INNER BEAUTY

Beauty is “looking healthy” and “being comfortable in your own skin” according to a new survey

That’s hot.
That’s hot.
Image: Reuters/Han Jae-Ho
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While perceptions of beauty vary widely across geography and demographics, a recent global survey by the research firm Euromonitor revealed that definitions of beauty may be shifting for global consumers into something that prioritizes internal intangibles—like being comfortable in one’s own skin and feeling confident—over external features.

Euromonitor’s annual beauty survey tracks beauty consumer trends and the purchase behavior of over 20,000 male and female consumers in 20 markets across the globe. For the survey, consumers ranked a list of ten qualities that defined beauty. Out of them, “looking healthy” was the top-rated definition, followed closely by “hygiene and cleanliness,” “being comfortable in your own skin,” and “inner confidence.” More traditional, external qualities that convey beauty (“looking presentable,” “looking your best,” “maintaining a youthful appearance”) fell lower on the list.

 

The results seem to show a changing definition of what consumers consider beautiful. Although society is constantly reconstructing beauty standards, beauty has historically been determined and celebrated on a superficial basis, i.e. what a person looks like.

Only in the past decade or so has the idea of “inner beauty” been part of the conversation around what it means to be beautiful. In recent years, many western brands have seen financial success by encouraging consumers to celebrate their perceived “flaws”—wrinkles, spots, fat, etc.—rather than attempt to battle or eliminate them.

Some companies have changed their marketing efforts to promote a more health-centric, internal definition of beauty. As an example, Euromonitor points to Dove, which “launched the Dove Self-Esteem Project, a non-profit with a mission ‘to ensure that the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look.'”

Also contributing to the trend could be the increasingly inextricable beauty and wellness industries. Wellness ballooned into a $4.2 trillion trade in 2017 up from $3.7 trillion in 2015. The wellness industry is premised on the idea of cultivating “inner beauty.” Some of its staple products—health tonics, intravenous hydration drips, “ingestible skincare,” beauty supplements—push the idea that beauty is something nourished from the inside.

These industries are doing what they’ve always done: evolving to meet a changing definition of beauty. And in some cases, this means embracing a kind of doublespeak. For instance, while marketing departments have replaced combative instructions to “tackle” and “beat” blemishes or “defy” age with products promising to “renew” and “revitalize” the skin, the industry’s primary product category is still anti-aging (pdf): products for consumers who desire to maintain a youthful look. As Chelsea Summers wrote in her seminal essay on Medium, “No matter how low you turn the volume, the specter of aging wails, open-mouthed and horrified, at the core of skincare.”

Furthermore, much of wellness is premised on the ideas of the dieting industry. Weight Watchers, for instance, recently announced a ‘pivot to wellness.‘ It dropped the word “weight” from its name to become “WW” and introduced a new tagline: “Wellness That Works.” Despite that, the core Weight Watchers weight loss program (and its metrics of success or failure) remain intact.