Advertising for Beauty Products and Treatments

This section continues the exploration of how advertising - and some features - for beauty products draw on the discourse associated with cosmetic procedures and medicine more generally. More specifically, this section discusses the inclusion of medical professionals in advertising and editorial content for beauty products; examines the use of lexical items - and visuals - associated with cosmetic procedures (and medicine more generally) used in (other) beauty advertising and editorial content; and, lastly, considers a handful of adverts which draw a direct link between beauty products and cosmetic procedures.

As noted in the previous chapter, 8% (N=38) of all (other) beauty adverts - predominantly in the women’s magazines - mention that a product is developed or tested by dermatologists. Brands with a pharmaceutical alignment, such as Neutrogena, Clinique, and Eucerin, in particular draw on dermatological science. Similarly, several features introduce dermatologists - or other medical professionals - to discuss and evaluate products. In a discussion of ‘Future Beauty’ in Marie Claire (October 2010: insert 15), for example, “top dermatologist” Dr Stefanie Williams states how “super serums” “are a better delivery system for ingredients like peptides and retinoids”. As Polonijo and Carpiano (2008: 467) have noted, the inclusion of medical professionals as experts on beauty is significant as it defines appearance “in a manner consistent with a medicalisation framework - as a problem in need of medical treatment”.

In addition to the inclusion of medical professionals in adverts and editorial materials in magazines, several lexical items associated with (cosmetic) medical procedures can be found in adverts for beauty products. As indicated in Chapter 6, the term ‘diagnosis’ can be found equally frequently in (other) beauty advertising as in adverts for cosmetic procedures. Chanel’s Age Delay serum, for example, is to be used “as recommended by your Precision diagnosis” (in Cosmo February 2001: 24-25 and Marie Claire February 2001: 24-25); furthermore, two adverts for L’Oreal also promote a skin diagnosis (see Marie Claire February 2006: 46-47 and Marie Claire October 2006: 124-125). Alongside these references to a diagnosis, a few adverts (2%, N=9) for (other) beauty products - predominantly in the 2001 women’s magazines - offer readers a consultation (my emphases): [1]

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II. Touch Base with your Elizabeth Arden Consultant today, enjoy a complimentary 5 minute consultation and find your perfect match. (Marie Claire June 2001: 239)

III. Free flawless skin consultation. (Vichy in Cosmo October 2010: 217 and Marie Claire October 2010: insert 17)

Besides the (occasional) references to ‘diagnosis’ or ‘consultation’ in beauty advertising, a notable trend concerns the increased adoption of terms traditionally used to denote cosmetic procedures by adverts for beauty products. As can be seen in Figure 7.1, the lemmas ‘contour’, ‘lift’, and ‘sculpt’ were predominantly found in adverts for cosmetic procedures in the early data but are increasingly found (solely) in the (other) beauty advertising data.

Whereas the 2001 and 2006 references to ‘contour’ were usually found in adverts for cosmetic procedures - e.g. ‘body contouring’ - in the 2010 and 2015 data ‘contour’ was used exclusively in adverts for beauty products. Product names such as Barry M’s Flawless Chisel Cheeks Contour Kit, L’Oreal’s Revitalift Pro Contouring System, and Estee Lauder’s Eye and Face Contouring Kits present just a few examples of how brands have implemented the term in their recent marketing efforts. Echoing the shift that has taken place in the occurrence of ‘contour’, beauty advertising has increasingly adopted the terms ‘lift’ and ‘sculpt’,

Relative number of references to the lemmas ‘contour’, ‘sculpt’, and ‘lift’ in advertising for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services 2001-2015

Figure 7.1 Relative number of references to the lemmas ‘contour’, ‘sculpt’, and ‘lift’ in advertising for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products/services 2001-2015.

which were previously found predominantly in adverts for cosmetic procedures3.

The decrease in references to ‘contour’, ‘lift’, and ‘sculpt’ in adverts for cosmetic procedures is unsurprising when considering that these terms are usually employed to denote invasive procedures, which are marketed less frequently nowadays. In addition to adopting the terms discussed above, adverts for (other) beauty products also market ‘fillers’ and ‘peeling kits’. Reminiscent of the chemical peels that some cosmetic providers advertise, several beauty brands also offer ‘peel kits’. An advert for Gamier, for example, advertises a Pure Purifying Peel Kit; the main picture accompanying the advert’s copy illustrates the peeling process as a hand ‘peels away’ one layer of the model’s skin. Moreover, an advert by L’Oreal explicitly draws a comparison between a ‘professional peel’ and the product that is offered - the ReNoviste anti-ageing glycolic peel - stating that the ReNoviste peel contains the same type of ingredients as those used by dermatologists, although “at a lower concentration” (in Marie Claire February 2006: 46-47).

