Study: Beauty Ads Make Women Feel Bad
By Tom Ryan
A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found
ads featuring beauty products lower women’s self-esteem.
The authors, three
marketing professors from the Netherlands, conducted four experiments to examine
the different meanings consumers gleaned from advertised versus non-advertised
products across a wide range of items, according to a press release. In one
study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-enhancing
product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne concealer,
deodorant). The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with a shiny
background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral white
The researchers — Debra Trampe of the University of Groningen,
Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University, and Frans Siero of the University of
Groningen — particularly probed how the advertisements made the subjects feel
After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products,
consumers were more likely to think about themselves less positively than when
they viewed the same products outside of their advertisements, the authors
found. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving
The authors concluded that ads for beauty-enhancing products seem
to make consumers feel that their current attractiveness levels are different
from what they would ideally be.
"Consumers seem to ‘compare’ themselves to the product images in advertisements,
even though the advertisement does not include a human model," the authors
wrote in the report, according to the statement. "Exposure to beauty-enhancing
products in advertisements lowered consumers’ self-evaluations, in much
the same way as exposure to thin and attractive models in advertisements has
been found to lower self-evaluations."
Discussion Questions: Does it make sense that beauty ads affect the self-esteem
of women in a similar manner to using thin models in advertisements? What would
you expect beauty marketers to do with this information?
- How Do Beauty Product Ads Affect Consumer Self Esteem and Purchasing? – Journal
of Consumer Research
- The Self-Activation Effect of Advertisements: Ads Can Affect Whether and
How Consumer Think about the Self (study) – Journal of Consumer Research (sub.