Advertising is a medium of communication that has a direct and indirect influence on our perceptions about the world around us. Existing literature indicates that advertisements in India are socially deficient in the portrayal of women by presenting them unrealistically or as objects that are easily influenced. The aim of this study is to provide a qualitative evaluation of the representation of women in skincare and beauty advertisements in India. The study addresses the gap in current research by exploring the contemporary presentation of ‘female beauty standards’ in advertisements released between 2011 and 2021. A qualitative research approach of visual critical discourse analysis has been chosen to analyse 100 skincare and beauty advertisements belonging to 10 different brands that are a part of 7 of the leading skincare and beauty players in the Indian market. Three major themes have been identified to describe female beauty standards as they are prominent in the advertisements. The first theme is colourism that focuses on the analysis of skin colour and the preference for white and fair skin over dark among women. The second is physical attractiveness that focuses on the preference of slim body image, colour, texture and length of hair, and western and Indian clothing styles among women. The third is gender roles and objectification that focuses on viewing women from the traditional perspective of caregivers, homemakers and devoted wives, contemporary perspective of professional and independent women, and as objects and subjects of sexual desire. The critical exploration in the present study of the portrayal of female beauty standards in advertising has found that degrees of beauty ideals of colourism, physical attractiveness, and gender roles and objectification can be seen in implicit and explicit ways, despite changing times and with only a few exceptions of diversity.

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Izabela Derda
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Medhjaa Kumari Jamwal. (2022, June 27). Can We Be Made Beautiful? What Does Indian Advertising Say?. Media & Business. Retrieved from