Self-esteem and body image

Body image and confidencegirl smiling

Society is often debating what kinds of factors can affect self-esteem, and a range of industries have a part to play in the discussion including the media, fashion, cosmetics, music and publishing industries.  Self-esteem is at the heart of our industry, and in keeping with its on-going commitment to its customers, the cosmetics industry has a positive role to play in helping people to make the best of themselves, and in doing so, feel good too. 

The contributory factors to self-esteem are complex and far-reaching, and there are many different points of view.  Over the years the CTPA has built up a body of work to better understand the issues around self-esteem.  This work continues today, as we stay in dialogue with families, parents and young people alike to ensure we hear their views.  Below we set out some of the work the CTPA has undertaken to evolve our learning and support understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding self-esteem.

Look Good... Feel Better

In 1993 the industry committed to helping cancer patients deal with the often devastating appearance-related side-effects of cancer treatment by setting up an independent charity, the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Foundation.  Running free beauty workshops on a nationwide basis, the Look Good…Feel Better programme provides expert help and advice plus free beauty kits to thousands of cancer sufferers every year.   Attendees are often over-whelmed with the enormity of cancer treatment and find these workshops a lifeline back to normality and regaining control by increasing self-confidence and the ability to feel they can face family and friends with a positive attitude.  This work continues today. 

Adopting an active, listening, role

Self esteem coverself esteem (at work) cover image

To help us to understand what kinds of issues surround the complex subject of self-esteem throughout society, the CTPA continues to work with a variety of people.  Through forums, research and direct dialogue with the likes of teachers and mums across the years, people’s views help us to maintain an active, listening role and to demonstrate the positive part that the industry plays in helping people to feel good about themselves.  Hand-in-hand with this goes independent quantitative research into self-esteem’s relevance to our working lives, and the CTPA has explored the overall significance of self-esteem for society, which reveals the need for us to recognise the crucial role that self-esteem plays throughout our lives, as well as the positive benefits that our industry can have on self-esteem.    

Since 2004, CTPA has commissioned three consumer polls (2004, 2009, 2013) to better understand the role that personal care and cosmetic products (e.g. skincare, toothpaste, deodorants, suncare, make-up etc.) play in building self-esteem.  The findings were reported in the CTPA's Annual Report 2012 'Inside Out'.

Evolving understanding of self-esteem

In 2012 we worked with leading scientific experts to explore the role skin science can play as we grow older, and the hugely positive effect looking after our appearance can have on our self-esteem. During a media panel entitled The Skin We’re In, Professor Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle Biomedicine, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist Dr Julian Mason and Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of the CTPA, discussed a range of topics. These included how we can safe-guard self-esteem as we age by looking after our skin and thinking positively about the ageing experience, as well as examining how sun protection works to prevent premature ageing; and the way in which nanotechnology is used in cosmetics, particularly in sunscreens.

To garner their opinions on self-esteem and the issues surrounding it, we also sought the views of a member of government, a member of parliament, a journalist, a psychologist, a representative of advertisers and a representative of an advertising regulatory authority.  Each contributed to a special edition of the CTPA newsletter, where their opinions provided a flavour of the complexity of the issues and the wide breadth of opinions that exist.   We continue to see that breadth of opinions reflected among experts, families and young people alike.

There are also experts who work in the fields of psychology and facial reconstructive surgery whose expertise the CTPA has also been keen to learn from.  To this end, we sought the opinions of clinical psychologist Dr Alex Clarke to explore how and why humans perceive beauty in the way that they do, and what this can mean for self-esteem.  Dr Clarke joined a discussion panel that also included clinical psychotherapist Lucy Beresford to discuss the psychology of beauty.  They explored how humans’ perception of beauty is defined and has changed, the extent to which it affects self-esteem, and what factors can influence it.

Responding to society’s changing viewpoints

The Bailey Report  – published in June 2011 – identified concerns among some parents regarding advertising and the perception that younger girls could be growing up too soon. The CTPA is aware and sensitive to changes in society, and naturally responded to these concerns – and we continue to work with stakeholders to explore and understand issues that matter to parents and society as a whole.  The CTPA continues to provide a suite of free online educational materials called CATIE, which include resources that explore self-esteem and learning to feel good about yourself, written by teachers, for teachers.  We also support the work of Media Smart, the non-profit media literacy programme for school children aged six to 11 years old, which helps them to think critically about advertising.  

The objective of all this work is to reassure society at large that the cosmetics industry is listening and will continue to play its part in a greater solution to those concerns that society – and therefore our customers – have.