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Dr. Susan Mathison, Published April 19 2014

Positively Beautiful: Dove campaign creates buzz

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” has been with us for over 10 years, and they just came up with another viral video sensation.

“Patches” has been viewed almost 10 million times this week. Women were invited to participate in a research study with well-known psychologist and body image expert Ann Kearney-Cooke, testing a new product called the RB-X Beauty Patch, a “revolutionary product developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty.”

Participants were asked to wear the patch directly on the skin of the upper arm 12 hours a day for 14 days and record a video diary about how they felt throughout the study. None of them noticed much of a difference at first, but over the research period they noted dramatic improvement in self-confidence, social interactions and willingness to try new things.

“It’s been a life-altering experience,” one participant said. “I’d love for people to have the type of change I’ve had by trying the beauty patch.”

After the study was complete, the women met with Kearney-Cooke again and learned the patch was actually a placebo. The improvement they’d noted was related to their own state of mind.

“I’m beautiful. I’m strong, and I’m independent ... I can just be whoever I want to,” one woman said after discovering the patch had no active ingredient.

“Knowing that I don’t need something to make me feel that way – that it’s just who I am and it was hidden and now it’s not anymore – that’s very empowering,” one woman said.

This follows the award-winning “Sketches” video, in which portraits were drawn by a forensic artist based on a woman’s description of her looks, then compared to a sketch based on a more positive description provided by another person.

Though the videos are popular, they are met with mixed reviews and accusations of manipulation rather than empowerment. Regardless of whether you enjoy the message behind the ads, they serve to spark conversation and highlight our difficult relationship with our looks and how hard it is to recognize our own beauty.

Studies show that even women at the pinnacle of success harbor fears about their beauty and body image. Many of us feel conflicted about our aging faces and bodies and the beauty choices we make because of these feelings.

I got to speak with a marvelous group of diverse women at a recent meeting, and we talked about the messages of the “War on Aging” vs. “Aging Gracefully.” In my mind, we all want to look and feel our best so we have more to give. Our go-to dress, organic food, a favorite lipstick, an early-morning Zumba class or luxurious moisturizer might be our personal beauty patch. The positive choices we make affirm that owning our beauty is part of the journey to our best selves.

Actress Salma Hayek said, “People say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I say that YOU are the beholder.”

I’ll add that you are a sight to see and something very worthy to behold.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at info@catalystmedicalcenter.com.