The Psychology of Marketing: Beauty Products Lower Self-Esteem

As much as indulging in “retail therapy” can trigger a short-term giddy feeling, new research shows that some products actually work in the opposite manner: we buy them because they make us feel bad. A new study finds that beauty product marketing, in particular, makes female shoppers feel bad about their appearance by suggesting to women that without the product, they are not as attractive as they should be. The unrealistic appearance of air-brushed models has already been shown to have a negative affect on female self-esteem. But this study found that even packaging and advertisements without humans in the imagery had a negative psychological impact on female viewers.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Kate Bopp

    Kate Bopp

    October 20th, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    I despair a little at the reliance of otherwise intelligent (mostly)women on what is frequently a bizarrely exaggerated promise of youth/beauty/slowing-down/reversal of the aging process. No substance in a little pot can stop the sands of time. Why would a sane person want to? Why would a person in their 50’s 60’s or 70’s want to look decades younger? It would not change a thing about the way one feels inside. A healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, adequate exercise & a positive attitude are the best steps to looking and feeling good.

  • Molly


    October 20th, 2010 at 4:35 AM

    Oh good gracious. . . really?!? When are we gonna wise up and just get over all of this beauty nonsense? It’s about what’s on the inside ladies, not about the outside. Stop feeding into all of this crap and eventually they will have to stop feeding it to us and their unrealistic expectations.

  • beth


    October 20th, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    whatever the design of these adverts by these large corporations looking at only one target(profits),it all comes down to our own thoughts.people feel inferior not because of the ads or anything but because they are so obsessed about looking good…oh sorry,about looking great!

  • Robert


    October 20th, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Many of us say that the real beauty is on the inside but don’t actually show that in our actions. Yes,it is hard not to want to be better than you are but what we need to think is whether the route we take to achieve the same is a safe one. A balanced diet and plenty of water is a much better way to beautify yourself compared to all the chemical stuff.

  • Gayle


    October 20th, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    “In an advertisement, a lipstick situated next to a stiletto heel represents glamour…” Really? I’d have said that represented a hooker. Your ads aren’t aimed at me obviously, Mr. Marketer.

  • gerry


    October 20th, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    not only women but even men have taken to this kind of behavior now and its getting ridiculous that more and more people spend just so much money on something that really doesn’t get them anything more than a few comments maybe!

  • Lyle


    October 20th, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    This study is sharing what marketers have known forever. Women want to be as attractive as they can be and are often insecure about their looks. And before anyone argues with me about that statement, take a moment to see I’m not being sexist. Of course they do! Why? Because like it or not, you are judged primarily on how you look before anything. That happens to men as well to a degree, although much more severely if you’re a woman. Marketers take advantage of that knowledge.

  • denise


    October 20th, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    I’m a woman and I couldn’t care less about fancy schmancy beauty ads. They certainly don’t make me question my attractiveness! If a woman falls for that tactic she must not be very bright. She certainly isn’t representative of the women I know.

  • Brandi


    October 21st, 2010 at 4:40 AM

    And advertisers are not going to stop until we stop giving them our retail dollars. Guess what? Not happening.

  • KORY


    October 21st, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    People who feel that they are not good looking due to such ads certainly have an inferiority complex and do not have any kind of self-confidence.It would be foolish to be in awe of something that has been retouched a million times!

  • hannah


    October 21st, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    Not very bright, denise? Tell me you’re not being serious there. You don’t think that perhaps the woman is simply depressed or feeling inadequate that day then. Have you never had a bad day yourself? Intelligence has nothing to do with that! It’s only human to feel vulnerable on occasion.

  • Gabriella


    October 21st, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Beauty comes from within and no amount of cosmetics will enhance your looks as much as the inner glow of being a good, positive, kind person. That’s the truth. Glossy lipstick can hide a meanspirited mouth.

  • Laine


    October 22nd, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Am I the only one that appreciates the irony of beauty products making women feel less beautiful?

  • themuse


    October 25th, 2010 at 12:28 AM

    Don’t blame the ad men. They create what they know women will respond to. That’s their job. If you want to lay the blame at anybody’s door, how about all those women that are in need of a gigantic change of mindset? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and they need to see it in themselves, not a bottle.

  • Chelsea


    November 4th, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    All advertising is meant to make a person feel as if they are not complete if they do not purchase the product or service the ad is selling. Whether it’s deodorant, toilet cleaner, a car or make-up, we are being told thousands of times a year that we are not enough until we shell out some money for a particular product.

  • Agona


    February 15th, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    All of these women saying they aren’t influenced by marketing or standards of beauty are full of it. It’s impossible not to be when you are treated less than or better than because of your looks. Marketing thrives on making you feel inadequate. So when you see images of perfect people you feel inadequate even when you know they have been airbrushed. Being ignored when you are unattractive while others receive praise and even higher wages for being attractive will have you reaching out for make up or a gym membership. Humans are social creatures that innately desire acceptance and approval. Unless you live alone in the wilderness or have autism you are influenced and affected by marketing practices. It may suck but it isn’t what is inside that counts for men or women. Good looking people have a huge leg up in life and more options for a mate. Many unattractive women are bitter because they are not receiving the positive attention attractive women receive. I’ve seen this with men too. Unattractive men are also treated worse and have less options for mates.

  • Simona Rich

    Simona Rich

    February 23rd, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    A very late comment, but I wanted to contribute too. Sometimes women can be very intelligent, yet still fall for marketing tricks. Marketers spend a great deal of time researching what makes people tick, and even very intelligent people can become their victims. I, too, was a victim of this beauty craze. Not anymore, yet it took time to see through it.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.



* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on