The Respect For Race and Culture In a Modern Feminist Society: An Analysis of Beauty Product Advertising Messages on Instagram


When looking for the definition of beauty, we often receive varying answers. Experts have debated the beauty definition for thousands of years (Dayan, 2011). Quoting Simone de Beauvoir (1949), beauty is a passive quality that a woman gives and possesses. Immanuel Kant (1987: 628) states that "beautiful is what we like when we only judge it (and therefore not through any sensation through the senses according to a certain concept of understanding)." In other words, beauty attracts attention for no reason other than beauty.

Beauty is viewed differently in different cultures. White skin and large breasts are considered beautiful in Asia as a result of Western influence (Johansson, 1998). As well, rich people did not have to work and thus stayed indoors, whereas poor people had to work under the sun, so their skin color was darker than riches. Meanwhile, most occupations in America, Australia, and prosperous European Countries are indoors, so white skin may indicate working all the time and not having time to take vacations, especially in warmer climates where one can tan. As a result, tanned skin is regarded as a sign of wealth for both men and women (Spyropoulou et al., 2020).

The Southeast Asian region is boarded to the west by the Indian subcontinent and the north by the Chinese mainland (King & Wilder, 2020). The Chinese are widely dispersed throughout Southeast Asia, whereas the Indians are mostly concentrated in Malaysia and Singapore (Fucharoen & Winichagoon, 1987). As a result, brown-skinned women frequently struggle with the concept of beauty, whether it be white like Chinese or dark brown like Indian. Yip et al. (2019) argued that the promotion of a specific white skin tone as a part of the Pan-Asian ideal privileges some racial subgroups (people of Northeast Asian origin, which includes Japan, South Korea, and China) over others in Asia (people from Southeast Asia). Samizadeh (2022) reveals that China, Japan, and South Korea desire white skin, and facial features such as eyes, mouth, nose, and facial shape are also considered. According to Wen (2013, as cited in Maclaran & Kravets, 2018), women view cosmetic surgery as a painful but necessary investment because the more physical capital a woman has, the more she can reshape social, cultural, and economic fields around her.

Asia has been the fastest-growing region in the global skin whitening market since the 1970s (Tan, 2012). In 2020, the global market for skin whitening was estimated to be $8 billion, and The Asia Pacific market accounted for more than half of global revenue in 2018 and is expected to grow faster, with China being one of the fastest-growing markets globally (Senthilingam et al., 2022). The growth of brand globalization in the global market requires the advertising market to consider cultural differences such as cultural characteristics, methods for satisfying consumers, and messages that are most likely to be responded to (Werder, 2009). It leads Southeast Asian women to believe that true beauty is determined by what advertisers have to offer. On the other hand, an archipelagic country like Indonesia is inhabited by two primary ancestors, the Mongoloids and the Melanesians (Caldarola, 1982).

The beauty standards in Indonesia have evolved. Agung and Amani (2018) state that actresses such as Marissa Haque represented mixed-race beauty in the 1970s and 1980s, and soap operas featuring actresses of mixed descent became increasingly popular in the 1990s and 2000s. The latest beauty trend began in the 2010s, when the Korean Wave, including K-pop music, fashion, and K-drama, became popular in Indonesia. South Korean idols inspired women to have white skin, straight hair, skinny bodies, and thin faces, so it is no surprise that many Indonesian women wanted a perfect physical appearance due to the Korean Wave's influence. According to a previous study (Prianti, 2013), with the influence of beauty product advertisements, women are under unrealistically high pressure to have beautiful white skin, a slim body shape, and constantly look young. Given the diversity of beliefs in Indonesia, this study concludes that there should be a variety of standards for defining women's beauty because the only traditional Indonesian value about Indonesian women is their diversity.

Currently, the ideal beauty according to each woman can be found on various social media platforms. According to Shah (2016), many people use social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, applications for sharing photos and videos. The term "social media" by Dewing (2010) refers to a wide range of Internet-based and mobile services that enable users to engage in online exchanges, contribute user-created content, and join online forums. Based on data from Kolsquare (2021), in 2020, there were more than 1 million beauty-related uploads, 90% of which were from Instagram. In fact, according to data from Launch Metrics cited by Schwarz (2022), 85% of marketing professionals mentioned Instagram as one of their best platforms.

