A Beauty Demands briefing paper has today been launched at a workshop and policy seminar held at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

The briefing paper draws on the collective insights of members of the Beauty Demands Network with respect to a broad range of beauty practices: from daily routine practices such as the application of make-up or the removal of body hair; to occasional and extreme practices, such as cosmetic surgery. This paper also draws on members’ abstract concerns about the nature of the self and choice, in addition to practical considerations about psychological interventions, and the role of regulation and governance.

The Council is a partner on the Beauty Demands project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The network includes theorists, historians, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists with medical and nurse practitioners, artists and journalists who have worked together over the last two years to consider the changing requirements of beauty.

The paper sets out recommendations for policymakers and those responsible for delivering beauty practices in a number of areas, including:

  • To recognise that ‘normal’ is a value judgment and not a neutral or descriptive term;
  • To improve understandings and representations of ‘normal bodies’;
  • To recognise that consent might be compromised by pressures to conform;
  • To recognise the potential for vulnerability in the beauty context.

Professor Heather Widdows, Council member and Professor of Global Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham is the lead investigator on the project. Commenting on the launch, she said: "We are all expected to do more to keep up with beauty routines, the rising bar of what is “normal” keeps changing and levels of what is perceived to be minimum beauty standards are becoming harder to attain."

Professor Widdows and members of the Beauty Demands network will present the findings of the paper and discuss the implications for policy and practice at today's event, chaired by the Council's Director Hugh Whittall.