Can The Beauty Industry Survive The Rise Of The Body Positivity Movement?

For years the beauty industry has thrived by selling women products aimed at 'fixing' their problems. So how will it cope now that more and more women are embracing 'self-love'?

In 1990, Naomi Wolf wrote these immortal lines in her feminist tome The Beauty Myth: How Images Of Beauty Are Used Against Women: "The last thing the consumer index wants men and women to do is to figure out how to love one another."

Wolf was, of course, referring to the multi-billionaire dollar beauty industry. Her inference was that the industry runs on the tears of women by making them feel insecure about their bodies and, in turn, selling them products to 'fix' their problems.

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On the surface, a lot appears to have changed over the past two decades since Wolf's book was first published.

First, there are figures such as The Good Place actor Jameela Jamil who has called out magazines over airbrushing, celebrities for promoting weight-loss teas, and started the Instagram-led body positivity movement 'I Weigh'.

Then there's author Megan Jayne Crabbe, better known by her Instagram moniker @bodyposipanda, who has dedicated her profile to posting images of her unairbrushed figure, while regularly encouraging her one million followers to love themselves.

But, as the beauty industry knows all too well, looks can be very deceiving.

Over the past four years, the beauty industry has grown at an exponential rate. That figure is only expected to increase according to Statista, with the Asia Pacific mass beauty market expected to grow by nearly $20 billion in sales over the next two years.

The figures come as no surprise to author Susie Orbach, whose book, Fat Is A Feminist Issue, is considered by many to be pivotal reading for anyone interested in the feminist movement.

Speaking to 10 daily from her London home, Orbach said she believes the beauty industry will find a way to subvert the body positivity movement.

"It's highly unlikely the beauty industry is going to suffer," she said.

I think what's going to happen now is that the industry will now try and exploit the body positivity movement. The only thing that will change is the way that beauty is going to be sold to us.

Advertising executive and Campaign Edge owner Dee Madigan agrees, telling 10 daily their business model will have to change ever so slightly.

"It doesn’t make any business sense for them to tell women to just be yourself when their business relies on encouraging women in some way to alter themselves," she said.

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Both Madigan and Orbach specially called out L'Oréal for their long-running 'You're Worth It' slogan.

"That's how these companies manage to cloak that insecurity," Madigan explained. "They wrap it up in a way that makes seem as though they're building a woman's self-esteem up by telling her she's 'worth it'.

"But the thing is, it's like saying, you're not worth it the way you are but you will be when you buy our products."

Orbach went on to say that she believes that many beauty companies "wouldn't think it's cynical that they’re supporting body diversity".

"In fact, they will think this is really great and keep pushing women to 'be their best' which they can do by using their products," she said.

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The Future

Both women believe that Instagram influencers will play a particularly vital role in the changing face of beauty advertising.

"Influencers survive by selling us a product and that isn't going to change because that's the only way for growth to occur," Orbach said.

Girls are now making a living learning how to market themselves.

Madigan agrees, saying that for companies using influencers to market their product is an "incredibly cheap form of advertising".

"They don't need to pay for an ad in a magazine or organise a television commercial which can cost a lot of money, sometimes all they need to do is give influencers a few of their products.

"Plus, people look at influencers like they're their friends and people are much more likely to buy a product when recommended by a friend they trust," she said.

Orbach said the battle now lies in how to foster positive influencers rather than ones that simply aim to sell a product.

Madigan, meanwhile,  jokingly said she is dreaming of a different kind of future altogether:  "I hope that eventually we will just have latex masks and it won’t matter how old you are or how you're feeling because we'll all look perfect with our latex mask on".

Feature Image: Getty