Today, the market is flooded with products that will make us more beautiful and more idealistic: lash extensions, fake nails, teeth whitening, extensions and pills that by pure magic will make you lose weight in three weeks. But is it worth letting your wallet get thinner while contributing to generous profits by companies that take advantage of the common man’s uncertainty? Are constructed ideals that are presented in media channels something we really should strive for and above all – does it make us feel good about ourselves?
Every day we are exposed to information and exhortation about how we should look. We are fed with manipulative PR about how to achieve certain ideals. This system has become so integrated into our everyday lives that we hardly even notice it anymore. Women are portrayed in media images with porcelain skin, long legs, narrow waists and white teeth, while men are portrayed with powerful muscles and sharp jawlines. A lot of the pictures are manipulated and retouched, and voilá, an unattainable ideal has been created. In recent times, the number of influencers has increased and additional market channels for companies have emerged. In Sweden, women aged 18-34, are the ones who spend most money on their appearance. Numbers from SIFO showed that Swedes in 2011 spent an average of 700 SEK on their appearance per month. By offering discounts in beauty products, such as lash extensions and teeth whitening, influencers promote these harmful ideals and contribute to a thinner wallet. These platforms have an enormous impact on our self-images, not least among younger people who, according to an article from Swedish Radio (2013), are the ones who are affected the most by the beauty ideals.
Reality Shows, like Paradise Hotel, have become a success. In an essay from Lund University (2005) two students conclude that “Paradise Hotel consolidates traditional notions of male and female in many ways. The representation of the participants bodies is often objectifying. Both the men and women in Paradise Hotel are portrayed as appearance and body fixated.” It may also be interesting to highlight that the ages that are overrepresented among Paradise Hotel’s viewers are 18-30, which is already the ones that spend the most money on their looks (Engstedt, 2019).
Malin Wigen, a journalist at Aftonbladet, writes that France has introduced a new law that aims to remedy beauty ideals (2017). Retouched model images must now be provided with a warning marker similar to the health warning on cigarette packets. But is this really the right solution? In 2014, the fashion brand American Eagle decided to distance itself from PR that involves modification of their models. Today, with the results in hand, the magazine Business Insider reports that the company is far more profitable now than before. Thus, it seems like non-retouched images in PR contexts are appreciated by average consumers. So why does this type of PR not cease? The company’s profit motive should function as the guide for the company’s PR, right? And in addition to these economic arguments – should not all companies be more concerned about the well-being of their consumers?
This beauty ideal is everywhere. You can’t escape it, but you can decide your approach. Next time you consider buying products that will change your look, think about who you are doing this for. Are you doing it for yourself or because you feel like you have to look as the social ideal? And is it worth spending money on these products instead of luxury dinners, travels or charity? Finally, I would like to leave a reflective question to you as a reader: Do you think companies that make profits on products that will make us more idealistic, would have succeeded without today’s unattainable ideals?
Andersson, D. & Mattson, J, (2005), “Bröd och skådespel åt folket”,
Engstedt, M., (2019). “Därför älskar vi Paradise Hotel.” https://sites.jmk.su.se/laget/1806-darfor-alskar-vi-paradise-hotel (hämtad 2021-02-22).
Mark, N., (2016). “Slutade retuschera modeller – då ökade intäkterna.” https://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/a/7bzkW/nu-ska-retuscherade-modellbilder-markas (hämtad 2021-02-22).
SIFO., (2011). “Priset på skönhet.” http://static.motesplatsen.se/userinformation/doc/priset_pa_skonhet.pdf (hämtad 2021-02-21).
Ternander, E., (2013). “Skönhetsideal ger ökad ångest hos unga.”
https://sverigesradio.se/artikel/5486617 (hämtad 2021-02-21).Wigen, M., (2017). “Nu ska retuscherade modellbilder märkas.” https://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/a/7bzkW/nu-ska-retuscherade-modellbilder-markas (hämtad 2021-02-21).