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‘Where Nature Meets Science’

Although several brand straplines combine the themes of technology and science and nature/the natural - e.g. Garnier’s “natural technology” and Vitabiotics’ “where nature meets science” - the two themes may also contrast (cf. Ringrow 2016), as an emphasis on the natural can be a countermovement to the widespread scientised discourses presented above. In the data, the theme of nature/the natural occurs in 12% (N=48) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures and in 21% (N=104) of the (other) beauty adverts. Moreover, marketing specialists expect the natural to become more popular in marketing messages for beauty products and services (cf. Attwood 2016; Mintel 2018).

Before looking at the different manifestations of ‘the natural’ in the data, it is necessary to explore the many complex - sometimes conflicting - interpretations of the term, particularly in relation to (cosmetics) marketing (cf. Williams 1983). As Fraser (2001, 2003) has noted, two main interpretations of ‘the natural’ have dominated in post- Enlightenment Western culture. The first regards nature as “the inert raw materials upon which culture sets to work [and a] passive that must necessarily be built upon, overcome or adopted” (Fraser 2001: 116; cf. Bloch & Bloch 1980). The second interpretation views nature as an ideal, a ‘blueprint for society’ which needs to be left alone. It needs to be noted here that, as Fraser herself has noted, ‘nature’ as a concept is socially constructed and varies across times and cultures.

The variable character of ‘nature’ and ‘the natural’ allows for different interpretations and applications of the concept, particularly in the domain of beauty and cosmetic surgery. In their analysis of beauty work - defined by the authors as hair dye, makeup, and (non) surgical cosmetic procedures - amongst “ageing women” between 50 and 70, Hurd Clarke and Griffin (2007: 193), for example, observed how women made a distinction between “natural ageing” and “looking natural”. Interestingly, a natural look did not need to be natural - i.e. not altered through products, services or procedures - per se but rather “entailed passing for a normal, unmodified, and youthful body even if it was the product of skilful artifice and covert technological intervention” (ibid: 198). The importance of looking natural - potentially through the use of cosmetics - is not new; in The Language of Advertising, Vestergaard and Schroder (1985: 156-157) already remarked how

in the universe of advertising there is no contradiction between the natural and the artificial;... the signifying processes of advertisements are engaged in a ceaseless struggle to negate this contradiction, and even to convince us that ‘the Natural look’ can only be achieved through cosmetics, (emphasis in original)

The emphasis on achieving a ‘natural’ look is clearly present in both adverts for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty adverts; 42% (N=20) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures and 31% (N=32) of the (other) beauty adverts coded under the nature/the natural theme refer to a ‘natural look’ or ‘natural feel’. An explanation for highlighting the natural in advertising for cosmetic procedures is that it may inspire a “confidence in the reader that the cosmetic surgical body is not entirely unnatural or ‘wrong’ ” (Fraser 2003: 131). Moreover, accentuating natural results is in line with current trends in the cosmetics market where a natural, iess-is- more’ look is popular, particularly in the UK (Grover in BAAPS 2015). Some adverts in the broad corpus explicitly address the fear of ‘looking “done”’; an advert for The Aesthetic Medical Clinic (Gay Times, broad corpus, May 2012: 95), for example, claims how their “revolutionary Paris Freeze procedure” is “the ultimate in stealth beauty. Nobody will know you’ve had anything done, they’ll just see how toned you look”.

Alongside the emphasis on looking natural, several other manifestations of the nature/the natural theme were discerned. Related to the promotion of a natural look, 33% (N=16) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures and 24% (N=25) of the (other) beauty adverts within the nature/the natural theme in the women’s magazines promote products and services that complement the reader’s own body or enhance the reader’s ‘natural beauty’14. Furthermore, due to increasing concerns over toxins used in beauty products (cf. Ringrow 2016), it is no surprise that 9% (N=45) of all (other) beauty adverts promote products that are entirely natural or that contain natural ingredients. Of these natural ingredients, some are “naturally present in our bodies”, which implies that “the product will be safe to use” (Coupland 2003: 137). However, surprisingly, there has been no distinct change over time in the relative frequency of the promotion of natural products and/or ingredients15.

In addition to the above manifestations of the nature/the natural theme in the data, 10% (N=5) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures and 34% (N=35) of the (other) beauty adverts referring to ‘nature/the natural’ did not fit any of the specified categories and were therefore marked as ‘miscellaneous’. For example, an advert for the International Hair Studio [Gay Times June 2006: 112) lists ‘naturally’ as a bullet point but it is not entirely clear what this refers to. Moreover, in an advert for Juvederm (Marie Claire June 2015: 191), the copy reads “it’s perfectly natural to have questions about facial fillers”, which again does not fit into any of the specified categories.

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