Furthermore, according to GWI Report data cited by Schwarz (2022), consumers discover brands through advertisements on social media apps than through other media. As a result, many brands have started using social media to advertise and promote themselves (Saravanakumar & SuganthaLakshmi, 2012). Brands can interact with their customers via social media platforms (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Advertising is generally defined as sponsored communication through mass media to persuade audiences (Rodgers & Thorson, 2012). Advertising also influences the audience's perception of a brand (Werder, 2009). Advertising is an effective way to display things, including beauty products.

Nowadays, beauty standards constructed by beauty brands have evolved significantly in recent years. The prior study (Henriques & Patnaik, 2020) states that with technology improving from time to time, social media has an immediate impact on beauty. Individuals are turning to social media handles for acceptance and support due to the constantly changing body images displayed online. Another prior study (Martarahayu & Winarto, 2019) studied a local brand called Make Over. Based on the result of the study, consumers believe the advertisements portray the skin of Indonesian women because the models have a variety of skin tones.

Furthermore, researchers are interested in examining the concept of beauty that is directed and controlled by the media and advertising, so it is necessary to investigate the representation of Indonesian women's beauty on social media, especially Instagram. The researchers chose three local beauty brands: Wardah, Somethinc, and Mad for Makeup. Researchers selected eight sample advertisements from the screening results of 82 populations and categorized them as visual feminism, women's representation, gender equality, women empowerment, and natural beauty. The gap that emerged from previous research, especially regarding the depth and specificity of aspects of race and culture, has not been covered. Thus, the study provides an alternative to strengthen previous research on more or less the same topic on the perception of the meaning of local cosmetic product consumption in Indonesia or the Southeast Asian context (Martarahayu & Winarto, 2019). Nevertheless, it is still uncommon for a qualitative approach that examines how and why messages are formulated in beauty advertising, especially with Roland Barthes's model of semiology. Using the Barthesian model, there are three aspects used for analysis in this paper: denotation, connotation, and myth. All three can help reveal the meaning and ideology ordered through product advertisements. With the background and contemporary formulation of previous research, this paper will answer several questions: First, how do brands communicate their messages in Instagram advertisements? Second, how have Indonesian women's beauty standards changed, considering race and culture? Therefore, the ultimate goal of this study is to seek a broader view of complementary perspectives in communication and social sciences.

Based on the research questions above, the uniqueness of this research paper lies in the emergence of various aspects of race and local culture in marketing communication messages. The educational element of beauty product campaign messages seeks to make women aware of the concept of beauty within themselves. The diversity of skin types, body shapes, and hair has been considered in marketing communication messages (Harrison, Thomas, & Cross, 2017), and this new trend has inspired women to redefine beauty standards.

Literature Review


The message's meaning is obtained through analysis of documents, including commercial product advertisements. Because of this, semiology is used as a point of view to discuss various nonverbal and verbal elements, including signs in pictures, photographs, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and other things that have meaning (Barthes, 1964). Before we go into further discussion, there are distinctions between Semiology and Semiotics. The term semiology was proposed by the Swiss philosopher Ferdinand de Saussure. In contrast, the term semiotics was proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce, a philosopher from the United States (Hurwitz, 2009). Semiology is more commonly used in Europe, whereas semiotics is more commonly used in the United States (Hurwitz, 2009). Semiotics is commonly used to refer to all fields (Nöth, as cited in Chandler, 2007).

