The ‘whitewashed’ beauty – Beauty is colourful, shouldn’t advertisers include it?


‘Beauty whitewash’, it’s a thing in advertising and it’s used to describe situations where the advertisers portray simply one race, thus one definition of beauty, or more controversially where the skin tone of others are depicted as digitally retouched to appear whiter. It is rampant trend in the advertising industry and has been for many years, but we are so accustomed to it that often it’s so difficult for us to notice that advertisers are only pushing one definition of beauty to us.

Probably one of the most infamous cases of whitewashing is that of beauty giant L’Oreal whitewashing Beyonce Knowles in their ad into a paler skin-toned and strawberry blonde hair woman, whose appearance is uncanny to her original tones.

This is especially concerning in multicultural countries such as Australia and the United States. I mean, in Australia alone 1 in four Australians are born overseas but somehow, when it comes advertisers’ portrayal of beauty, the array of multiculturalism just does not make the cut. We can’t pretend like this is harming the beauty ideals. How can girls and young women of colour feel beautiful when the messages pushed by advertisers is that beauty is whitewashed.

Many studies have been conducted into the idea that the advertising industry thrive off women feeling bad about their appearances and their bodies, and tapping into their desire to fix their flaws which many women perceive as not measuring up to the media standards of beautiful which they perceive as the average. What these studies indicate is that these manipulations are working. For one, Kristen Harrison conducted a study testing the idea that exposure to TV influenced girls believes about others though of their own bodies and found that white women’s exposure to TV beauty ideas predicted the large-busted women wanted smaller chests and the small-busted women wanted larger chests. Therefore, no one believes they are perfect the way they are, no matter how they appear.

I think, author, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sums it up pretty well… “too many black and asian children grow up understanding the sad truth that to have dark skin is somehow to be inferior” and there needn’t be this view. When everyone is born with different tones from light to dark, shouldn’t there be more than one definition of beauty?

Advertisers need to reflect society and show that beauty has no one definition. Some advertisers such as Estee Lauder has chosen to embrace that every woman can be beautiful regardless of ethnicity, making it it’s beauty brand’s message in its new ad campaign. This is a beautiful message but more advertisers needs to work towards diversity and inclusivity. Until then, as their target market, we should appreciate our beauty regardless.

What do you think dear readers? Should advertisers stop whitewashing definitions of beauty?

By KV.


15 thoughts on “The ‘whitewashed’ beauty – Beauty is colourful, shouldn’t advertisers include it?

  1. I cannot agree with this more! I’m a woman of colour and this is something that I have come to embrace but when I was younger, I would hate the fact that I’m no “white” because it’s means I’m not “beautiful”. My ‘beauty’ role models came from advertisements predominantly, they are who I thought were ‘beautiful’ so it’s hard for me to feel confident about myself when I do not fit this mould, a mould that to be honest, I could never fit because I wasn’t born that way!

    I think advertisers definitely need to include more races and embrace diversity in their efforts!


    • Thank you for this Danielle! I felt that way too when I was younger, but now coming to realise not to buy into everything marketers are selling (especially when what they are selling is impossible to achieve).


      • This is so true! There was always such a stereotype when I was younger. Being a person of color, its great to read a post like this and it builds hope that things are slowly changing for the better 🙂


  2. This problem also exist in the Korean Pop community, where people tend to whitewash pictures of the darker skinned idols in order to make them look better, which is obviously a very false view.


  3. This post is on point! Whitewashing needs stop, because beauty comes in all different shapes and colours. It’s quite disheartening that this occurs worldwide and causes people to think that they are not beautiful enough because of the colour of their skin. Many young Indian girls have resorted to using a cream that lightens their skin tone (Fair & Lovely) because of the unrealistic standards of beauty that advertisers create through whitewashing. Hopefully this practices comes to an end and everyone feels beautiful the way they are 🙂


  4. For some reason people perceive white as better which is so untrue. I saw recently, that there was a huge issue among fans in 5 Seconds of Summer of whitewashing one of the band members who is of Maori/Scottish decent. Apparently in some of the fanfictions written, he is always characterised as angry and troubled and in fan art drawn with a lighter skin tone.


  5. Love this post! Beauty really does come in all colours and I think it is so important to highlight this. I agree that with Australia being such a multicultural society, why is this not depicted in advertising?


  6. So true! I’m of Asian descent and the number of times people (unfortunately, my relatives) who’ve told me that I’m “too tanned” is ridiculous. Apparently you’ve to be as pale as tofu to be considered beautiful in Asia…


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