In this Digital Lab thought piece called Talking Beauty, Clair Croft of Proximity London summarizes the findings of an observational documentary-based research study which sought to understand how the beauty industry might best approach growing its digital engagement with women.
An insight into how women think, feel and talk about beautyBy Claire Croft Proximity LondonMARCH 2012
ContentsIntroduction Beauty. Really? Talking about our generations Under pressure Who am I again? Better for longer Hope is near A world of opportunity 05 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 28 04 08 14 20
IntroductionWe set out on a journey to understand what beauty means to different generations of women. How does each generation feel about beauty, what pressures do they face and do they feel able to achieve their ideal? And importantly we explored how generations interact about beauty. How they see one another, what they admire and what they envy about each other.To uncover genuine insights we needed to spend real time with these women, and by using observational documentary style interviewing we did just that. It was important to us that the views that women shared were not influenced in anyway, as they might be in something like a focus group. By being in their homes, and spending hours upon hours chatting to them we found out what they really think. Across all our conversations one theme stood out. For women beauty feel good about themselves. Its simply about being able to achieve a goal
of looking the best they can, for them. And confidence is at theheart of how women feel about their looks and their ability to look good.
This paper provides a summary of the conversations we shared with women during the time we spent with them and also outlines some thoughts about what opportunities there are for the beauty industry to evolve and enhance its relationship with women of all ages.
exists as a concept rather than a reality and that concept
changes and evolves over the course of ones life. It is always however something which feels beyond the reach of the individual. For young women this is because beauty is defined primarily by celebrity. Older women on the other hand believe beauty is something that exists naturally in youth, not later life. The result? Most women are striving to achieve something much smaller in aspiration; they just want to be able to
Beauty. really?It is rare for women to describe beauty in terms of what they see in the media i.e. celebrity. For most that is manufactured, unreal and unobtainable beauty. Whilst it can provide some inspiration in terms of looks to try and experiment with it is overall a distant concept.One notable exception in the conversations we had though was Kate Middleton. Younger women in particular are inspired by how natural she is. Her beauty is real to women, and this is genuinely motivating for them hence the frenzy to achieve her look. Retail analysts have estimated that her influence on the British fashion industry has generated a 1bn boost to the economy. So, when beauty feels obtainable women engage and take action. Why? Women are striving to feel like they look good, because this gives them the confidence they need to face the world. Achieving the goal of looking good is a really personal journey. For some women who are naturally confident it is a smooth ride and the beauty industry simply provides the tools they need to achieve their look. For most though they really are seeking advice and guidance for them personally. This clearly indicates the potential for the beauty industry to evolve and enhance its relationship with women.
can become something, which is defined by each woman and her reality of looking good.A starting point would be for the beauty industry to adopt the everyday dialogue women have about beauty. Engaging with their more grounded dialect about beauty will motivate less confident women to engage more actively with the beauty industry.
By championing the idea that every women has the right to feel confident about who she is and how she looks beauty
Beauty as a concept is unreal and unobtainable Women simply want to feel they look good because that gives themconfidence
Looking good is a personal journey and most would value tailored,personal support
The beauty industry has the opportunity to champion every womansright to feel confident about who she is and how she looks
If youre happy with the way you are you have a beauty
Good is a more everyday word for me than beauty. Beauty just seems too big
Some people are just beautiful. In relation to me its a different idea. It is more must looking after myself or trying to look good
Talking about our generations...Confidence, or rather perception of, was at the heart of the relationship between generations. And those perceptions manifest themselves as a positive envy.Younger women wish they had the confidence derived from the experience that older women have. To them older women know who they are and therefore can be more confident about looking good. For older women they envy the confidence derived from actually being beautiful when you are young. Each generation has quite clear ideas about what looking good means for the other. They share views and ideas. And interestingly those ideas actually become a source of inspiration. So for example older women strive to achieve a natural beauty because thats what they think young women, who are naturally beautiful, should be embracing (rather than slapping piles of make up on and covering it up). Younger women enjoy hearing the lessons learnt from older women (e.g. cleanse, tone and moisturise, always wear make up with SPF in it etc.). Mothers provide many of these insights but not exclusively. And older celebrities, who are seen to be growing old naturally, (think Helen Mirren) are a source of inspiration for younger as well as older women.
There is a positive envy between the generations. Young women envy the confidence older women have because of theirexperience
Older women envy the natural beauty that exists in youth Each generation has clear ideas about what looking good means forthe other
And they talk to each other A LOT!
Carly and Cindy Daughter / Mother Single / divorced Hairdresser / Beauty therapist Aged 23 / 47
Sally & Shakini Mother & daughter Married / single Aged 33 / 16
Maddy & Sandy Single / Divorced Student /Manager Aged 21 / 42
Its just part of getting older mum, but theres things we can do!
It (beauty) is youth it is sort of effortless not having to bother
I wear a lot more than she would on a night out (mother) shed look like a hooker
I have a friend whos about 60 who I guess I see as a role model
Once you get older you are more experienced in what looks good on you so I think that is why a lot of older people actually look better
Under pressure - Young womenAs one might expect younger women feel the most pressure to look good. This is a real challenge for them because the pressure is highest when they are trying to establish their identity and build confidence in their look.It is their love of digital socialising, which is proving to be a double-edge sword in terms of where they face pressure. Social sharing is natural and habitual for this generation and so on the positive side it is very easy for them to gather opinions and advice but also to share their own pearls of wisdom. They are highly aware however that the social space means they are on show 24/7 and this presents the downside of social engagement. Young women are exposed, and are constantly being
judged. The commentary which social media inevitably invites means they receive both positive and negative feedback about how they look. And in terms of impact negative opinions far outweigh positive opinions. For many this means social media both facilitates and suppresses experimentation, and it directly influences how confident they feel about themselves.
Key pointsT hey face the most pressure just when theyre trying to build confidence in how they look
Social sharing is a double edged sword They feel they are exposed to judgment 24/7 Any hint of negativity in the comments they receive directly affects howconfident they feel about themselves
Holly, in relationship Stable lass, 20
Lavetta, Single Hairdresser, 19
Ebele, Single, Unemployed, 27
Maddy, Single Student, 21
She wouldnt upload that picture to FB because she didnt want people thinking she ate pudding
If another girl had a bad pic we would be going OMG have you seen blah blahs picture and I dont want to be that girl
I have this pressure that I now have to have a different outfit every time I go out
Who am I again? - MotherhoodAs a life stage becoming a mother is known to significantly change ones identity and as a result confidence. The conversations we had did not challenge this truth. But they clarified what it means for beauty.They talked about the fact that whilst their looks become less of a priority they still need to find time for some sort of beauty routine. And equally they want to be able to feel like they look good for their partner and interestingly their child (for when they are older and are aware of mums looks). The psychological benefit of achieving this is not to be under estimated, as it actually affects their confidence about being a mother. But we did uncover a sense that mums to be/ new mums do feel slightly abandoned by the beauty industry at a time when they would really appreciate support and advice. They are working it out for themselves or through the experiences of others.
Their approach to beauty mirrors their approach to motherhood, they learn through trial and error.
Mothers need time for
some sort of beauty regime. It protects identity and therefore confiden