Blurring Boundaries

Underlying the various calls for rhe ban of advertising for cosmetic procedures is the assumption that cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services constitute different categories. Moreover, throughout this book, I have alluded to the existence - and blurring - of a boundary between cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services. Drawing on some of the observations in previous chapters, I explore how, on the one hand, cosmetic procedures are aligned with beauty products/services in terms of advertising format, placement, and content (see Section 7.1) and how, on the other, advertising for (other) beauty products/services is drawing on themes and visuals prevalent in the discourse surrounding cosmetic procedures (see Section 7.2). Fundamental to these discussions is the question whether it is valid to assume a boundary between cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services, or whether it may be more accurate to view both types of beautification practices and products as belonging to some form of continuum, especially in light of the increasing pervasiveness of non-invasive procedures (see Section 7.3). Crucially, the question of what constitutes a ‘boundary’ is explored here. This chapter draws on the thematic and critical discourse analyses conducted for this project whilst also presenting some corpus linguistic results.

In an attempt to answer the above questions, I draw on data from both the core and the broad corpora and also consider various cases in which advertising and editorial content undermine the idea of a continuum and assert a boundary between cosmetic procedures and beauty products/services. Lastly, some of the female focus group data relevant to the ideas presented in this chapter is discussed (see Section 7.4).

Before exploring the data, it is useful to revisit two of the main concepts presented in Chapter 2 regarding the representation of cosmetic surgery and beauty products/services. Firstly, it was noted that cosmetic procedures are generally framed positively across the media and that - particularly non-invasive - procedures are increasingly ‘normalised’. This normalisation has aided the cosmetic surgery industry’s alignment with ‘regular’ beauty products/services. Secondly, medicalisation of natural processes of life (Harvey 2013) has provided beauty brands - particularly those with a pharmaceutical background - with an opportunity to position themselves as a type of healthcare provider.

Cosmetic Procedures in Magazines

This section explores how cosmetic procedures are aligned with (other) beauty products and services in both the articles and advertising materials in the magazines.

As has been introduced before, the presence of editorials and adverts related to cosmetic procedures in lifestyle magazines may in itself already present a blurring of the boundary - if one exists - between cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services. By placing content that is related to cosmetic procedures in the wider discourse of the lifestyle magazine - particularly in beauty and fashion sections - cosmetic procedures become part of the magazine’s overall discourse. In light of this, the shift in the placement of adverts for cosmetic procedures - predominantly in Marie Claire - is particularly significant; rather than separating the adverts for cosmetic procedures from the rest of the magazine’s discourse by placing them in classified sections at the back of the magazine, these adverts are increasingly found in the body of the magazine. As Winship (1987: 101) has noted, the context in which adverts are placed is essential since “[ads] are often strategically placed in relation to editorial material” as this encourages readers to notice them and enhances ad recall (cf. “thematic congruence” in Dahlen et al. 2008: 57). The importance and effectiveness of placing adverts for cosmetic procedures in congruent discourse has been underlined by marketing professionals. As discussed in Chapter 2, Place (2010: 15), for example, emphasised how the positioning of advertising material is crucial as he explained that “all [advertising] insertions [for Juvederm] were planned to appear in beauty or fashion editorial”. Reflecting the marketing strategy of Juvederm, an advertorial by the brand was found to be strategically placed alongside a beauty editorial in the July 2016 issue of Red.

In addition to the change in the placement of the adverts for cosmetic procedures in some of the magazines, the general advertising format has also been revised. Reflecting a wider trend in the advertising landscape, cosmetic providers increasingly use advertorials rather than traditional advertising, particularly in high-end women’s magazines (cf. Hanson 2014; Ju-Pak, Kim & Cameron 1995). The advertorial format appeals to marketers because it attracts greater viewer consideration than traditional advertising as “readers pay more attention to formats that are perceived as more editorial” (Reijmersdal, Neijens & Smit 2005: 50; cf. Lord &C Putrevu 1993). As Berkowitz (2017: 36) has argued, people are unlikely to trust advertising but “many of us still believe what we read in magazines”; so, an advertorial’s imitation of accompanying discourse may blur the distinction between editorial and marketing content, which may increase the advertorial’s credibility (cf. Cook 2001; Hanson 2014).