Saussure (Chandler, 2007) divides the sign into a signifier and a signified. The signifier is a material form that can be seen, heard, touched, and felt and is then signified as the meaning contained in the material form. Denotation and connotation are terms used in semiotics to describe the relationship between signifier and signified (Chandler, 2007). There are two types of signified words: denotation signified and connotation signified. According to Barthes (Chandler, 2007), Saussure's sign model focuses solely on denotation, ignoring connotation and leaving connotation to the next expert, such as Barthes himself. Denotation is a sign's precise and exact meaning (Chandler, 2007). According to historian Erwin Panofsky (Chandler, 2007), audiences from various cultures will recognize denotation as a representation of the image. Connotation, on the other hand, refers to socio-cultural and personal associations such as ideological, emotional, and so on (Chandler, 2007). Chandler describes a semiotic model from Roland Barthes below (2007).

Figure 1.Orders Barthesian Model of Signification (Chandler, 2007)

The first order is denotation. At this level, there are signifiers and signifieds. Connotation is the second order of signification, which uses the denotative signs (signifier and signified) as its signifier and adds signified to it. In this framework, a connotation is a sign that arises from the signifier of a denotative sign, resulting in a chain of connotations. At one level, a signified can be a signifier at another. This flow is a mechanism in which a sign may indicate one thing but contains multiple meanings.

In Barthesian studies, myth is in a higher order of meaning (Chandler, 2007). According to Lakoff & Johnson (Chandler, 2007), Cultural myths, like metaphors, help us make sense of our cultural experiences by expressing and organizing shared ways of conceptualizing something within a culture. Louis Hjelmslev (Chandler, 2007) argued that "above the connotative level there was a metasemiotic' to which belonged geographical, historical, political, sociological, psychological and religious issues relating to such concepts as 'nation, . . . region, . . . the value forms of styles, personality . . . mood, and other." Barthes views myth as an ideological narrative rather than a patterned collection of connotations and the form of myth as a metalanguage, which Barthes defines as a system whose field of the content itself is shaped by a sign system (Chandler, 2007; Xie & Chao, 2022).

Meaning In Advertisement

Understanding advertising messages verbally and visually is dependent on the meaning of a particular culture or society. This implicit meaning includes how advertisers want their audience to interpret signs and what these signs represent or mean (Bignell, 2002). Advertising is a form of marketing communication that aims to increase understanding and relationships between communicators and audiences. The advertising process is a strategic communication procedure that creates psychological changes in potential consumers of a product, service, or idea (Srivani & Hariharasudan, 2023; Werder, 2009).

Studying semiotics can help us to become aware of the meaning of signs and the roles played by ourselves and others in constructing social reality (Chandler, 2007). Chandler (2007) uses the example of a woman's face in an advertisement. Many people may think that the image represents women in general, but others may believe it represents a specific role or group. The interpretation of the images is determined by the audience's familiarity with the relevant culture. By studying semiotics, we can understand that the world is full of signs and that even realistic signs are not what they seem.

Modern Feminism

Women have been speaking out for centuries about the inequalities they face due to their sex (McCann et al., 2019). There are various definitions of feminism. According to McCann et al. (2019), feminism is a movement that aims to achieve legal, economic, and social equality between the sexes and end sexism and men's oppression of women. Cott (1987: 5) defined feminism as "a modern one, shaped in the twentieth century, and most relevant to the modern world."

In the 1920s, women used the term "woman movement" to describe how women left their homes to initiate charitable benevolence, temperance, social welfare, remunerative occupations, and the ballot (Cott, 1987). When the woman's movement began to sound archaic in the 1910s, at the height of the suffrage campaign, the term feminism became popular (Cott, 1987). Although the suffrage campaign's continuity obscured the critical transition, the new language of feminism marked the end of the women's movement and the beginning of a modern agenda; women's efforts in the 1910s and 1920s laid the groundwork for modern feminism and exposed its fault lines (Cott, 1987).

Cott (1987: 145) states that "the modern woman and her world described by the ad were part of an urban industrial economy of mass production, individual wage-earning, and money purchases—the enlarging norm." The "thrill" of sex became an overt or hidden agenda in movies, pulp magazines, and advertising copy (Cott, 1987). In the 1920s, practitioners widely agreed that advertising had progressed beyond simply providing information to creating "needs"; local advertising in the printed text includes information (sometimes incorrect facts) about the product (Cott, 1987). 20th-century advertising adopted science as the modern authority from which advertising gained its edge of expertise as the standard of industry advancement and consumer advantage (Cott, 1987).

