More recently, such beauty standards have been perpetuated through their association with the image of celebrities. This “ideal beauty” is often held up in society as the goal to be achieved, which will in turn give you happiness and success. The growth in the 20th and 21st centuries, of industries linked to good nutrition, gyms, cosmetics, plastic surgery and many others has not just been about improvements to health, but also about the search for the “perfect face and body”.
With the growth of the digital world, beauty has come to represent the need for constant validation, and beauty has to be liked, commented on and shared in order to be recognised. At the same time, this new space has also provided the opportunity for greater interaction and visibility for people who don’t necessarily fit into this image of the perfect face and body. The fact that beauty has become more visible has given rise to a shift in some paradigms that had developed around beauty. Identity has come to have much greater significance in individualising the meaning of beauty.
The construction of beauty by means of identity still has an influence on our social circles, but the view that the ideal of beauty exists to be followed and is something that forms an individual’s social identity has started to be side-lined, giving space to the idea that individual identities form their own concepts of beauty and happiness. An ideal of beauty continues to be linked to happiness and success, but is no longer the only goal to be achieved. Today, many people realise that they can be happy in a body, a culture, a gender and an experience that is very different from the ideal.
Based on this movement we have, over the past few years, seen “beauty” branded in a different and more empathetic way, in the context of individuality, plurality, representation and, most of all, identity. There are therefore two very salient topics in the beauty industry today: aesthetics and diversity. The challenge for beauty companies is to hold in hand these two very different market factors and find a context and a relevance for their products and services that is inclusive and, most of all, connected to their consumers.
The #MeToo movement and the strength of social media
With ever more challenges to the ideal of beauty come more debates about the female identity and other identities that do not fit this mould. Within this whole topic there is a wealth of variation on the overall theme. One example is the #MeToo movement, which gained strength in the northern hemisphere and in the film industry in the second half of 2017, and which gave power to the feminist movement around the world, not only with respect to sexual harassment and aggression, but also with respect to giving women autonomy over their own bodies and freedom to make decisions about their own lives. Discussions about what it is to be a woman, or to be female, about abuse and violence in all its forms, whether that be physical, psychological or symbolic, have gained space all around the world.
Again, this scenario shows us that there are positive sides to the use of social media. Social media enables these discussions to be far-reaching and brings to light new perspectives and points of view which can then be analysed and lead to the exposure of issues that previously might have gone unnoticed. Ultimately society is then able to deconstruct these matters. Companies involved in the beauty industry also need to adapt to new interest, demand and topics that are relevant to their audience, providing a beauty that has purpose.
Change in the understanding of beauty and consumption with purpose
By listening to the concerns of the majority of its audience, the beauty industry has the power to convert agendas into individual possibilities and freedom of choice, encouraging its consumers to use its products in the way they see fit and feel most represented. Brands and multiple identities then become partners in the aesthetic inclusion of the many different ways of expressing identity.
Social media enables these discussions to be far-reaching and brings to light new perspectives and points of view which can then be analysed and lead to the exposure of issues that previously might have gone unnoticed
Individuality - in the context of personalisation - has been a growing consumer demand. They want a product or service that is customised to their own style, personality and desires. As diversity has become a more and more important flag for inclusion or even exclusion in the eyes of such a varied population. Discussion around gender, sexual orientation, race, different styles and different social levels has now become a central factor in a customer’s purchasing decision. As a result, people are increasingly stamping their personalities and desires onto the brands they use.
The creation of a brand’s value is therefore linked to customer loyalty by means of purchase with purpose, in the creation of new products that bring value to their customers and in the creation of channels that talk about topics that affect shoppers beyond beauty - with brands that position themselves against harassment and domestic violence, for example, or that invest in products that are vegan and cruelty free. In general, more value is being given to brands that are socially responsible and ethical and that encourage customers to feel pretty the way they are, with products that can help bring out the natural beauty in a person without requiring drastic changes to their body, especially in a world where beauty ideals are so changeable, and trends go out of fashion as quickly as they came in.
Impact of social media on self-perception and aesthetics
As previously mentioned, the beauty industry of today faces two conflicting factors in aesthetics and diversity. Whilst there is an increasing demand for inclusive and socially responsible brands, there is, at the same time, an increasing demand for plastic and corrective surgery, implants and invasive and non-invasive beauty procedures.
According to Euromonitor International, Brazil is the fourth largest market for beauty and personal care in the world, coming behind only the United States, China and Japan. The survey shows that the main global tendencies in the industry are social engagement, ethical position, organic and natural attributes. Such statistics reinforce the size and power of the Brazilian beauty industry and the need to move in the direction of identification, social responsibility, and to relate to the public in a clear and inclusive way.
On the other hand, there is the growth in aesthetic procedures. The desire for standardisation and homogenisation, which has grown even more over the pandemic, means that many people only see a distorted image of themselves and others on a computer or mobile phone screen, due to camera lenses or modifications created with social media filters and/or photo editing apps. This has meant that ideal beauty has become even more unattainable, because it now belongs only to a virtual world.
The idea of a conflict between “how I see myself” and “how others see me” has had a direct impact on the increase in procedures and surgeries on the body. The digital universe has contributed to creating a paradox between an individual’s digital image and their real image. The idea that you can have a perfect profile on social media, with beautiful photos, perfect selfies, lots of likes and comments, all gives the image of a projected life, which can be very different from the reality of the offline world. More and more consumers are seeking a utopia, a perfect life, which can lead to identity crises and anxiety, amongst other problems.
This whole scenario is a real challenge for the beauty industry when it comes to communicating in a way that meets the demands of new consumers and all of their different interests.
How the market is changing and the opportunities available
These are new times, and beauty is much more than appearance, visual aesthetics and style. Beauty is now the backbone of many relevant topics, being connected to ideas of purpose, activism, social issues and ways of expressing what an individual thinks and believes in. This scenario of change and subjectivity in the concept of beauty is changing and challenging the market. The beauty industry is having to take up its position and structure itself in a way that encompasses all the different perspectives and stages in this whole process, from product portfolios to how it communicates with the public, to social concerns and the company brand.
Brands need to be more able to turn these topics into action, with products that are more than just functional. The industry must be aware of the public’s needs, be able to fulfil their desires, make them happy and, most of all, provide products that make people feel good about themselves. Identity and social responsibility must be clearly visible in the messages these companies are putting across. The beauty industry must listen to its public and understand their needs, providing plural and authentic beauty and giving a voice to movements that represent them, such as #MeToo.
Beauty is now the backbone of many relevant topics, being connected to ideas of purpose, activism, social issues and ways of expressing what an individual thinks and believes in
How can the industry deal with such complexity? Adapting and understanding the diversity of each consumer’s needs is part of a more universal communication plan, one which recognises that there are many more ideas about what true beauty is, and that there is not just one ideal, but individual beauties that recognise who each person is, how they see themselves and what their rules are when it comes to shopping. This has meant that smaller brands are growing, brands that are able to connect with specific consumers because they relate directly to their goals and offer products with which people can identify.
Such changes are tending towards personalisation, inclusion and the breaking down of ideals so that the beauty industry and its customers are able to, together, build a scenario in which clothes sizes do not define a person’s beauty and value, in which different skin tones and hair types have their own products and specific beauty care, where there are no barriers to age, ethnicity and gender. A market that promotes a beauty that represents and talks about multicultural identities, in which ideals give way to that which is diverse, multiple and plural.
Table of content
- An introduction to Flair Brazil 2023
- Afro-Brazilian culture
- Parallel conversations
- Brands without identity
- The diversity of beauty in Brazil
- Is 60 the new 40?