The Consumer Culture of Beauty: Fighting Through Media Messaging

We’ve spent a good deal of the month talking about how to make more consumer and eco-friendly choices about what you put into your medicine cabinet, but we haven’t spent much time talking about making choices about how much you put into your medicine cabinet. When it comes to beauty products like skin care, makeup and nail polish, there’s a huge opportunity to break away from the consumer culture that’s built up around them. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the consumer culture traps of beauty and makeup products and talk about how to get out of the cycle.

On-Trend or Unnecessary?

The first rule of cosmetics (or fashion) marketing is that you always need to be giving people something to buy. That means that you always need to be introducing something new. How do you introduce new items while also convincing that the new items are necessary? You create seasonal color trends and send out the message that if you’re not “on-trend” you’re somehow a less valuable person. Now, to be clear, we’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t indulge in the occasional seasonal color purchase. A new piece of makeup or skin care product can be fun. But we think it’s important for you to both understand the marketing cycle of seasonal colors as well as to decide for yourself how important they are to you.

The first step in this is to recognize that you’re beautiful no matter what color you wear, what makeup you have on or what trends you embrace. A new lipstick shade can’t make you beautiful, but a new outlook can! (Though lipstick is fun).

The second part of this is to take the time to realize which skin care, beauty and makeup products really do work for you and make you look stunning. Seasonal colors are fine, but do you really need a new shade of brown every single year? Consider building a makeup color palette using colors that are defined for your skin tone and undertone, not based on what hit the runways last month.

On the makeup and beauty scale, there’s an entire spectrum that can range from entirely natural to in-love-with-makeup. The trick isn’t to move yourself from one part of the spectrum to the other. It’s to find the point on the spectrum that you’re comfortable with while truly understanding what part of your choice is about you and what part is being dictated by marketers.

Beauty and the Media Machine

In addition to the marketing calendar and merchandising behind the consumer culture of beauty, there’s also a strong media presence. Take a day and count the number of ads for makeup and skin care products that you see in the following places:

–       On your television

–       On your computer screen

–       On your mobile phone or tablet

–       In print publications

–       On billboards

–       Inside stores directing you to certain brands or product types

We’d be surprised if the number didn’t shock and astound you. And it’s not simply that the media messages are telling you that you need to purchase the products that they’re advertising. The media messages are also telling you that you need to look a certain way – younger, thinner, more on-trend.

Again, we’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with loving fashion, skin care or makeup. What we are saying is that it’s important that you make the decisions as to how and why you love and embrace those things based on you, not based on what a media culture is telling you. The first step is about becoming aware of exactly how pervasive media culture is when it comes to beauty marketing. The second step is to take some real time and effort to break down your own beliefs and philosophies about beauty.

Where’s Your Most Beautiful Spot?

Chances are, most of this article told you things that, on some level, you already realize. So what’s next? Next you need to do some hard work. You’ll need to really evaluate what makes you feel beautiful, both inside and outside. Then you’ll need to spend some time thinking about how the things that make you feel beautiful align with your philosophies and beliefs about the world. Finally, you’ll get to the hard part: identifying ways you want to change.

Those changes may be small. Maybe you just want to reduce how much money you spend monthly on health and beauty products. Those changes may be huge. Maybe you want to go “off grid” entirely when it comes to the marketing of beauty. No matter what your choice is, give yourself time to adjust and don’t expect perfection.

Find the place where you can be you. Maybe that means your medicine cabinet is entirely full but it’s full of eco-friendly products. Maybe it means your medicine cabinet takes on a more minimalist appearance. The choice for finding the satisfaction of enough is yours!

Did we miss a part of the consumer machine about beauty and skin care?  Share it with us. Comment below or tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

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Photo Credit: Melanie Tata via Flickr

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