Advertisers rushed to package individuality and modernity for women as commodities, and new graphic and photographic techniques enabled advertising to become a visual medium with subliminal influence like never before, selling women sales pitches for products and images of themselves (Cott, 1987). Furthermore, Thwaites (2016) also explains contemporary aspects of the development of feminism which involve individuals making choices or taking attitudes. Feminism is a choice in which there is political involvement and social action in the contemporary feminist movement. Feminism according to Thwaites (2016), the consequence of this choice has encouraged the values of neoliberal individualism and consumerism while putting aside the need for political and collective action to fight systematic inequality in modern society.

Research Methodology

The research uses a qualitative approach. According to Creswell (2009), qualitative research is a method for investigating and comprehending the significance that individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem. Generally, the research process involves questions and procedures, and data is collected in participant settings. Inductive data analysis builds from specific to general themes, and the researcher interprets the data's meaning. In a qualitative approach, all data analyzed is referred to as "text," whether it is images, signs, symbols, videos, or others.

This research uses Roland Barthes's semiology method, which analyzes the advertisements using denotative and connotative, then finds myths to help understand cultural experiences, as Barthes believes that "myths were the dominant ideologies of our time" (Chandler, 2007: 144). The population obtained from advertisements for the category of beauty products displayed on Instagram in the last 24 months, from December 2020 to September 2022, received 82 advertisements. The 82 populations were classified as visual feminism, women's representation, gender equality, women's empowerment, and natural beauty. As a result, researchers obtained eight advertising samples in visual and Video screenshot formats uploaded through the Instagram accounts of three beauty brands, such as @wardahbeauty, @somethincofficial, and


In this study, the advertising samples considered the representation of the subcategories of beauty products, skincare, makeup, and body care, in each Instagram beauty brand. The first advertisement was taken from the @wardahbeauty account. The first image is a Wardah Crystal Secret product. The following is an analysis of Wardah's visual advertisements.

Figure 2.Wardah Crystal Secret Advertisement

Visual Ad-1
Denotation Connotation Myth
A woman in a hijab smiled at the camera while displaying two Wardah Crystal Secret Products, a cream, and a serum. The model in Muslim clothing (hijaber) appears to have clean and radiant skin. Wardah Crystal's Secret products are also displayed on the right side. Supported by the sentence Crystal Clear Radiant Glowing Skin which means "Skin Bright Like Crystal," which is used to convince the public that Crystal Secret products can make skin bright like crystal. The myth of this advertisement is to create the perspective that using Crystal Secret products can make skin like a crystal. Indonesian women have a wide range of skin tones, including white, olive, tan, brown, and dark.
Table 1.Source:

The connotation of modern women is to be communicated to the public that wearing Muslimah-style closed clothing is also a modern fashion style. However, people, especially the target market for women, must pay attention that facial treatments must present visuals with white and clean skin. Local culture cannot be avoided by beauty products in countries that are densely populated and, therefore, must adopt local culture. The target market for women in Indonesia or Southeast Asia is very potential, and because of that, the connotation of modernity and fashion for hijab is adopted by beauty products.

However, beauty myths about white skin tend to be used as a standard for achieving the predicate of beauty. The word "crystal" used is a myth that it is white, clear, clear, and so tempting to those who see it. It's as if beauty has not been achieved by a woman if her skin is slightly colored. In fact, women in Indonesia are quite diverse in skin color.

Another advertisement is a Perfect Glow Cushion product. The following is an analysis of the product advertisement below.

Figure 3.Visual Ad-2 : Wardah Perfect Glow Cushion AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
Three fashionable women pose for the camera. The Wardah Perfect Glow Cushion product is displayed below them, followed by a description of the makeup color shade. Two models are wearing hijabs, while one is not. Wardah, one of the halal brand cosmetics, often uses a hijab model in their ads. The product offers a range of makeup color shades from light to brown-tan. The word "12 H glow" indicates that the glow will last up to 12 hours. From the advertisement, we can see that the Perfect Glow Cushion product is suitable for various groups. Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country, yet the population is diverse (to be discussed later in the discussion).
Table 2.

