While driving home from university, an interesting program came on the radio regarding the makeup industry (You and Yours, Radio 4, 27:45). Whereas, the radio show was reporting on the business and economics of the industry, I could not stop thinking about the pressure that this industry puts on young women of all ages. The money that young women spend on makeup surprised me, with 19- to 24-year-olds spending an average of £1759 a year, according to the market research company Kantar, which was quoted on the show. Men spend on average a reported £250 a year. The show also mentioned that cosmetics company L’Oréal spends half of its marketing budget on social media. We know that social media companies show their users specific and personalised adverts based on an individual’s browser data (unless turned off, but how many of us have done that?). If we combine this practice with the marketing of makeup being almost exclusively targeted at women, and with the number of young people present in online spaces, it appears that the cosmetics market is exploiting a quite specific section of society, namely, young women who engage with social media.
A GQ Magazine article titled, ‘How to take a selfie like a male model‘ featured an acronym I was unaware of, FOMO. It means ‘fear of missing out’, and is a social anxiety experienced when one is aware of others having an interesting or exciting time. Of course, we do not know if that is true, but the technology of today makes the appearance of fun a lot easier to simulate, especially when we are not there to judge for ourselves. Filters, animations, stickers, backgrounds, 4K resolution cameras, lighting apps, lenses, etc. are available to those with smart phones, which are widely used across society (Statista). And if you are not in a photo that shows how much fun the event is, or you are, or life is, then did it really happen? What is the easiest way to make your presence at awesome events unequivocally true? Take a selfie.
The make-up artist that aided the journalist Alexandra Jones for this article made this observation about ‘The Face’, a term for a heavily made-up visage.
“I see a lot of girls in their late teens or early 20s in this look. And it’s such a shame because to recreate it, you’re not emphasising a certain feature, you’re not even trying to create something fun and unique. It’s very homogenised, you’re re-drawing a person’s individual features to fit a narrow mould.”
The writer reports that her photos were getting ‘likes’ a lot faster, which increased her confidence and satisfaction with the engagement of others on her social media. If this response is similar for people in their teens, then it isn’t surprising that young people feel obligated to interact with each other on social media. If someone doesn’t like your photo, then you might retaliate by not liking their photo, leading to potential rejection from virtual peer groups. Newspapers have been reporting on the impact of social media on the mental health of young people. The Guardian: Mental health referrals in English schools rise sharply, Stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls, Social media firms failing to protect young people The Daily Mail: Facebook and Twitter must do more to help people switch off, Suicide among girls soar to a record high as doctors issue warning over ‘pressures of social media’.
Advertising of cosmetics is not a new endeavour, especially not the marketing of these products to women. Women’s magazines from the early to mid-1900’s featured adverts such as these, possibly aimed at the middle-class housewives of the era.
I am not dismissing the potential of makeup to transform people’s lives, as it has done for so many people with skin diseases, such as vitiligo, a skin depigmentation condition that affects many people. It is a positive thing that we are able to transform ourselves relatively easily and without invasive procedures, as this youtuber espouses. However, this video is serving as an advert for the cosmetic products that she is using. This Dermablend advert campaign of 2014 featured Cheri Lindsay in which she is helping sell the product, and this is a video that she published on her personal account a few years earlier. In the second video the product is mentioned but there is no links or description that suggests this is an advert, just a person informing the viewer of a product that she uses in her day to day life. Winnie Harlow is a Canadian model and spokesperson on the skin condition vitiligo who is very much in the public eye and has chosen not conceal her condition.
This is something that I will request everyone to discuss, as I so not have the experience or personal perspective to delve into this issue. I very much enjoy wearing makeup, but it is usually for performance rather than part of daily life or a weekly occurrence.
What are your views on buying, using and wearing makeup?
Do you think that the cosmetics industry is causing damage to young people’s wellbeing?
Does the fashion industry behave differently?
Short video on vitiligo.