A Revealing Look At Beauty Advertising

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Fashion

January 22, 2015

woman model

Pants that tighten your tummy, creams that melt cellulite, and injections that take 10 years off your face. These are some of the advertising claims fueling our desires for six-pack abs, firm thighs, and flawless skin.

The multi-billion-dollar beauty industry encompasses makeup, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health clubs, diet pills, and fashion. By presenting idealized images, beauty product and fashion advertisers seek to persuade customers that they will become new and improved if they use their product or wear their clothes.

Marketers focus on the psychological emotions of the consumer when advertising beauty products, according to Gia Salardi, an instructor in the Fashion Design and Merchandising department of Miami International University of Art & Design.

Some of the psychological emotions that they focus on are positive feelings of confidence and pleasure, increase of self-esteem, social acceptance, and joy and happiness, she says.

Products and clothing items promising users that they will look younger, slimmer, or more radiant fill store shelves. The obsession with youth and beauty sends thousands of people to stores searching for a quick fix. At cosmetics retailers, you can find teenagers trying on makeup in an effort to look older, while down the aisle a middle-aged woman is scouring for the best anti-aging cream for her skin. There is something for everyone, no matter the age, gender, or complexion.

Meanwhile, clothing items such as Spanx shapewear and pants with tummy-controlling waistbands give the illusion of svelte figures. Thanks to television, magazines, and the internet, body-shapers have become hot fashion trends.

Beauty Stereotypes

The men and women who flock to stores, spas, and clinics seeking beauty enhancements are often motivated by a society that places a high value on being attractive. Being good-looking offers tremendous social advantages. Attractive people are judged to be smarter, better lovers, more likely to marry, and earn more money.

“People have been conditioned over the years to believe that achieving a certain level of success is only possible if you also attain a certain level of beauty and physical attractiveness,” says Lisa Amans, department chair of Advertising and Fashion & Retail Management at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. “Since that surrounds so many of us, both men and women easily fall into the trap of believing that if they are not beautiful they will not be successful.”

That vulnerability, Amans adds, creates the opportunity for the beauty product to step in with the solution to the problem.

“Many advertisers play on consumer insecurities in beauty advertising,” Amans says. “The advertisers work off the premise that all consumers believe they must achieve the level of perfection shown by the models in the ads.”

The beauty industry has had an influence on how people view attractiveness. But, some say our perceptions have been clouded by the smoke and mirrors.

“The advertising surrounds us to the point where we as consumers begin to lose the distinction between the real view of beauty and the idealized image we have created for ourselves,” Amans states.

Consumer Expectations

Many magazine ads and television commercials for fashion and beauty products present idealized images of the human body. Savvy consumers have learned to look beyond the luxuriant hair, perfect skin, and toned physiques being advertised and see the hair extensions, airbrushing, and photo manipulation behind it all. Yet, we still put pressure on the beauty industry to deliver positive results.

According to’s 2010 Beauty Study, beauty products are considered a necessity, with more than two-thirds of respondents willing to purchase products even while watching their budgets.

“Consumers expect — or hope — the products will make them look better than they did without the products,” Amans says. “And, if they are lucky, maybe these products will make them more appealing like some of the models who advertise the products. The economy will not change that basic human emotion.”

People not only expect to look good, but feel good too. Cosmeceuticals, a combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, improve appearance by delivering nutrients necessary for healthy skin. The cosmeceuticals segment of the personal care industry is growing at a fast rate, with consumers scampering for products described as “anti-aging,” “organic,” and “natural.”

“Advertisers use those buzzwords to appeal to a wider range of consumers and to market to new generations,” Salardi states. “They are trying to promote the product and position the product in the current marketplace and they are trying to understand and gain the attention of diverse buyers or consumers.”

Truth in beauty advertising

As the cosmeceuticals segment grows, regulators have been fighting to ensure that product claims are not misleading and are indeed backed by science. Any claims made about a product — whether it is on the label, in advertising, or listed in the ingredients — dictate how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will regulate that product as a drug, cosmetic, or both.

“Advertisers need to document their claims and provide support for what they are saying,” Amans says.

While cosmeceutical advertising faces strict regulation when it comes to scientific claims, the beauty and fashion industries continue to be accused of excessively using image manipulation to enhance the appearance of models in ads.

“There is nothing illegal with portraying the ideal person as the beautiful, flawless individual,” Amans says. “Until there are regulations governing the manipulation of images, particularly photography, we may complain but the advertisers have done nothing wrong from a legal standpoint.”

Whether you think beauty advertising is filled with false hopes or not, there is definitely a psychological aspect that proves beauty is more than skin deep.

Author: Darice Britt

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