The connotation that two out of three Indonesian women wear Muslimah-style fashion shows that this product pays attention to the factual condition of Indonesia's population as the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. However, a non-hijab model is also presented as a form of tolerance for non-hijab women (whether they are Muslim or not). However, both hijabers and non-hijabers, both need to have an understanding and concept of modern life and association, work, interactivity, and physical appearance.

The myth of women adopting the cultural side (in visual fashion) in modern urban and suburban life is intended to be instilled in the public through this brand. That a woman must have the power to determine herself and others for a balanced life between Western and Eastern. The mythical modernity of Western life in women's lives is visualized by white beauty standards. Affirmation with the phrase "Perfect Glow Cushion" is connoted with the appearance of glowing, white, and clear skin. The message conveyed is that although Indonesian women adopt the religious and cultural side, they also adopt the modern side of life as well as progress in living standards that must be achieved as befits in the Western World. This contradicts the research results of Toland et al. (2004), who found that Asian models appeared more often in advertisements for hair and skin beauty products, while Western models dominated the clothing category.

Following is a video screenshot from the Wardah Hairfall Treatment Shampoo product advertisement. The duration of the ad is 00:52 seconds. The advertisement video is about a woman's experience using Hairfall Treatment Shampoo while wearing a hijab. The following is a breakdown of the advertisement below.

Figure 4.Visual Ad-3 : Wardah Shampoo AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
Four women in hijab are having a picnic under a tree. While they are chit-chatting, we can see on the table in the basket that there is a Hairfall Treatment Shampoo product. Despite wearing hijabs, it can be seen that the four women are involved in lively conversation outside under the scorching sun. In its advertisement, Wardah claims that its shampoo can make hair healthy and strong. This advertisement conveys that hijabi women should not be afraid to be under the sun and should take care of their hair even if they wear a hijab.
Table 3.

The connotation of interactivity in peer groups and social networks is shown in the advertising message of the Wardah brand. This product shows the daily side of Indonesian women who use their free time to meet and chat. Even though they are sitting on mats in the expanse of the horizon, the women are engrossed in sharing their knowledge and experiences about life. The contrast to be shown is that these women still feel comfortable and cool in their heads even though the sun is shining hotly. Women do not feel hot in the slightest even though they wear the hijab because they use Wardah brand products. This contrast is used to attract consumers' attention related to Indonesia's geographical location on the equator with two seasons, namely summer and rainy seasons.

However, the myth of Eastern life is traditionally shown by the habit of communal living in the social system. Everyone has a social network, and each is always dependent on other people in the group, including the peer group. The network of friends in collectivism in Eastern life is an advantage that brand owners want to exploit to direct women to strengthen their role in society. Modern women are women who are empowered and able to make social contributions to their communities.

The researcher then analyzed the advertisement on the @somethincofficial account. It consists of three advertisements: skincare, makeup, and body care products. The first is a commercial for Somethinc serum products. The researcher took one scene from the Video.

Figure 5. Video Ad-4 : Somethinc Serum Products AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
The serum ad featured the actress and stand-up comedian Kiky Saputri. She appears neat and cheerful. In this scene, Kiky said "emangnya kulit cuma kamu doang?" "muka aku sama kamu tuh beda!" which means "do you think your skin is the only type?" "my skin and yours are different!" From the dialogue, "do you think your skin is the only type?" "My skin and your skin are different!" is interpreting the skin types of Indonesian women differently. The function of Somethinc serum products varies according to skin conditions because Somethinc has approximately 20 serums from which we can choose. Somethinc indirectly conveyed the message that Indonesians have different skin types by providing various serum products.
Table 4.

