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Dove Social media and body image

Social media and body image: The stats

A new report by the Dove Self-Esteem Project surveying more than 1,000 girls aged 10-17 revealed that 1 in 2 girls say toxic beauty advice on social media causes low self-esteem. And 90% of girls say they follow at least one social media account that makes them feel less beautiful.* Here’s more on what they told us about beauty standards online.

Why do so many young people love social media? 


Almost 2 out of 3 girls spend 1+ hours on social media every weekday.*


Almost 4 in 5 girls feel they can be their most authentic selves on social media.*


More than 7 in 10 girls agree spending less time on social media would be better for their self-esteem.*

There’s no doubt about it – young people love social media, even if 71% of girls agree spending less time on it would be better for building self-esteem.* Their social media feeds have replaced celebrities as their source of inspiration and entertainment. And it’s where they go for tips and advice – especially when it comes to beauty.

This can be a positive thing. Our report shows that social media can be an uplifting and empowering space for girls to express themselves. It also allows them to see more authentic and diverse representations of beauty.

Despite this, social media can also promote toxic beauty standards and advice. And this needs to change.


What is toxic beauty advice?


1 in 2 girls say toxic beauty advice on social media causes low self-esteem.*


9 in 10 girls say they follow at least one social media account that makes them feel less beautiful.*


Over half of girls say they can’t live up to the beauty standards projected on social media.*

Toxic beauty advice normalizes unrealistic and narrowly defined beauty standards, promotes potentially harmful beauty practices (like cosmetic surgery), and suggests that the key to building self-esteem is physical ‘perfection’.

This advice can come in the form of images, videos or captions from their favorite social media accounts – and even their friends and classmates.

Some examples of toxic beauty standards and advice online include:

  • #Fitspo, which tells young people the perfect body can be achieved with diet programs and products like diet supplements
  • #Thinspo, which often shows images of extremely thin bodies or shares quotes discouraging eating
  • And normalizing cosmetic and surgical procedures that can be expensive and potentially dangerous, like fillers, injectablesgluteoplasty (also known as a ‘butt lift’), breast augmentation and rhinoplasty (also known as a ‘nose job’)

Most young people understand the relationship between toxic beauty advice, social media and self-esteem, but they can still be encouraged to follow toxic advice in pursuit of unrealistic beauty standards. And over time, repeated exposure to it can damage young people’s body confidence.


How can we take action to help young people with building self-esteem?  


4 out of 5 girls would like their parents to talk to them about how to manage toxic beauty advice on social media.*


Over 7 in 10 girls felt better after unfollowing toxic beauty advice on social media.*


More than 2 in 3 girls agree that they can help challenge toxic beauty advice on social media.*

Our report shows that young people are aware of toxic beauty advice on social media. They know they have a role to play in challenging it too – and they want our help. That’s why we need to take action together to make self-esteem boosting advice the norm on social media.

Join the Dove Self-Esteem Project today and learn how to help young people detoxify their feeds, so they can define beauty on their own terms.

*Source: Dove Self-Esteem and Social Media Report (April 2022).

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