Canned Beauty

body with logos of agribusinesses and cosmetics companies
Photo credit :: myberyL

What have TV, lipstick and a can of Coke got to do with each other? Here’s a clue from Anne Becker, researcher at the Harvard Department of Social Medicine, whose most recent work on this appears in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.

From a situation in the late 1980s when bulimia and anorexia nervosa were unheard of:

“In [Becker’s] 1998 survey, taken 38 months after TV came to Nadroga, Fiji, 15 percent of girls, aged 17 on average, reported that they had vomited to control weight.”

The arrival of television in Fiji brought with it US TV shows, and their messages about how women and girls ought to look. It was a message directly at odds with prevailing views of beauty in Fiji. And Fijian adolescents chose the US version.

TV provides a medium not only for conveying ideas about what to look like, but it also provides a vehicle for selling the means to become that way. Food companies have figured this out, and now we’re beginning to see the fruits of their labours.

The first country in which food and cosmetics were brought together and marketed was in Japan. Advertising Age two years ago carried a story about Coca-Cola’s “Love Body”. It’s a drink that contains fenugreek which, according to more than one source, is rumoured to make women’s breasts larger. Without ever making the claim that drinking Love Body will affect breast size, the Coca Cola company has managed to feed off the rumours.

This week, Brandweek has a report that the company is taking the idea a step further. It’s a joint venture between L’Oreal and Coca-Cola. Their new product will be called Lumaé. It’s designed to clear women’s skin from the inside.

What’s the secret ingredient we wonder? Well, there’s one that has been proven to improve skin tone, reduce acne, and promote wellbeing. It’s one that the drink will almost certainly contain. Tap water.

Everything else about the project is under wraps. Everything, that is, except the insecurity that women are encouraged to feel about their bodies which, of course, is an anxiety trumpeted across the world…