beauty?

Cover Photo Source: Becky Wetherington via Flickr

Kevin is a Junior Executive at SJG. He is currently working towards a degree in Advertising and a minor in Spanish at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside the office, you can be sure he’s commuting back and forth to Champaign for other work with his radio station at school.