Are Women Manipulated by the Beauty Industry?

This article I discovered on the Health Resource Group alternately gave me fits, made me nod, made me cringe, and angered me by its condenscending attitude about women: Cosmetics: The Psychology of Putting on a False Face.

I was in agreement through this part of the article: For some people, makeup is just about having fun or wanting to look a little more rested and red in the cheeks. That’s all fine. For most people, their interest in makeup is superficial – only skin deep. However, the corporations fueling the multi-million dollar cosmetics and beauty industry have a different agenda. Like the tobacco industry, they want to go a little deeper into your psyche to establish habit equity and product dependency on a psychological and physiological level.

I find make-up fun, hunting new colors, new products, and I don’t expect miracles in a jar or tube. I laugh at and joke about the claims or associations cosmetics companies attempt to attach to their products…mile-long, fluttery, coquetteish lashes that will stop traffic and magnetically draw gorgeous men to my side? Sure. And eating certain cereals means an animated bunny will come dine with me and try to get my bowl of cereal. I’m aware of the advertisements’ attempts to attach ridiculous, wild claims to their product, so advertising has little to do with my purchases (unless the ads are offensive, then I deliberately will not buy the product).

I even agree with this part: The main message being promulgated by the ‘beauty’ industry is that you are not beautiful without their product or service. It’s no secret that women’s magazines are full of advertisements and photos that are designed to make you think, “Gee, I don’t look like that…must be something wrong with me…but hey! Lookie here! What is this ingenious product I can buy that promises to make me over into a supermodel in 15 short minutes?” I read that the majority of women report feeling bad about themselves after reading a fashion magazine. So yes, the beauty industry does take low blows, attempt to make you feel unattractive, then produce the gleaming, shining solution in a bottle/tube/jar.

I started to disagree right around here: Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the ‘beauty’ industry is the psychology behind cosmetics usage which encourages people not to be themselves but to pay for a different persona and image that you never quite own, but only ‘rent’ over time as long as you use the products.

Maybe it’s simply because I have a healthier-than-average self esteem, but I’ve never viewed wearing make-up as trying to be someone else or renting another persona. With or without lipstick, I am the same person, think the same things. Make-up should be fun and an expression of who you are already, not a mask or cover-up. Am I a minority in feeling this way? What do you think? Is make-up more of a shield, a mask, a false persona for other women?

This statement of the article also begs discussion: Men in our society begin to demand a ‘beauty’ that doesn’t exist in nature, but only exists when women pay the price to create this false superficial sense of beauty. So, the beauty industry creates a false product demand where one didn’t exist before. I am in agreement here. Beauty standards have become very high-maintenance for women, grossly out of proportion to appearance standards for men. It’s not unusual for women to feel they need to be waxed, plucked, shaved, scrubbed, lasered, botoxed, polished, filed, and lacquered from head to toe, or else they are unacceptable. A strand of hair anywhere but on your head is shameful! Dear god, are those your pores I can see?

C’mon, ladies, this has crossed into hysteria. I love make-up but still believe my thoughts and opinions and ideas carry more emphasis than whether I waxed my legs this morning, or if I didn’t have time to do my nails. The standard has become so unreasonable you would have to put in a full work day just maintaining your hair, nails, skin, legs, eyebrows, etc. to keep up. If you don’t have anything better to do, please get a hobby, buy a book, volunteer somewhere, and get a life.

The rest of the article drifts off into a rant, and the tone of the entire article was borderline militant, but it raises interesting issues and questions I thought were quite relevant here. I have a lot of fun with make-up but I recognize that’s what it is: fun. A new procedure or cream or product won’t change who I am, and I don’t want it to. I live up to my own standards, not Max Factor’s or Maybelline’s or Estee Lauder’s or Glamour’s. Women get tripped up when they start placing more emphasis on their appearance than what they do in life; there’s nothing beautiful about that.


5 thoughts on “Are Women Manipulated by the Beauty Industry?

  1. I absolutely agree =). Make-up doesn’t DEFINE you, it emphasizes the features that you like about yourself and de-emphasizes what you don’t. It doesn’t create an illusion, unless you really, LITERALLY wanna look like someone working in the circus.Anyways, I think I’m gonna give some “feedback” to this site. Thanks for sharing =DP.S. your rants are beautifully said =P

  2. We definitely are maipulated by the industry! Whether or not your looks, make-up, or clothes can “stop traffic” leads to no revelation of your intelligence, knowledge, or soul. We are led to believe that being “36-24-36”, having glossy hair, and perfect nails will lead us to successful jobs, satisfying relationships, and a totally “Cinderella”, life. We need to remember that our outsides are mere shells, masks, on top of who we really are. How much cleavage you have, how good your butt looks, what color lipstick is has nothing to do with how good a heart you have. That is what our focus should be.

  3. Any industry hell-bent on making money is manipulative. I didn’t like the implication in the article that I wear make-up as a “mask” or borrowed identity, but I can’t deny the diet, make-up, hair, and anything appearance-oriented industry has launched a full-scale war on women. We are simply not permitted to accept ourselves as-is, and are expected to constantly review ourselves for supposed deformities their companies can “fix”. Maybe they can do something about the way my middle finger keeps popping up in response to their anti-woman messages…?

  4. LOL! Cat! Yea, I really get tired of being told how “dammaged” I am by ads and that if I just had all these thousands of dollars of make-up, hair junk, plastic surgery, I might have a shadow of a chance at not being viewed by society as a monster that should be locked away. If we are thin enough, shiny enough, painted, pulled, cut, resewn, we just might pass as average and acceptable by the world. I guess this type of brainwashing by propaganda is our punishment for wanting to earn a fair wage and have a vote!!!

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