The connotation of providing knowledge to the public and consumers is that biologically everyone's skin condition varies according to their genes, and therefore a kind of serum was created for the right treatment of the diversity of skin types. This advertising message accommodates the facts of racial diversity and individual genes for every human being, especially women in Indonesia. The brand conveys an implicit message that Indonesia must be recognized as having a wealth of human resources from various races and ethnicities. Therefore, in the world of marketing communications, some kind of customization must be carried out so that it is right on target and results.

The myth to be built is the recognition of the diversity of beauty concepts in every female human being, especially in countries with the largest population in Southeast Asia or the fourth largest in the world. Indonesian women do not have to look in the mirror and follow Western beauty concepts or East Asian beauty concepts that promote clean and white skin. Modern women are those who utilize their knowledge and capacity to build a high sense of self-confidence with their respective identities. Modern means advanced in science and high self-confidence to be able to play a role in society.

Endorser is an entertainer on television and a trendsetter for young people in Indonesia. Her always entertaining appearance has captivated everyone's heart, and her words are heard. When an endorser breaks the standard concept of beauty, that "everyone has a different skin type, so they need the right serum out of the twenty-plus provided," then the public and consumers get a new space in rearranging the concept of beauty within themselves. Even the standards of beauty in society have changed. Beauty is in every woman in Indonesia, whether her race is indigenous or a mixture of races and immigrants from other regions of the world. This diversity in the concept of beauty is a trendsetter for young people to build a new, modern way of life.

The second ad, with a duration of 01:00 minutes, is the Somethinc Copy Paste Cushion advertisement. The following is an analysis of one scene the researcher captured.

Figure 6. Video Ad-5 : Somethinc Copy Paste Cushion AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
Lifni Sanders, an Indonesian beauty vlogger, appears as one of the models in this scene. Life is applying Somethinc Copy Paste Cushion makeup while smiling in the mirror on her cushion and saying, "You are the one that defines your beauty." Lifni has Indonesian facial features, such as brown skin, a flat nose, and curly hair, which is uncommon in cosmetic advertisements (Mega, 2021). According to Lifni's dialogue, it can persuade women to accept all of their flaws and believe that women are beautiful as they are. Somethinc made a wise choice by using a Melanesian model. Therefore, this advertisement reminds us that Indonesian women differ from west to east, even though East Asian beauty standards still exist.
Table 5.

An endorser, Lifni, with brown skin, has high self-confidence to convince other consumers or potential consumers that the beauty of a woman is also in a woman who has brown or dark skin. Beauty has various standards. All women have the same allure and bear the title of beauty, regardless of their skin color. Therefore, a serum is a way to provide suitable and appropriate treatment for every skin type. But more than product treatment, the concept that this brand wants to build is that skin color and race is something that is given, a gift from God to every human being and must be respected and given treatment in accordance with the progress of science. Women must have confidence in themselves that their identity is embedded natural beauty that must be highlighted as unique in itself. This is in line with the findings of a study conducted by Raun and Christensen (2021) on Julie Vu (Vietnamese-Canadian transgender model, beauty queen, and makeup artist) and Madeline Stuart (Australian photo/runway model with Down syndrome), who both express a profound belief in the power of visibility, both as a prerequisite for social change and in and of itself.

Women born and raised in the Southeast Asian region are unique compared to other women whose race is more homogeneous elsewhere. Southeast Asia is a fusion of East Asian, South Asian, and Melanesian (African) races, resulting in a mixture of races that produces people of different beauty. Therefore, the products in their marketing communication messages must also change the approach and dissemination of knowledge.

The third advertisement below is for Somethinc body care products. Bust Firming Serum, Skin Goals Brightening Body Crème, and Bakuchiol R-cover Firming Body Care are among the advertised products. The following is a breakdown of the advertisement below.

