Sex Sells: Skincare, Slap and Insecurity

Photograph from BeautyLish

By 2020, the beauty industry is set to be worth an estimated 675 billion dollars word wide and the U. K’s cosmetic industry alone is now currently worth 17 billion pounds. The cosmetic industry is big business and its influence worldwide makes it unsurprising that on average women are expected to spend 140,000 pounds in their life time on skincare, makeup and hair care products. With 18–34-year-old’s making up the largest proportion of cosmetic consumers it is damming to see the damaging effects of poorly constructed advertising campaigns that objectify women in order to encourage consumers into purchasing a new lippy or mascara.

Working within the beauty industry, I have discovered how calculating and manipulative propaganda subconsciously dictates to customers and employees the priority of up-keeping physical appearances. As an individual that is extremely passionate about makeup and up-keeps an extensive, elaborate and complicated skin routine, the opportunity of working for an infamous beauty brand was something that I undoubtedly was unable to deny myself. Upon filling in the application, I noticed that the brand requested that I also attach a photograph of myself to my initial application. I immediately began to feel insecure that rejection would entail I simply wasn’t attractive enough to promote their products. Despite this, my application was successful, and I eventually was offered the job. I was then whisked away on a luxury training week to expand my product knowledge and provide me with professional make up training. Although, I enjoyed the experience I also noticed cracks in the training programme that implied that it was our responsibility to ensure we physically looked flawless at all times. We were implemented with strict ideals and regulations that our physical appearance was to take full priority and required constant attention. We were regularly sent away on ‘make up breaks’ to refresh our lipstick or apply another coat of mascara even though we were contained in a conference room all day. We were also required to wear a full face of make up to training despite having to scrub it off when we got there to practice application of products on each other. When in store, our physical appearance was to be immaculate and faultless, our hair must be styled, and it is essential that a full face of make-up is always worn.

The requirement to consistently look ‘flawless’ and to frantically conceal and hide any form of ‘imperfection’ from customers implements the idea that cosmetics are not a source of enjoyment but are a necessity to make us feel attractive and the only way we can seek validation from others. For any customer that I interact with at work, I am a walking advertisement of an ideology that disagrees with self acceptance and hounds on people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities insisting that they must be masked from society. Such advertising grates away at the delicate self-esteems of its customers and amounts even more pressure on consumers to compromise their appearance to attain ‘perfection’.

Large scale advertising campaigns are also the culprits of diminishing self-esteem around the globe. If you care to indulge your eyes on the two advertisements above the first is an advertisement by the American brand Benefit cosmetics on their mascara ‘they’re real’, which unmistakably refers to the fact that the model has had a breast enlargement and is trying to plea with the audience that her boobs are in fact all natural. I find the correlation between a false lash effect mascara and a women’s boob job extremely minimal. The advertisement sexualises women and entails that in order to be desirable and attractive its imperative that you wear this mascara.

Whilst the second is a Christian Dior advert in which the very beautiful Natalie Portman poses naked next to a levitating perfume bottle. Why is it essential that Natalie Portman is nude and how does this have any relevance to the scent of the fragrance? The answer is sad but simple, sex sells. The sheer amount of advertising campaigns that objectify women and sexualise them within the beauty industry implies that this is a very successful form of advertising and is effective in gaining publicity and sales. But what sort of detrimental impact do these wildly used campaign tactics have on an individual’s ideals and aspirations?

Recent surveys suggest that 82% of women felt significantly less confident in the workplace when they did not wear any lipstick. There has been a 400% increase in the number of eating disorders since 1987, with children as young as eight years old being reported to attempt dieting. Disturbingly, according to The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence report only 20% of women in the U.K are confident in their own body. Cosmetic companies put pressure on consumers to aspire to look like unrealistic plastic air brushed dolls instead of promoting self-acceptance, the empowerment of natural beauty and body confidence. Make up should be a tool that is used to an enhance already beautiful and radiant faces and not as a instrument to turn us into desperate savages who manically apply lotions and potions to conceal our preyed on insecurities.

With 28% of us now wanting to see a realistic and true role model promoting beauty products rather than an endorsement by a celebrity, it is clear that there is a glimmer of hope that in the future cosmetic brands will shake up advertising strategies and will refreshingly start to focus on empowerment, self-acceptance and confidence. Promoting a natural beauty.