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Parker Coggins
Adam Padgett
English 102- 063
28 April 2016
What are Clothing and Cosmetic Brands Doing to Help or Hinder the Body Image Issue?
Todays society continually promotes unrealistic body ideals making it very challenging
to not get engrossed in comparing oneself to these unrealistic standards plastered throughout our
everyday lives. Advertisements are one of the main sources of media that we are constantly
surrounded by. Clothing and cosmetic advertisements, specifically, are notorious for
incorporating more editing techniques than most other types of advertisements frequently seen.
Photo editing has changed what beauty looks like because the advent of Photoshop has made
a once unattainable image of beauty and perfect much less a figment of the imagination and
much more a tangible reality, leaving beauty in the hands of its digital creator (Brown). The
drastic transformations created through Photoshop techniques, such as smoothing skin and
erasing wrinkles, enlarging muscles, slimming waists, and airbrushing has made it possible for a
below average looking individual appear as a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World (Brown).
This body image issue is proven because the link between media and body
dissatisfaction or disturbed eating is supported by womens and girls own reports, and by
prospective studies that have demonstrated media involvement (trying to look like the models on
television of in magazines) predicts the development of weight concerns and purging behaviors
(Tiggemann and McGill). In addition, the body image issue is established in society because
several studies that have assessed media exposure and weight concern independently, report
positive correlations between fashion magazine or television consumption and body

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dissatisfaction (Tiggemann and McGill). As technology continues to advance, editing
techniques will further advance as well, which is predicted to advance the body image issues that
have risen. These body image insecurities were influenced when exposure to thin models
resulted in greater body- focused anxiety among women who internalize the thin ideal
(Halliwell). When society sees and internalizes with these images, they are categorized into the
culture of body dissatisfaction, which is the root of the body image problem being discussed
(Siddiqui). The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders performed
a study that found that 69% of girls in 5th-12th grades reported that magazine pictures influenced
their idea of a perfect body shape but the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is
possessed naturally by only 5% of American females (Self Image). This study also found that
following the viewing of images of female fashion models, seven out of ten women felt more
depressed and angrier than prior to viewing the images (Self Image). The issue with the
advertisement industry is the theory that thinness sells, whereas fatness does not has evolved,
influencing the developers of clothing and cosmetic ads to create photo-shopped images of socalled perfection (Swinson). Knowing that advertisements can negatively affect female body
image, some clothing and cosmetic brands are leading campaigns that are aimed to help this
issue, however some brands are still hindering this progress. Clothing and cosmetic brands need
to reevaluate their advertisement techniques to vamp more realistic and positive ideals instead of
creating false beauty images and a pressure to look perfect among society.
One clothing brand that needs to reevaluate their brand outreach is Urban Outfitters.
Urban Outfitters is a popular store (mostly for females) that can be found in most major shopping
centers. They released a gray V-neck shirt with the saying eat less printed on the front of it.
This t-shirt was showcased on their website homepage, mannequins in stores and in many of

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their magazine advertisements. These publicity stunts created outrage among positive body
image activists in society, Sophia Bush being one of these activists. Sophia Bush, actress on the
One Tree Hill television series, was outraged by the issue and decided to boycott the entire
fashion outlet (Solomon). When Bush was an actress on One Tree Hill, her character named
Brooke Davis was the owner and designer of a clothing line called Clothes Over Bros. One
season, she created a line titled Zero is Not a Size which the producers used in efforts to
promote positive body image awareness to their viewers. Because of this career, Bush has
always been a promoter of healthy body image, so she wrote an open letter to Urban Outfitters,
which spiraled around the internet (Solomon). Sophia stands close to her belief and assures
others that she will not allow Urban Outfitters to make a profit off of anorexia promoting tshirts (Solomon). As a part of her campaign, she released a t-shirt that said Zero is not a size
which not only referenced her hit television show, but also allowed a more positive message to
spread throughout the fashion industry. If popular clothing brands continue to advertise clothing
that sends inappropriate messages, the 69% of females (ages 5th-12th grades) are going to, once
again, be negatively influenced and risk eventually developing body image insecurities.
Unfortunately, clothing brands are not the only ones in the advertisement industry
broadcasting inappropriate images/messages; the major cosmetic brand, LOreal, who also owns
and associates with the cosmetic brand Maybelline, has an abundance of advertisements that are
hindering the progression of stopping body image insecurities because of their excessive airbrush
techniques. The brand started a campaign that included advertisements featuring Julia Roberts
and Christy Turlington. The problem with these advertisements was the airbrush techniques used
were so extreme the well know celebrities featured were unrecognizable, at first, by many. Many
news and entertainment outlets released before and after pictures comparing the images from