Figure 7. Visual Ad-6 : Somethinc Body Care Products AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
Three women are cheerfully smiling and holding each Somethinc body care product. "Body Care = Self-Love" is the text displayed in this advertisement. In addition, we see small text with the hashtag #RespectMyBody on the top right. Each model appears to have a unique body type. This type of message communicates the idea that women have a variety of body shapes. The text "Body Care = Self Love" conveys that we must love ourselves and our bodies by engaging in a body care routine, supported by the hashtag #RespectMyBody, which encourages us to respect our bodies. The myth of this advertisement is that it communicates the message that all women's body types are unique and beautiful, and we should accept all flaws in the body. Despite promoting self-love, Somethinc continues to sell body care products that claim to reduce body flaws. For example, skin Goals Brightening Body Crème can brighten the skin in 28 days, while Firming Body Creme reduces stretch marks and Bust Firming Serum tightens the bust.
Table 6.

The connotation of meaning that everyone must accept, appreciate, and maintain beauty and body shape is grown in every woman. That modern women are people who can and can love themselves, enjoy what is in them as uniqueness and become their identity, and then take care of their bodies by expressing it according to modern manners. The appeal of a woman's body, no matter how heavy her body is, must be defined by maintaining mental and physical health. Women do not need to feel forced or pressured by other people's thoughts and views regarding the ideal body shape because a woman's body already contains the meaning of beauty itself. Images of self-love challenged the idea that love and acceptance must come from somewhere other than oneself (Mosley et al., 2017).

The myth about the slim and tall body is a building of thoughts and attitudes that are sparked according to men's sexual preferences in general. Therefore, modern women must break myths that are not entirely true because it depends on each other's perspective. Women must define themselves and their bodies from the perspective of women's health and do not need to consider the dominance of men's views and thoughts. Thus, "body care = self-love" is an explicit message that invites every woman to build self-confidence, starting individually, then growing to peer groups and society.

The researcher then examined the advertisements on the account. It consists of two visual advertisements. The first advertisement is a self-love visual campaign. Here is the outcome of the ads below.

Figure 8. Visual Ad-7 : Mad for Makeup Campaign AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
This advertisement features five women and a man. Looking closely, we can see that each model has flaws in their bodies, which they flaunt with a big smile and confidence. There is a phrase, "F Beauty Standard, I am Beautiful Me." Even though the models' bodies have flaws, they embrace them proudly. The representation of flaws in their bodies delivers the idea that each flaw is unique, and we should admire our flaws because every imperfection in ours does not impede defining beauty. Mad for makeup made the right choice by deploying this campaign.
Table 7.

The connotation of the message of the Mad for Makeup Campaign Advertisement (Figure 8) shows recognition of the diversity of beauty in women, especially in Indonesia. The models shown even have a man who should also pay attention to the issue of good appearance with skincare. Not only for women, but this product also invites knowledge sharing for young male consumers. Beauty brands typically use female models, which is to be expected given their primary target market (Wiid et al., 2022), but the inclusion of male models has aided in the growth of this industry. Talents with various skin and hair shapes reflect that they come from representing different regions in Indonesia with multiple ethnicities or races but share the same principles regarding uniqueness regarding facial, body, and hair beauty.

The myth about the domination of the mind that leads the public to believe that beauty is synonymous with white skin has been abandoned towards a new understanding that beauty lies in the uniqueness of each woman. Straight hair, women with hijab fashion, curly hair, white skin, brown skin, and a bit dark are part of the concept of beauty. Thus, the idea of beauty must be revised and understood according to the definition of the beliefs of each woman to express and not be controlled by what the campaign of any product wants. In this way, it seems that the method of communicating is the product that is now changing to adapt to the concept of beauty, which respects and gives spirit to women.

The final advertisement features Spotless Second Skin Serum Concealer. The following ad analysis is shown below.

Figure 9. Visual Ad-8 : Mad for Makeup Spotless Second Skin Serum Concealer AdvertisementSource:

Denotation Connotation Myth
A woman was holding a Spotless Second Skin Serum Concealer product. The background of the Photograph was taken outdoors and under the scorching sun. The woman wore a green shirt to match the color of the product. The model appears to have a dark skin tone, which is rare for Indonesian beauty brands to use a dark skin model, let alone provide darker shades tone for their makeup products. Through its model and products, Mad for Makeup expresses that all women are beautiful, from Sabang to Merauke, regardless of skin tone and facial features. Mad for makeup made an excellent choice by offering a darker shade tone. The model is wearing their darkest shade, W3 (coffee).
Table 8.

