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Summary: In recent years, the advertising industry has seen an emerging trend toward more realistic portrayals of beauty that fights against the relatively unattainable look of Photoshopped perfection. This shifting demand is echoed in the cosmetic surgery field as patients show a growing preference for nonsurgical treatments such as injectables and a more subtle approach toward surgical procedures, like choosing smaller breast implants. These options emphasize a patient’s innate beauty and make small enhancements to existing features without creating an artificial look.

Beautiful woman with long brown straight hairs

Just as product manufacturers, apparel companies, and fashion magazines have to stay in harmony with changing preferences amongst their target demographics, the best cosmetic surgeons are aware of shifting tastes among patients. Like most trends, the movement away from heavily retouched beauty imagery comes in response to consumer demand, especially among the beauty industry’s target market: young women. Recently, three notable advertising and media campaigns have reflected these changing consumer expectations.

1. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”

More than just a series of advertisements, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign is a comprehensive tactical assault on the beauty industry. While its marketing value is undeniable, this promotional series caught on so fiercely because of its unabashed portrayal of body types not typically seen in standard beauty marketing and messaging. This project launched in 2004 and uses real women with bodies more reflective of the general public rather than professional models who might look more at home in the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

In cosmetic surgery, the preference for the approachable, more natural look displayed in the Dove advertisements is mirrored by a shift away from extreme enhancements, particularly in breast implants. Surgeons continue to see increasing demand for smaller implants that give a modest boost to the bust line without creating an obviously augmented silhouette.

2. Seventeen Magazine and the Healthy Model Petition

In 2012, one young woman’s petition for healthier imaging caused an uproar in the women’s magazine industry. Julia Bluhm, who was just 14 at the time, started a Change.org petition called “Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images of Real Girls!” With over 85,000 signatures, the petition had a real impact—Seventeen eventually promised to use less aggressive retouching techniques that wouldn’t change models’ faces or body shapes.

Should younger generations continue to reject beauty imagery that is out of reach for most, it’s likely they will develop into mature women who desire less radical cosmetic enhancements. This preference is already apparent in rising demand for nonsurgical solutions like BOTOX® and other injectables more often than surgery. A cosmetic surgeon who understands the importance of natural results can develop a customized treatment plan to aid in subtle changes and graceful aging rather than looking “done.”

3. Aerie’s No Airbrush Promise

A newer entry to the field of body-positive beauty marketing is Aerie’s “Aerie Real” campaign. The lingerie company, a subsidiary of American Eagle, recently released its Spring 2014 advertisements with the promise that models portrayed are shown without Photoshop or airbrushing of any kind. This type of body-positive imagery reflects young women’s mounting desire to see realistic portrayals of the feminine form in advertising. Photo editing software can add volume to breasts without breast implants, remove shadows that create the look of lines and wrinkles, and trim excess fat from thighs and tummies without surgery.

As the aforementioned unaltered imagery becomes more common, cosmetic surgeons must attend to the preferred aesthetic of female patients who want to enrich existing features with less dramatic enhancements or even without surgery.

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