Life According to Cosmo: What Women (Should) Want

Cristen Conger

Taking (yet another) cue from Jamie Keiles, whose Seventeen Magazine Project, prompted my little foray into Cosmoland, I wanted to see what types of products are advertised in its pages. This breakdown doesn't include all of the advertorial items included in the what-to-wear, how-to-be-beautiful sections, but rather the actual ad spots.

As expected, there's a major emphasis on beauty aids and skincare. That rang true in Seventeen as well, with Keiles' ad analysis finding 80 percent focused on beauty aids and health/hygiene. By the time girls grow up into Cosmo women, they're already conditioned to think that they're face and skin could probably use some touchups. Moreover, what Seventeen readers lose in ads for educational products (8 percent of Seventeen ads), they make up for in booze billboards (8 percent of Cosmo ads).

But there are also a few categories I included that caught my attention. Namely, the amount of razors, depilatory creams and laser hair removal promotions throughout the pages. In fact, there were almost as many hair remover type ads (10 percent) as there were hair care -- shampoo, mousse, etc -- ads (17 percent). Molly and I frequently get emails from Stuff Mom Never Told You listeners requesting podcast on why women shave their legs and why we're culturally obsessed with women being as hairless as possible (which we've covered, if you'd like to take a listen). This advertising trend speaks directly to that conundrum. Society tells us to have full, lustrous locks up top, but don't even think about letting a single follicle grow freely below the scalp! And this is the data to prove it.

I was also interested to see the lack apparel advertising. Perhaps clothing and shoe companies save their marketing dollars for more fashion-y titles, but I'd venture that there's a deeper message at work here as well. When you flip through the magazine and just look at the ads, all you see over and over again are close-ups on women's faces and shiny, hairless bare skin. Considering that skincare and hair-related ads (47 percent combined) outranked those for cosmetics (11 percent), Cosmopolitan's advertising emphasis is incredibly body conscious. Don't have that flawless skin and shapely gams? Too bad. All the makeup and clothing in the world really isn't going to fix that, now will it? Swirling around that exposed flesh, we have diet friendly food offerings (17 percent), cellulite cures (5 percent) and even eyelash extenders to fix those "trouble spots."

Big surprise then, that about a third of the way into the July edition, there's a full-page ad for bipolar disorder. Because taken together, all of these skin-deep beauty messages can set a gal's head topsy-turvy.

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