There’s an episode of Mad Men where Peggy is laughed at for suggesting they sell Pond’s cold creme by playing up how it made a woman feel (beautiful) instead of assuring ladies it would help them snag husbands. Seems Ms. Olson was ahead of her time. A new study confirms what Peggy (and women the world over) already knew: People use cosmetics primarily for emotional reasons.
Researchers asked 355 women between ages 18 and 50 about various facial and body creams—hydrating, firming, anti-wrinkle, anti-cellulite and the whole shebang. What they found was that “consumer satisfaction is greatest when the cosmetics brand helps to strengthen positive emotions through the perception of ‘caring for oneself’ and removing feelings of worry and guilt about not taking care of one’s appearance,” according to the study’s lead author, Vanessa Apaolaza.
In other words, they don’t wear the cold cream to land a husband. Or do they? Putting on the creme might be a gesture to reassure ourselves, but of what—that we’re keeping ourselves beautiful in the exact ways we’re told to (no wrinkles, toned skin, etc.)? It’s a complicated mess of psychic tensions, for sure.
In order for a brand to illicit positive emotions from the women being studied, it first needed to cause them to have concern or dissatisfaction with their appearance, the study notes.
That’s messed up—but not surprising. After all, worrying about wrinkles isn’t some innate female inclination; we feel positive about using wrinkle cremes—even if we suspect they don’t actually work—because we fear becoming undesirable. Putting on moisturizer allows us to feel better about ourselves because we’re being ‘good’ and diligent in trying to ward off this fate—if the creams don’t work, at least we tried, right?
The basic premise of these studies, Apaolaza told Psych Central, is that consumers compare their own level of physical attractiveness with that of the models used in ads, and that these comparisons give rise to negative effects in the way they perceive their own physical attractiveness and on their self-esteem.”