Showing The Beauty Brands What Women Want

certain beauty, user generated campaign, digital campaign, women of a certain age, woman of a certain age

An exciting new grassroots movement that looks to bring awareness to beauty brands, to what women want to see, is in full gear in time for International Women’s Day.

The great question that still eludes advertisers and brands is “What does a woman want?”* Whatever a brand sells, women want to see themselves represented in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. Women over 40 are the most underserved in that respect, especially since they are the most underrepresented age demographic in ad campaigns. Women over 60 especially feel they are not marketed to in a way that is fair or authentic to them a majority of the time. When we do see women over 40 in a magazine spread or commercial, they are often photoshopped to death. It’s an old issue of smoke and mirrors, and beauty coming before age. There was a need to create change in that space.

Certain Beauty came about as a result of research that tried to quantify the problem. The research identified that there is indeed a systemic issue with how female beauty is represented  and it has been negatively shaping society’s perception of beauty standards. (Certain Beauty: An Inductive Content Analysis of the Representations of Beauty and Age in Commercial Ad Campaigns).

Certain Beauty found that 1 in 5 models or spokeswomen are over 40. When spokeswomen like Helen Mirren become the face of a prestige brand like L’Oréal it is celebrated, but it doesn’t mean there has been a systemic change. The token woman of certain age as brand spokeswoman has been going on for years. Certain Beauty seeks to change that.


The Certain Beauty community is about empowering women to flip the idiom “women of a certain age” into a positive. There a so many different organizations, communities, and causes focused on empowering women from different angles. Raw Beauty Talks for example focuses on empowering women to love their bodies. Their platform is similar to Certain Beauty’s in that Raw Beauty Talks wants photoshopping to stop, advocating for a more natural and less manipulated representation of female beauty. Certain Beauty not only wants there to be a stop or major reduction in photoshopping, it’s principle agenda is to push for more diversity in the ages of models, brand spokesmodels, and celebrities in advertising campaigns and all media.

Seth Matlins, a former chief marketing officer, and his wife have been fighting the photoshop fight for over four years. Their mission with Feel More Better is to make the Truth in Advertising Act (H.R. 4341) happen, so that girls grow up to be women that have strong self-esteem and are happy. It was when Mr. Matlin became a father to his two daughters that he realized he wanted to do something about the way females are represented in media and advertising.

We can’t ignore that our beauty culture is having wildly negative effects on girls and women. Real, serious, and enduring problems occur when we don’t recognize that the images and ideals of the human form being presented in the media are setting unrealistic expectations and standards for our country’s female population. When generations of women compare themselves to images, ideals and standards that are unattainable, when generations of men are taught to believe that’s what people should look like, the evidence for action and change is morally incontrovertible. ~Seth Matlins(Source: The Daily Mail, 2011)

Certain Beauty shares the same view on the issue with photoshop as the Matlins and wants commercials, magazine spreads, and other forms of advertising media to be accompanied by disclaimers if models have been significantly airbrushed or Photoshopped. Men and women are shaped by the perceived societal norms embedded in advertising campaigns, but the concept of beauty fading after a certain age is a notion that came before advertising. To change society’s perception of aging on beauty, there needs to be more positive messages and representations of women at every age.

That’s what women want, to see themselves reflected and unretouched.

The user-generated content campaign launched this past Saturday, and it aims to bring awareness to the issue of representation and the photoshopping of women over 40. It’s the perfect way to showcase our appreciation for the women in our lives as International Women’s Day is March 8th.

You can find Certain Beauty on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and the petition on

To help the campaign grow a larger following, share the poster embedded above and participate by sharing a short 5-15 second video of yourself or a certain beauty in your life whom you admire. Feel free to share photos as well and join the Certain Beauty team. Learn more at Certain Beauty’s official website.

[Freud] said once to Marie Bonaparte: ‘The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is “What does a woman want?” – Sigmund Freud: Life and Work (Hogarth Press, 1953) by Ernest Jones, Vol. 2, Pt. 3, Ch. 16. In a footnote Jones gives the original German, “Was will das Weib?” (cf.