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the advertisements to paparazzi pictures of Julia and Christy during their everyday life to show
the unrealistic difference (BBC). These L'Oreal advertisements were banned because the
company was unable to show the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) exactly how much
retouching had been done. The ASA requires advertisers to provide appropriate material to
demonstrate what retouching they've done when questioned, and LOreal didn't provide any
evidence (BBC). The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that while some retouching
may be acceptable, the advertisements were particularly bad examples of misleading advertising
and could contribute to body image problems (BBC). Many agreed with the ASA and stated
that the airbrush techniques used were unrealistic and did not represent results the cosmetic
products could actually achieve (BBC). LOreal tried to combat media by finally admitting that
they used some edits, but in the end, the pictures in the advertisements looked nothing like the
celebrities do in person, which, therefore, caused some issues. Although this campaign happened
a few years ago, this is still relevant because LOreal ads are still constantly under review by the
ASA because their airbrush techniques have not changed. What has changed is instead of using
celebrities or well-known models in their ads, LOreal uses random models that we probably do
not know so we are not able to compare real photos to the advertisements to prove their extreme
use of edits. If companies keep using too many edits, the body image issues (of feeling insecure,
striving for weight loss, or, worse, developing an eating disorder) are going to continually arise
because the beauty standards being portrayed are unrealistic.
To prove that brands are not changing their advertising techniques even after public
shame, another incident was reported that banned two more LOreal advertisements. The images
presented in these advertisements did not express reality, but from a younger and younger age,
people are aspiring to be like these biologically impossible ideals (Swinson). Today, the

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pressure to conform to society is part of what has made the stigma that these altered images
actually contain the ultimate dream of a perfect appearance. To combat this problem, CNN filed
a complaint to the ASA to ban these two cosmetic advertisements from LOreal that they
believed sent too strong of a message (Swinson). CNN hoped that their efforts have raised the
profile of the body confidence agenda and furthered the belief that everyone has the right,
whatever their size, shape or form, to feel happy about themselves (Swinson). Unfortunately,
companies, like LOreal, who continue to combat authority and release unrealistic advertisements
are only worsening the pressure to look perfect amongst society.
Brands like Urban Outfitters and LOreal need to reevaluate their advertising techniques.
It is argued that because the innate drive to be a part of social relationships has been critical to
human survival since evolutionary history, advertisements generating such false images are
only worsening this pressure to fit in (Jiang). This pressure to fit in is what is causing the body
image insecurities among so many people generation after generation and with technology
advancing, the use of photo editing just continues to worsen. I read an article that discussed this
pressure to be perfect, and the author quoted Jessica Simpson, whom many girls strive to look
like, because she has struggled with her own body image (Wulff). Jessica said, "When I was
younger, I tried to be skinny. There is so much pressure in society to look like the girl on the
cover of the magazine. But [those photos] are airbrushed and have special lighting. She's gone
through two hours of hair and makeup. That just sets expectations really high for girls" (Wulff).
We can continue to protest and critique the negative techniques that many brands are
implementing into their advertisements, but nothing will change, and the body image problem
will continue to grow, until the companies themselves make changes. Some companies are

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starting to do this and, hopefully, their positive ideals of promoting real beauty will influence
companies like the ones mentioned above.
Aerie is one clothing brand that has made some changes. Aerie, American Eagles sister
store for lingerie, launched a campaign in 2014 that features all unairbrushed models. In their
press release, Aerie announced that ads are challenging supermodel standards by featuring
unretouched models in their latest collection of bras, undies and apparel (Krupnick). It is argued
that one ad campaign wont solve the complicated relationship between young womens selfesteems and images of women in media. But when a brand beloved by girls shows off its cute
bras and undies on bodies with real rolls, line and curves, it can certainly help (Krupnick).
Aeries slogan for this campaign included the hashtag #aeriereal and the saying The real you
is sexy. When this campaign was first released, Aerie hung a banner in all of their stores to
broadcast their movement. It read: Dear Aerie Girls, we think its time for a change. We think
its time to GET REAL and THINK REAL. We want every girl to feel good about who they are
and what they look like, inside and out. This means NO MORE RETOUCHING OUR GIRLS
AND NO MORE SUPERMODELS. Why? Because there is no reason to retouch beauty. We
think THE REAL YOU IS SEXY. Xoxo, Aerie. Even though this campaign launched in 2014, it
is relevant because the movement is still enduring success and Aerie continually creates new
advertisements to support this real beauty movement.
Dove is another company that has helped the body image issue by promoting positive
ideals and showcasing real beauty in their advertisements. The springboard for the campaign was
a global study sponsored by Dove that researched womens attitudes toward themselves and
beauty (Hopper). Through these studies they found that only two percent of women found

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themselves beautiful, so they hoped to change this through their real beauty campaign. Dove then
partnered with an advertising firm called Ogilvy & Mather to officially begin their campaign.
Their team asked over 60 well- known women photographers to, submit one photo that summed
up their definition of beauty (Hopper). They showcased the exhibit of photos in public spaces
because the only way to reach the everyday woman was to put the exhibit in places that
everyday women frequent (Hopper). They placed the exhibit in malls and eventually it was
turned into a book which was further translated into the Dove advertisements we see today. The
campaign started with advertisements that asked consumers to vote whether the woman pictured
was wrinkled or wonderful, oversized or outstanding, flawed or flawless (Hopper). The goal
of these ads aimed to change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more
democratic view of beauty (Hopper). Dove is still leading this campaign today. Their Real
Beauty campaign has evolved some over the years, but it still exists and it still successful in
addressing positive body image and the meaning of beauty. Their current advertisements consist
of a diverse range of women together looking happy, healthy and beautiful.
Brands like Aerie and Dove are changing the advertisement industry in a positive way
and more brands need to revamp their companies like these have. Although some of their
techniques used may be partially motivated by making profit, I still feel that the messages they
are sending are somewhat motivational. Personally, and I feel that others would agree, I would
rather see an advertisement incorporating an anti-edited ethos than one that makes me feel
insecure about my appearance. Many companies understand this and are beginning to change
their advertising techniques as well by not using as much airbrushing. Not every company needs
to lead a true beauty campaign like Aerie and Dove, but companies who do are influencing
change among clothing and cosmetic brands publicity tactics. If the advertisement industry does

