Dove Real Beauty Sketches Campaign

I might be a little late in putting in my two cents worth on the Dove Real Beauty Sketches Campaign, but I usually only have time to blog on weekends, Mondays and Tuesdays so I haven’t gotten round to doing it until now, though I did mean to say something about it last week.

Critics have been quick to jump on the fact that the three star women are all relatively thin, young, white and rank slightly above the average scale in terms of looks, which sort of throws off the whole “you are beautiful” message. It was a very “boo hoo, pretty white girls focusing too much on their moles and wrinkles? Get a life!” kind of reaction, which I sort of understand.

I’m not big on the whole race thing; it doesn’t affect me when mainstream media doesn’t include Asians or whatever. But did anyone else notice that Gil is kind of terrible at sketching that Asian girl’s face?

How do either of these:

Dove Real Beauty Sketch Lani Asian Girl

Look like this:

Dove Real Beauty Sketch Lani Asian

If she looks perplexed, it’s probably because she is perplexed! Neither looks like her!

Okay but that’s not important. What’s important is the message: Stop focusing on your imperfections. See the beauty that everyone else sees.

Marketing-wise, it’s a brilliant idea. You reach out to the female demographic, many of whom are sort of insecure and ties in with their image of embracing real beauty.

Many women would be more than happy to hear someone tell them to forget their imperfections and focus on their good features – but that’s what I have a bit of an issue with.

Why is having a mole on your face, or crow’s feet, or being a little plump a bad thing? I mean, have you seen Helen Mirren? She’s totally rocking her crow’s feet!

But seriously, what then of the girls who really are fat, have crooked teeth, have freckles all over their face and so on? Does that mean that they aren’t beautiful?

Would you rather have someone tell you, “You’ve got mismatched eyes, a bit of a wonky nose and really large pores, but you have pretty, plump lips and cute ears so you’re beautiful!” or have someone who loves all your features and calls you beautiful no matter what?

Instead of the tagline “You are more beautiful than you think”, perhaps a more accurate one would be “You have more features that society would deem beautiful than you think”.

I think the issue with this campaign is that it poses as a social experiment with a deep and meaningful message, but its essence is still a pretty superficial one. Because it still tells us that certain facial features are desirable, while others aren’t.

It still places such a strong emphasis on physical beauty and the typical notions that society agrees upon to deem beautiful. Why is being physically beautiful so important? Must it really dictate our self-worth?

What happened to the Dove that had women of all sizes parading across our screens, telling us that body shape and size doesn’t matter?

In the end, the ad is just that – an ad. Just like many other ads, it isn’t just selling products. It’s selling the idea that we ought to be looking a certain way to be considered beautiful. You only need to look at each photo on the right to realise they have the typical, conventional looks of beauty that every other ad in the world is selling to us girls.

If this video really managed to inspire and improve viewers’ perceptions of themselves, then that’s really great.

But for me, it just felt contrived. It definitely didn’t make me feel better about my looks simply because the ad wasn’t at all convincing. If a forensic artist asked me to describe my looks, I’d probably be humble about it. Can you imagine if you were blowing your own horn and the sketch came out to be this beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow character? Awkward!

What I’m saying is that it’s not an accurate way to show what we really think of our looks. When you describe your own face, which you’ve seen for your whole life, you naturally describe the details – the size of your eyes, the width of your jaw, the sharpness of your nose etc. When a stranger sees your face for the first time, they can only describe their vague impression of your overall looks, so naturally they won’t bring out your imperfections; they hadn’t had the time to notice.

I wonder why they only featured those three women out of the 20 that Gil sketched though. Could it be possible that they were the only ones who created the result that Dove required for the ad? Okay seven, if you consider those who weren’t shown speaking. Even so, that means only a third of women Gil drew resulted in the contrast needed to demonstrate Dove’s point. So it could be that these women just happened to have more insecurities than most.

But then again you can’t deny that the campaign struck a chord with so many women. That’s why it went viral isn’t it.

There are just so many issues with this ad that affects the accuracy of this “social experiment”. But then again, is it really a social experiment?

This ad is still just that – an ad. So let’s not get too carried away with it.



  1. I hadn’t the time to think about the ad after I saw it. but you point about not praising your own beauty is true. I consider myself to be ‘cute sometimes’ not cause I have low self esteem. just because you don’t want to be boastful

  2. Brilliant! I also have issues with the Dove’s “real women” body shape and size campaign as well … they are all still between a size 8 and 12 by the looks of it :)

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