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Unrealistic Beauty Standards: The companies that are saying no

Published on 07 September 2018|
2 min read

It is 2018.  Consumers are no longer willing to submit to unrealistic beauty standards.  And companies are starting to take note.

by Emily Mary Chin, Carrybeans

If the lion’s share of media and advertising were to be believed, you’d think that all women were stick-thin and poreless, with delicate features and hairless bodies.  But the reality is, hardly any of us look like the girls we see in magazines.  And though the beauty standards that have been set for us are obviously unrealistic, we still fall prey to believing them.

Companies now have a responsibility to be more inclusive in their marketing. Marketing needs to portray people in a more genuine and natural state, instead of the idealised and airbrushed half-humans that we have grown so used to seeing.

Most companies have yet to break the mould but here are some that have risen to the challenge!

MAC Cosmetics

“Women have facial hair, too!”

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Into the woods with Lip Pencil in Chestnut is probably the closest to nature we'll get this year. M·A·C Artist @mttthw helps @nats.vibe find her wild side. #Regram

A post shared by M·A·C Cosmetics (@maccosmetics) on

MAC Cosmetics recently sent their Instagram followers in a flurry when they posted a photo advertising for their Chestnut lip pencil.  It is a fairly standard MAC social media posting, save for the fact that it lacks their usual douse of airbrushing.  The model in the photo has visible pores and upper lip hairs, something completely natural yet absent from most beauty product marketing.  And though the difference is subtle, it makes all the difference.

“Thank you, MAC, for skipping Photoshop!”

“Absolutely love the natural image. Allows consumers to better see the quality of the product too.”

“Yaaassss!!! Living up to other people’s beauty standards can be so exhausting and emotionally tolling.  Especially when, as women, our bodies and faces are expected to be predominantly hairless and poreless.  Thank you!”

Some of the positive comments on the post show that there’s a real thirst from consumers for more genuine marketing. Women, in particular, want to see real people in advertising, people they can relate to.  Gone are the days where women can be shamed into buying products they don’t need.  Now, we demand you get to know us.


“Working out sucks!”

Nike Women takes a refreshingly honest approach to fitness advertising with their #BetterForIt campaign.  The video campaign takes us through the thought processes of multiple women attempting to finish their workouts.   The videos reveal a more honest and inspiring underbelly lurking below the surface of our favourite fitness motivation videos.

Most fitness marketing would have you believe that athletes are supremely confident in their workout, that fitness is a breeze, if only you were fitter.  They make you believe that athletes love to run and love to sweat and love to push themselves.  But #BetterForIt makes it clear that this is not entirely true.  Just like you and me, athletes have insecurities too.  They hate running, they hate sweating, and they hate having to push themselves.

But they do it anyway because they have to.  Because they’re #BetterForIt.


“Other people’s opinions do not define you!”

Dove has long done away with unrealistic beauty standards since their Be Real campaign, first launched in 2004.  But their #MyBeautyMySay campaign takes body positivity to a whole new level.

Beauty is not just skin deep and it comes in many forms.  Your looks do not define your personality or capabilities.  Other people’s opinions do not define them either.  This should all go without saying but unfortunately, society still struggles with understanding this concept.  After all, it is human nature to try to categorise and fit people into boxes.

#MyBeautyMySay sends the obvious but still necessary message: you are whoever you want to be, regardless of what people think.

Be raw, be real, be you

Media and marketing play a big role in how consumers perceive their own value and self-esteem.  We as humans are naturally comparative animals.  We can’t help but compare ourselves to the people we see on our screens, whether television, computer or phone.

And marketing depends on people’s low self-esteem to be able to sell products.  If I’m trying to sell a weight loss product to someone who is confident in their body, likeliness is that I won’t be able to make the sale. But if you are insecure about your body, I’d be more likely to make the sale. This is a big part of why these unrealistic beauty standards exist.  They exist for profit.

So let’s not wait for other companies to catch up with MAC Cosmetics, Dove and Nike Women.  Let’s take back the control.  Corporations should not define our self-worth.  So let’s stop letting them.

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