Cosmetic Procedures - Parodies

Table of Contents:

Before turning to an exploration of how lifestyle magazines present cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products as similar, this last section briefly discusses two adverts parodying the concept of (marketing) cosmetic procedures. Drawing on the popularity of - and the controversy surrounding - the cosmetic surgery market, several adverts in the corpus played with the concept of different procedures. An advert for Nimble, which promotes low-calorie bread, for example, showed a table knife hovering over a woman’s bronzed, flat stomach, stating “if you’re looking to improve your figure, only one thing should go under the knife” (Cosmo October 2001: 116). The advert cleverly plays with the phrase ‘going under the knife’, usually associated with cosmetic procedures; instead of cutting flesh with sharp scalpels, the only thing that will be going ‘under the table knife’ is the bread that will allegedly help the woman achieve a better (i.e. slimmer) figure.

As with the advert for Nimble, an advert for MPS Int. in the Gay Times (June 2001: 6) draws on the field of cosmetic surgery as it offers “penis extensions: now cheaper than ever”. However, unlike the cosmetic procedure, this figurative penis extension is achieved by buying and driving a German car. The non-medical nature of what is marketed is reiterated in the final sentence of the body copy of the advert, which states “and please note surgery is not necessary for the above transaction”.


This chapter has demonstrated how medical aspects, medical professionals, and medical terminology are introduced in advertising for both cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services. Perhaps unsurprisingly, alongside an emphasis on the medical, advertising for cosmetic procedures has been shown to include features of marketing discourse, such as an emphasis on the quick, easy nature of aspects of procedures and a consideration of the financial aspects associated with cosmetic procedures.

The next chapter will draw on observations of the similarities between advertising for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services as it explores how cosmetic procedures may be presented - or experienced - as similar to, or on a continuum with, (other) beauty products/services.


  • 1 As with the technology and science theme, the percentages within the aspects of care theme do not add up to 100%, as many of the adverts include references to several subcategories within the overarching aspects of care category.
  • 2 22% (N=34) of all advertising for cosmetic procedures in Cosmo and 16% (N=23) of those in Marie Claire include references to ‘hospital’. Only 5% (N=2) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures in FHM refer to ‘hospital’; moreover, there are no references to ‘hospital’ in the advertising for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times.
  • 3 94% (N=45) of the ‘recovery and/or aftercare’ references occur before 2010; only three adverts for cosmetic procedures in the 2010 editions of Cosmo include a reference to “(comprehensive) aftercare” (Euromedica in Cosmo February 2010: 185; Transform in Cosmo February 2010: 186; and The Hospital Group in Cosmo October 2010: 295).
  • 4 46% (N=27) of the references to aspects of care in Cosmo and 42% (N=18) of those in Marie Claire refer to ‘recovery/and or aftercare’. In contrast, only 18% (N=2) of the references to aspects of care in the Gay Times refer to ‘recovery and/or aftercare’. Furthermore, there are no references to ‘recovery and/or aftercare’ in FHM.
  • 5 5% (N=15) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures in Cosmo and Marie Claire refer to ‘patients’, in comparison to 7% (N=6) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times and FHM.
  • 6 Whereas 17% (N=27) of the adverts in Cosmo, 15% (N=22) of those in Marie Claire, and 16% (N=6) of those in FHM comprise visual representations of patients, 27% (N=13) of the adverts in the Gay Times illustrate their message by means of visual representation of patients.
  • 7 Overall, 13% (N=23)ofthe adverts for cosmetic procedures in 2001 contained a visual representation of patients; this number rose to 15% (N=24) in 2006, 37% (N=14) in 2010, and continued its growth as it reached 56% (N=9) in 2015. All adverts containing visual representations of patients in 2015 were found in either the Gay Times (adverts for hair procedures) or in Marie Claire (in adverts for Juvederm).
  • 8 I coded the following occurrences descriptors/names of procedures as highlighting the medical nature of the procedure: otoplasty, mentoplasty, rhinoplasty, arthroscopy, mesotherapy, microdermabrasion, and abdominoplasty. Moreover, all instances of types of surgery (e.g. ‘breast’- ‘eyelid’-, or ‘facial’ surgery) were coded as medical terms.
  • 9 It is much cheaper to advertise in the Gay Times than in the two women’s magazines. A full-page spread anywhere in the Gay Times cost £3,960 (Gay Times Media Pack 2017), compared to at least £16,940 in Cosmo (Cosmopolitan Media Pack 2017) and £16,500 in Marie Claire (Marie Claire Media Kit 2017) (these magazines offer various prices for different locations in the magazine). Unfortunately, the advertising rates for FHM were unavailable and the several emails and phone calls to Bauer Media remain unanswered.
  • 10 Of all adverts for cosmetic procedures, 8% (N=13) of those in Cosmo and 8% (N=11) of those in Marie Claire-, 14% (N=5) of those in FHM; and 4% (N=2) of those in the Gay Times include a visual depiction of a medical professional. 48% (N=15) of all these references occur in the 2001 data, 23% (N=7) occur in the 2006 data, 26% (N=8) in the 2010 data, and 3% (N=1) in the 2015 data.
  • 11 Of all the adverts for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times, 27% (N=13) refer to ‘quick’ or ‘instant’, compared to just 11% (N=4) in FHM, 8% (N=12) in Marie Claire, and 7% (N=11) in Cosmo.


Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A. (2015). Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective (10th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. (2006). Discourse and identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Fraser, S. (2003). Cosmetic surgery, gender and culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gilman, S. L. (1999). Making the body beautiful: A cultural history of aesthetic surgery. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Haiken, E. (1997). Venus entry: A history of cosmetic surgery. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Hearst Magazines. (2017). Cosmopolitan media kit 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017, from id=4785073 &category_c ode=miss&category_id=27811

Kierzek, J. M., Gibson, W., & Willson Jr, R. F. (1977). The MacMillan Handbook of English (6th ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Lirola, M. M., &c Chovanec, J. (2012). The dream of a perfect body come true: Multimodality in cosmetic surgery advertising. Discourse and Society 23.5: 487-507.

Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London: Bloomsbury.

Machin, D., & Mayr, A. (2012). How to do critical discourse analysis: A multimodal introduction. London: Sage.

Millivres Prowler Group. (2017). Gay Times media pack. Retrieved January 2018, from 2017.pdf

Moran, C., 5c Lee, C. (2013). Selling genital cosmetic surgery to healthy women: A multimodal discourse analysis of Australian surgical websites. Critical Discourse Studies 10.4: 373-391. 2013.813772

Patel, N. (2015, 9 January). Nine ways to use urgency psychology to improve conversions. Marketing Land. Retrieved 18 November 2020, from conversions-112603.

Predelli, S. (2003). Scare quotes and their relation to other semantic issues. Linguistics and Philosophy 26: 1-28. A: 1022278209949

Ringrow, H. (2016). The language of cosmetics advertising. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

The Committee of Advertising Practice. (2010). The CAP code: The UK code of non-broadcast advertising and direct and promotional marketing (12th ed.). London.

The Committee of Advertising Practice. (2016). Use of production techniques in cosmetic advertising. Help Note. Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP); Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).

Thorek, M. (1943). A surgeon’s world: An autobiography. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.

Time Inc. (2017). Marie Claire media kit 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017, from www.timeinc.eom/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Marie-Claire-Media- Kit-2017-.pdf

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >