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Makeup Who You Are: Self-Expression Enhances the Perceived Authenticity and Public Promotion of Beauty Work

Rosanna K Smith, Michelle R vanDellen, Lan Anh N Ton, Amna Kirmani and JoAndrea Hoegg

Journal of Consumer Research, 2021, vol. 48, issue 1, 102-122

Abstract: Although consumers put substantial effort toward their appearance, engaging in beauty work is often seen as inauthentic, posing challenges for beauty companies that increasingly rely on social media-driven product promotion where authenticity perceptions are consequential. This article draws on existentialist notions of authenticity (wherein the true self is created rather than innate) to explore how framing beauty work as self-expression alters others’ perceptions and, in turn, marketing outcomes. First, an archival analysis of Instagram posts demonstrates that rebranding beauty work as self-expression is positively associated with word-of-mouth about beauty products. Six studies then test how motivational information alters perceptions of people who engage in beauty work. Lowered authenticity perceptions arise from observers’ default assumption that beauty work is motivated by self-enhancement and serves primarily to conceal appearances. By contrast, self-expression enhances authenticity by leading others to see beauty work as a form of creation rather than concealment. This pattern extends to when people engage in a variety of beauty work transformations but not when beauty work is designed to restore appearances or is framed as connected to the innate self. These findings provide insight into judgments of authenticity and the management of a stigma associated with product use.

Keywords: self-expression; authenticity; beauty; existentialism; essentialism; social media (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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