Dove’s ‘Beauty Patch’ Campaign: Empowering or Misleading?

Dove’s quest to encourage women to embrace their inherent, ‘real’ beauty has a new twist. A video campaign entitled “Dove: Patches” follows four diverse women for two weeks after giving them samples of Dove’s RBX beauty patch to wear.

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Dr. Anne Kearney-Cook, psychologist and body image expert, meets with each woman and explains the use of the revolutionary patch and they agree to wear them on their arms for two weeks. The women keep video diaries and talk about how they feel transformed over the span of the experiment. One woman comments that after just a few days of wearing the patch, a co-worker told her that she looked “pretty.” Another woman says that the beauty patch gave her the confidence to go dress shopping — and that she actually liked the way she looked in the process.

At the end of the two weeks the women return to meet with Dr. Kearney-Cook, all feeling more ‘beautiful’ than when they first arrived and exuding confidence. It’s then that the women are told the secret ingredient of the patch.

Dove’s surface message is that women don’t need anything to look and feel more beautiful; they just need the confidence to feel that way. But is the message really all that it seems? A link from Jezebel copies a now-removed Craigslist casting call for the original “Real Beauty” ad campaign that, in part, seeks women with “flawless skin with no tattoos or scars” who also have “nice bodies…not too curvy, not too athletic.” Does that embrace celebrating our true selves?

As for the “Patches” ad, some critics call it “manipulative” and unfair to the women portrayed, while others say that while Dove isn’t as overtly cosmetic as competitors, they still sell beauty products to the very women they encourage to be themselves. It seems that Dove may be sending a mixed message to ‘real women.’

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Sarah Maria is a body image expert who has no affiliation with Dove and viewed the “Patches” video for the first time during a phone interview. Her initial reaction?

“I like it; I think this is an uplifting campaign,” she said. “Ultimately, nothing needs to be added for women to be beautiful. They are fundamentally beautiful.” She also believes that the source of the message is irrelevant.

“This is an important message and sure, Dove sells products that women use to look good, but much of that is general care,” she said.

The placebo effect that the women exhibit during the beauty patch experiment shows how women just need the confidence to embrace their own beauty and overall worth.

“Women tend to tie much of their worth into their appearance and are overly critical of that appearance,” said Maria. “Any campaign that encourages women to look beyond the surface and stop trying to change this or that, but to just be themselves, is an important one.”

Whether Dove’s campaign will have its intended effect, or continue to face backlash, remains to be seen.

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Katie Parsons is a journalist and editor who lives on the East Coast of Florida. She contributes regularly to and sister site