The abovementioned advertorial for Juvederm in Red, for example, blurred into the (beauty) editorial content surrounding it in terms of its placement, layout, and, perhaps most significantly, its copy. As with the features in the magazine, the promotion provides information on how to overcome a particular beauty issue - i.e. the look of ageing - to (a fictional) ‘you’, the reader/viewer. Moreover, the use of ‘we’ is interesting here as it deviates from the established use of ‘we’ in advertising discourse as denoting the manufacturer (Cook 2001: 157) or advertiser. Rather, the authors of the promotion use an inclusive 4ve’ to position themselves as part of the (ageing) female audience of the magazine as they assert: “we’re all aware of wrinkles, pigmentation and sagging, and while all these start to appear as we get older, did you know they’re largely caused by the skin’s loss of ability to hold onto water?” {Red, broad corpus, July 2016: 133). In line with the unconventional adoption of an inclusive 4ve’, the promotional feature appears to speak of the beauty industry as an ‘other’, noting how “dehydration is the enemy of skin. Which is why the beauty industry has poured so much time and money into researching a certain little molecule called hyaluronic acid” (ibid). A final point to make related to the Juvederm advertorial relates to its penultimate sentence: “some [people] have likened [hyaluronic acid fillers] to a mois- turiser for the deeper layers of the skin” (ibid). Like some of the articles in the (women’s) magazines this sentence explicitly connects a cosmetic procedure (i.e. hyaluronic acid fillers) with ‘another’ beauty product (i.e. a moisturiser).

As with the advertorials, traditional forms of advertising for cosmetic procedures may also draw on the editorial content of the lifestyle magazine genre. Reminiscent of fashion features where models promote particular items of clothing and/or accessories, which include the names of the brands/designers and the prices of these items, an advert for BUPA Cosmetic Surgery, for example, included the text “Top from Milan; Jeans from New York; Radiance from BUPA” (Cosmo February and June 2006). A different advert by Ashley and Martin employed a similar technique, stating “Trousers from Milan; Shirt from New York; Tie from Paris; Hair treatment from Ashley & Martin” (Gay Times October 2006: 7). Interestingly, related to the effectiveness of the latter advert, when I presented the Ashley and Martin advert to the male focus group participants, Shaun did not realise it promoted hair treatments until someone else pointed it out to him. Reflecting on whether this blending in with the editorial material would be advantageous for the advertised cosmetic provider, Shaun was hesitant as he stated, “if I didn’t spend more than half a second looking at this, I wouldn’t have a clue. I would think it was about the belt or the tie”.

Alongside these direct links to fashion discourse in lifestyle magazines, advertising for cosmetic procedures may also include elements usually present in adverts for beauty products. Like the adverts for beauty products which indicate the availability of the products in various shops, for example, an advert for Cenrros Unico (Gay Times, broad corpus, March 2016: 131), offering laser hair removal treatments, indicates that their services are available in several “major shopping centres”. It is important to highlight the non-surgical nature of the procedures offered by Centros Unico, as non-invasive procedures may be compared to beauty products and services more easily than surgical procedures because of their relatively less invasive and less costly nature. Cosmetic providers seem to be aware of this and have considered the opportunities that non-surgical/ non-invasive treatments can offer. Market analyst Mintel (2006: 33), for example, explained how

the blurring of boundaries between what constitutes a facial and what constitutes non-surgical facial procedures, is likely to be a real driver for converting those consumers who already undertake regular1 beauty treatments and therapies.

This blurring of boundaries is aided by cosmetic clinics offering both surgical and non-surgical procedures and by the increasing “crossover between traditional beauty salons and the medical environment of cosmetic surgery” (Worth 2009: 43).