Dermal fillers, like chemical peels, are another type of non-invasive procedure used as inspiration for beauty products. Of all adverts for cosmetic procedures - particularly those published in the women’s magazines in 2010 and 20 1 54 - 4% (N=15) feature dermal fillers. Although found less commonly in the (other) beauty adverts5, the adverts that draw on the idea of fillers are nevertheless interesting to discuss, particularly as brands increasingly appear to launch products inspired by fillers; e.g. consider Estee Lauder’s New Dimension Firm + Fill range; Revlon’s Youth FX™ Fill + Blur range; Soap and Glory’s The Fill Monty Instant Wrinkle Filler; Eucerin’s Flyaluron Filler ranges; Avene’s Physiolift Precision Wrinkle Filler; No7’s Instant Illusions Wrinkle Filler; and L’Oreal’s Revitalift Filler Renew range. It does need to be noted here that all references to fillers in adverts for beauty products were found in just one of the magazines, namely Marie Claire. This is unsurprising as the majority of providers offering fillers also published their marketing materials in this magazine since Marie Claire’s target audience - i.e. affluent women in their mid- to late-thirties - is in line with that of cosmetic providers. As Berkowitz (2017: 4) has noted, “Botox is widely marketed to middle-aged women”; however, Berkowitz also points out that Botox and other non-invasive treatments are increasingly marketed to women in their twenties and thirties as a means to prevent the physical signs of ageing.

An advert for L’Oreal’s Collagen Filler - found across all 2006 issues of Marie Claire - was the first (other) beauty advert in the corpus to draw on the filler-discourse. Evidently, the product’s name and copy of the advert refer to ‘filler’ and ‘fill’ various times. In addition, in the advertising campaign for the product - and its successor, the Revitalift Filler - it is interesting to see that the product is actually shaped somewhat like a syringe (see Figure 7.2). Moreover, in both the print and video adverts,

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Still from L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Serum (0:07)

Figure 7.2 Still from L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Serum (0:07).

Still from L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Serum (0:14)

Figure 7.3 Still from L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Serum (0:14).

the models are seen holding this syringe-shaped product to their cheeks, as if ready to inject a substance (see Figure 7.3).

Later adverts published in Marie Claire which advertise ‘filler’ products do not allude to medical fillers as clearly; however, an advert for Eucerin in Marie Claire (June 2015) did include small, arrow-shaped marks on the model’s face to highlight her wrinkles, which are reminiscent of a practitioner’s markings on a patient’s face before treatment. A still from the video advert for the same cream, which illustrates these markings, can be seen in Figure 7.4.

Still from Eucerin Hyaluron Filler CC Cream 10 (0:04)

Figure 7.4 Still from Eucerin Hyaluron Filler CC Cream 10 (0:04).

The adoption of lexical items traditionally associated with cosmetic procedures is unsurprising in light of the popularity of these procedures and the “potentially detrimental effect [they may have] on sales of retail cosmetics” (Tutt 2013: 103). By including certain lexical items beauty brands are drawing a parallel between the effectiveness of particular procedures and the product that is being advertised. However, the discourse associated with cosmetic procedures may also be used to indicate a distinction between procedure and product; an advert by Boots’ own beauty brand No7, for example, claimed how its anti-ageing glycolic peel “removes dull skin and stimulates cell renewal for younger looking skin without surgery” (my emphasis, Cosmo June 2006: 47 and Marie Claire June 2006: 77). Similarly, an advert for Olay in Marie Claire (June 2015: 202) promotes its Regenerist 3 Point Super Age-Defying Cream by stating, “newer skin is revealed without drastic measures”.

Alongside the adverts for No7 and Olay, several others draw a comparison between the (effects of the) product that is marketed and (the effects of) a cosmetic procedure. An advert for L’Oreal’s micro-dermabrasion kit, for example, includes the small print “the ReFinish at home skincare kit is not intended as a replacement for professional Micro-Dermabrasion” (Marie Claire February 2006: 46-47). Moreover, an advert for Eucerin also compares the brand’s product with a cosmetic procedure when it states that “Hyaluronic Acid injections are key in fighting wrinkles effectively, but if you are not ready for this, the same active ingredient is now used in Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler range” (my emphasis). Finally, an advert for L’Oreal’s Revitalift Pro Contouring System claims that the product will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and make skin feel more toned, adding “unless you want a permanent lift, there’s always Revitalift” (in Marie Claire February 2010: 36-37).

  • [1] Stop by the Estee Lauder counter for a quick consultation and takehome a sample of the foundation formula that’s right for you. (CosmoOctober 2001: 7)
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