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Beauty Standards and its Effects on Body Image

Beauty standards established by media images have a substantial impact on body image in the modern world. Despite numerous experts discussing the positive effects of such influence, there is a considerable amount of compelling evidence suggesting another point of view. Celebrities and advertisements persuade young people to aim for specific body images regardless of their inherent characteristics. It is essential to be aware of it to minimize the adverse effects. Undoubtedly, the increasing influence of media and beauty standards on body image is a complex trend requiring specific attention.

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Iconic Figures and Massive Advertisement

Most people encounter images of iconic figures and misleading advertisements compelling admiration every day on the Internet. Lewallen and Behm-Morawitz (2016) note, “Although adolescents are acutely aware of the pressures and standards of society, it appears that media models may serve as targets for self-appraisal and social comparison” (p.7). However, it is unreasonable to compare one’s images with those of popular models, whose job is to look thin and attractive.

Moreover, iconic figures, along with advertisements, may encourage individuals to undergo cosmetic surgery by indirectly promoting body dissatisfaction. Jung and Hwang (2016) conducted research and concluded that celebrities are a reference group for many Americans and play a significant role in their likelihood of having cosmetic surgery. People observe beautiful faces and attractive bodies of iconic figures in their fifties in the media and desire to look in the same way with minimal effort.

Besides, advertisers often use sexually charged campaigns designed to increase specific product sales. Such advertisements often catch much attention and prove to many individuals that they are not sexually attractive. Images of fashion models wearing beautiful makeup and exhibiting complete confidence push consumers to buy products that may help them look and feel better. Unfortunately, it does not work, and people suffer because of unrealistic expectations.

Social Networks

The increasing significance of social networks plays a critical role in modifying and distributing current beauty standards. Social networks, such as Instagram, which is used for sharing over 95 million photos per day, turn into primary contributors to public opinion on beauty standards (Franchina, 2018). Instagram users are exposed to the constant flow of images, which may be inspiring and cause dissatisfaction at the same time. Many people also share their photos, trying to bring their best selves and sometimes deceive their followers. It is the way Instagram and numerous other social networks function, and it is disturbing.

Many social media users also receive positive or negative feedback regarding their appearance. It has become a crucial tool in assessing one’s body and facilitating a particular point of view. According to Tiggemann and Barbato (2018), “exposure to appearance comments led to significantly greater body dissatisfaction than exposure to place comments” (p. 64). It is vital to realize that people are more likely to share hostile comments on social media than in real life. In addition, others’ feedback is often visible to one’s followers or just interested individuals, making the situation even worse. Many people are also deeply concerned about the number of likes their posts gather, and it may cause many adverse outcomes such as anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem.

Positive Effects of Beauty Standards

Beauty standards and media figures can have some positive effects on the body image in case of a cautious attitude toward them. For example, photographs of attractive iconic figures, bloggers, or just random individuals may inspire people to work diligently to improve their appearance. Without any doubt, the number of runners and those who practice yoga is increasing globally, and the reason for it is the growing recognition of the sport and physical activities popularized on social media.

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Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle is promoted by advancing generally accepted views and using good examples of celebrities. Muzaqeer and Ahmad (2020) state, “social media is not only used for entertainment or social purposes but also for healthy lifestyle practice” (p. 1). Using social networks, numerous individuals seek for inspiration and support and join different communities. Besides, Klassen et al. (2018) note that young adults often receive healthy eating and recipe tips on social media, and it is highly beneficial.

In addition, celebrities and social media influencers promote diversity, as they fear to receive unfavorable comments from the public. They encourage not aiming for a single beauty ideal but embracing differences. Skin color, facial features, and hair texture no longer matter. It is evident that because of the promotion of diversity, beauty standards are becoming broader, and many people change their perception of various issues.

Negative Effects of Beauty Standards

In practice, the negative impact of beauty standards is currently predominant and demonstrates itself in numerous ways. First, the number of eating disorders has been increasing since the 1970s due to women’s obsession with diets intended to reach the popular skinny image (Laham, 2020). People often lack resources and knowledge to improve their appearance successfully; thus, they seek shortcuts leading to adverse health consequences.

Second, the constant exposure to beautiful faces of celebrities or peers causes low self-esteem. The images of friends posted on the Internet significantly reduce the level of body-esteem and provoke negative assessments of one’s body (Franchina, 2018). However, social media users rarely consider that several makeup layers may cover smiling faces on pictures displaying fake emotions.

Third, negative body images caused by social networks or advertisements push people to undergo cosmetic interventions despite possible adverse health impacts. According to Chen et al. (2019), the way people perceive cosmetic surgery varies based on photography editing application and social media use. Sometimes individuals make unreasonable decisions under strong emotions and regret later about them. Having cosmetic surgery is often among those decisions.


Media images and beauty standards constitute a critically influential tool in defining and assessing body image. Looking through the portfolios of celebrities and photos published by friends and acquaintances in a social network, an individual reaches certain conclusions about the desirable appearance. Although this may lead to increasing aspiration to improve oneself, in many cases, the consequences are quite unfavorable. Severe eating disorders, numerous insecurities, and decreased overall life satisfaction are among them. Therefore, understanding the effects of beauty standards is crucial in generating a reasonable attitude towards one’s body among people and making society healthier and happier in general.


Chen, J., Ishii, M., Bater, K. L., Darrach, H., Liao, D., Huynh, P. P., Reh, I. P., Nellis, J. C., Kumar, A. R., & Ishii, L. E. (2019). Association between the use of social media and photograph editing applications, self-esteem, and cosmetic surgery acceptance. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 21(5), 361–367. Web.

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Franchina, V., & Coco, G. (2018). The influence of social media use on body image concerns. International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Education, 10(1), 5–14.

Jung, J., & Hwang, C. S. (2016). Associations between attitudes toward cosmetic surgery, celebrity worship, and body image among South Korean and US female college students. Fashion and Textiles, 3(17). Web.

Klassen, K. M., Douglass, C. H., Brennan, L., Truby, H., & Lim, M. (2018). Social media use for nutrition outcomes in young adults: A mixed-methods systematic review. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15(1), 70. Web.

Laham, M. (2020). Made up: How the beauty industry manipulates consumers, preys on women’s insecurities, and promotes unattainable beauty standards. Rowman & Littlefield.

Lewallen, J., & Behm-Morawitz, E. (2016). Pinterest or Thinterest?: Social comparison and body image on social media. Social Media + Society, 2(1), 1-9. Web.

Muzaqeer, I., & Ahmad, Y. (2020). The relationship between the use of social media technology and healthy life style practice among undergraduate students. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1-8. Web.

Tiggemann, M., & Barbato, I. (2018). “You look great!”: The effect of viewing appearance-related Instagram comments on women’s body image. Body Image, 27, 61–66. Web.

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