In addition to the inclusion of non-invasive treatments, at the FACE Conference of 2015, Alana Marie Chalmers, Director at Harpar Grace International, endorsed the sale of ‘cosmeceutical’ products alongside the treatments offered by cosmetic providers as these arguably provide “easy money” and promote an integrated, holistic approach for the patients. Although cosmeceuticals may be viewed as beauty products in that they are “cosmetic [skincare] products with biologically active ingredients”2, their alignment with the pharmaceutical industry - and corresponding considerable price tag - sets them apart from most of the beauty products advertised in the lifestyle magazines. Further to the sale of cosmeceutical products, one of the UK’s largest cosmetic providers - the Harley Medical Group - has decided to sell ‘regular’ skincare products such as moisturisers, serums, and suntan lotions on their website. Similarly, other cosmetic professionals have also developed skincare products, which are promoted in several of the lifestyle magazines. An advertorial in Harper’s Bazaar (broad corpus, December 2014:185), for example, markets a new “sun-protective skincare range” developed by a “leading Harley Street cosmetic surgeon”; furthermore, Dr Sebagh - who is quoted in various features across FHM and Marie Claire - advertises his “glow-restoring serums” in the January 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Beauty Products and Treatments

So far, this chapter has discussed cosmetic procedures in relation to both beauty products and beauty services. However, when exploring the concept of blurring boundaries, it is useful to separate beauty products from services since the latter may be conceptually closer to cosmetic procedures as these are also a type of service. The quote by Mintel (2006: 33) discussed in the previous section illustrates the potential of this shared service-basis as it draws a connection between facials and non-surgical facial procedures. Like Mintel, an article in Aesthetics - a monthly journal for medical aesthetic professionals - also discusses the opportunities of “offering less invasive, more pampering treatments”, as it states that by offering a “spa-like [environment]... clinics are able to blur the boundaries between what are seen in the eyes of consumers as more invasive treatments and holistic therapies [such as a facial, massage or manicure]” (broad corpus, July 2009). Unsurprisingly, then, there has been a rise in ‘medi-spas’, which offer “traditional spa services but also have the option of getting medical services like Botox, laser hair removal, and medical-grade skin therapies” (American Medical Spa Association, quoted in Berkowitz 2017: 93).

Interestingly, cosmetic procedures are at times compared to spa treatments in the editorial contents of some of the lifestyle magazines, particularly Marie Claire. In a special issue on ‘Future Beauty’ (October 2010: insert 30), for example, the non-invasive “HydraFacial procedure” is described as “a great spa-like facial”. In the same special issue in Marie Claire, beauty services are also compared to procedures; an article on ‘innovative facials and body blitzes’, for example, discusses a “Luxury Facial” by cosmetics brand Lancome alongside various non-invasive procedures, such as the “Drip ‘n Chill” and “Zer02” treatments. Although the Lancome treatment is not a cosmetic procedure, it does draw on medical discourse as it uses a “skin diagnosis probe” and is followed by a “personal prescription of skincare products” (my emphases).

A different example of the conflation between beauty treatments and cosmetic procedures can be found in an article in Cosmo (October 2015: 160-165) on various types of facials. Interestingly, the article is accompanied by a picture of a model framed by hands in medical gloves, which invokes a medical framework. However, the article discusses only one treatment which could be classified as a cosmetic procedure, i.e. the MCI Cream which is made from a person’s own blood and (re)injected into the face. Like the features in Marie Claire and Cosmo, an article on the ‘Beauty Notebook’ in Red (broad corpus, July 2016: 132-133) presents a cosmetic procedure - Cutera Excel V, a type of laser treatment - alongside editorial content on various beauty products. However, it does need to be noted that the layout of the page frames the discussion of the Cutera Excel V treatment as separate from the other products by placing a textbox around it (cf. Kress & Van Leeuwen 2006).

Interestingly, in a recent article in Cosmo (broad corpus, July 2016: 69), beauty Director Ingeborg van Lotringen calls attention to - and appears critical of - the equation of (non-invasive) cosmetic procedures with beauty products/services when she notes:

We take an awful lot of risks when it comes to ‘beauty’. A lot of that has to do with the warp speed with which ‘non-invasive’ beauty treatments have gone mainstream, and the way they are represented to us as the equivalent of having your lashes permed.

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