SOCIAL SCIENCES

Made Up: How the Beauty Industry Manipulates Consumers, Preys on Women’s Insecurities, and Promotes Unattainable Beauty Standards

Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2020. 298p. ISBN 9781538138045. $34. SOC SCI
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Laham (business, marketing, advertising, Diablo Valley Coll.; The Con Game: A Failure of Trust) provides a thoughtfully argued, well-documented study of how the beauty industry has created “unattainable beauty standards” in order to ensure its products sell. Laham displays a solid awareness of corporate rhetoric, which differentiates her approach from more theoretical narratives applied to the cosmetically altered and shaped female body since the work of Susan Bordo, Naomi Wolf, and others. However, beginning with a foreword by cosmetic dermatologist Jerome Potozkin, this work seems simultaneously to condone and condemn women’s cosmetic practices. Organized into sections focused on the beauty industry, standards of beauty, advertising, and the dramatic increases in body modification practices, Laham explains why women fear aging, how they react to it, and what the beauty industry does to ensure this anxiety fuels consumerism. Laham considers the history of beauty myths from the ancient Egyptian period to our present cultural moment, and while she highlights heterosexist, racist, classist beauty standards, her book feels descriptive rather than polemical, despite the call to action implied in the subtitle.
VERDICT An academic approach to a critical subject; best suited for scholars and researchers of sociology and women’s studies.

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