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not change, the advancement of technology will continue to take over and make matters worse.
Continually seeing advertisements that project fake ideals has influenced one in four people to
feel depressed about their body and almost a third of women say they would sacrifice a year of
their life to achieve the ideal body (Swinson). Many women say that the pressure to look
good is the worst part of being female (Swinson). Seeing ads that vamp more realistic and
positive ideals instead of creating false hope among society is what is going to put a stop to the
excessive amounts of women that are struggling with media making them feel insecure.
The majority of people recognize that clothing and cosmetic advertisements cause body
image insecurities among many people, especially females. My intent through this essay was to
point out companies who are hindering the body image issue and companies who are helping
mend the insecurities being felt by many. I think that companies should adapt the methods that
Dove and Aerie use to promote positive body image, but some people disagree with this
argument. Some say that these campaigns that promote real beauty do not go far enough in
challenging the status quo, and some feel that the ads still rely too heavily on using sex to sell
(Hopper). I read an article where the author questioned whens the last time you saw a
commercial that actually focused on the product a company is selling (Blate). This is what
people consider using sex to sell, because in todays society, advertisements are more focused on
the people than the product. Although I agree with this point of view, brands can not promote
positive body image and showcase unretouched models without having models as a part of
their advertisement. Also, to challenge the counter opinion, even the author of this opposing
article realized that recently sex is slowly being replaced with these core-value ideas that
everyone can relate to, and they are not damaging to womens sense of self as well (Blate).

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The problem that advertisements can negatively affect female body image is significant
because of the amount of females being effected. The phrase body image insecurities goes way
beyond the small circumstances, like looking in the mirror and thinking you look fat. This
phrase can imply serious health issues, such as eating disorders. The fact that body insecurities
are a growing problem in society is concerning, especially because the mass media culture, of
advertisements, is majorly influencing this influx. At first, society noticed that advertisements
were beginning to reflect fake-looking images and then the Advertisement Standards Authority
(ASA) started taking notice and giving warnings (and some bans) on certain advertisements.
Now, the issue of advertisements reflecting fake ideals has been noticed by clothing and
cosmetic companies, themselves, who have taken the initiative to begin campaigns to protest or
simply refrain from using obsessive edits. As more people begin to recognize and complain
about the problems created through the advertisement industry, the more the ASA will enact
legislation to fight against the brands whose ads have negative connotations. I think that what
we can do as members of society is try to not look at fake images presented as something we
aspire to look like, but instead look towards the brands leading positive campaigns to help fight
our insecurities. To compromise with the people who agree with the opposing opinion mentioned
in the previous paragraph, one thing companies can do is to refocus their ads on the product they
are trying to sell and less on the model or celebrity or person featured. Overall, it is important to
realize that everyone has the right to feel happy about themselves, and hopefully more brands
will change their advertisement techniques to reflect this positive messages.

Work Cited:
"Airbrushed Make-up Ads Banned for 'misleading'" BBC News. BBC, 27 July 2011. Web. 29
Mar. 2016.

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Blate, Jen. "Advertisements Shouldn't Rely on Sexual Objectification." The Daily Reveille., 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
Brown, Ashley. "Picture [Im]Perfect: Photoshop Redefining Beauty in Cosmetic
Advertisements, Giving False Advertising a Run for The Money." Texas Review Of
Entertainment & Sports Law 16.2 (2015): 87-105. Academic Search Alumni Edition.
Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Halliwell, Emma, and Helga Dittmar. "Does Size Matter? The Impact of Model's Body Size On
Women's Body-Focused Anxiety and Advertising Effectiveness." Journal of Social &
Clinical Psychology 23.1 (2004): 104-122. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 28
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Hopper, Jessica. "The Dove Campaign: Conforming Or Transforming?." National NOW Times
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Krupnick, Ellie. "Aerie's Unretouched Ads 'Challenge Supermodel Standards' for Young
Women Aerie's Unretouched Ads 'Challenge Supermodel Standards' for Young
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Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
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Solomon, Natalie. "Sophia Bush Declares War on Urban Outfitters." MTL Blog. MTL Blog, Inc.,
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Swinson, Jo. "False Beauty in Advertising and the Pressure to Look 'Good'" CNN. Turner
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Tiggemann, Marika, and Belinda Mcgill. "The Role Of Social Comparison In The Effect Of
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