The courage of “Mad for Makeup Spotless Second Skin Serum Concealer” in advertising by showing a woman with brown or dark skin in the advertisement is very inspiring for women in Indonesia. That the diversity of races and ethnicities in the Southeast Asian region must be taken into account by every marketer in penetrating the market socially. Product advertising is a way to invite the public and consumers to interact, dialogue, or send messages. However, by involving minority groups in terms of race and ethnicity, for example, in Indonesia, this effort is the best way to attract the attention and sympathy of the majority group. Meanwhile, the intended target market is all female consumer groups. The visual nature of race has led people of color to use social media platforms to explore their racial identity (Brinkman & Jacobi, 2020). Compassion gives birth to a sense of liking and preference in choosing a brand. Even women with dark skin are taken into account and provided solutions, especially for women with white skin.

Women in Indonesia, on each island, have uniqueness and varying degrees of skin color and biodiversity in the equator region. Other skin and body or hair care products have broken the myths that have dominated society under the colonialist West (Netherlands), which was white. Postcolonial feminist perspectives have tended to depict non-Western women's female bodies in contrast to Western women's free/public bodies (Wijesinghe et al., 2020). Myths built for hundreds of years have been dispelled by visual and verbal messages in advertisements for beauty products. More than that goal, modern Indonesian women have gained a position to appreciate their uniqueness in themselves, both psychologically and biologically. Makeup product campaigns have awakened women and brand owners to empower women.


In this discussion, the researchers classified advertisements as skin care, makeup, and body care. Following is a discussion and analysis of each beauty product subcategory.

Skin Care Advertising Representation

In skin care advertisements, each beauty brand promotes its products using a distinct set of beauty standards. In the case of the Wardah brand, one of its product advertisements, namely Wardah Crystal Secret, continues to promote beauty standards from the perspective of social construction. We know that the skin tone of Indonesian women varies. The phrase "skin bright like a crystal" in advertisements conveys that Indonesian women can achieve skin as clear as a crystal. According to Bai's (2018) research, cosmetic advertising makes language appear concise, captivating, and informative. It demonstrates the function of language to be more persuasive and appealing. This finding reiterates Arimbi's (2021) finding that the front covers of Aulia magazine feature white-skinned, slim, and stylish hijabi women. In reality, women with darker skin are unlikely to have crystal clear skin.

It contradicts the Somethinc skincare advertisement. As we can see from the model's dialogue, "do you think your skin is the only type?" "My skin and your skin are different!" implies that all Indonesian women have various skin types. Based on interview data with Somethinc founder Irene Ursula cited by Writer (2022), she said that "we have developed Somethinc based on the specific needs of Indonesian consumers, their skin problems, and expectations…" and "I want Somethinc to be the brand introducing the concept of the Indonesian beauty industry to consumers around the world."

Makeup Advertising Representation

This study shows that each brand's makeup advertisement represents similar beauty standards. Two of the three models in the Wardah Perfect Glow Cushion advertisement wear the hijab. Statista Research Department (2022) also shows data 2010 census that about 87% of the population in Indonesia is Muslim, making Indonesia the world's largest Muslim population. However, not all provinces in Indonesia are Muslim. The majority of religions in several provinces in Eastern Indonesia, such as East Nusa Tenggara and Bali, are Christian and Hindu, respectively. Wardah is a pioneer in halal cosmetics in Indonesia and has become one of the most popular cosmetics brands (gbgindonesia, 2012). On average, Wardah often uses the hijab model in its advertisements. Wardah conveys the meaning of cultural diversity in the Perfect Glow Cushion advertisement by displaying one model without the hijab.

The second is the video advertisement for Somethinc Copy Paste Cushion. Somethinc collaborated with a beauty vlogger named Lifni Sanders to release the latest Copy Paste Cushion color shades. From the result, we can see that Lifni has Melanesian facial features, representing a new color in the Indonesian cosmetic industry. Lifni herself is a Papuan descent. Through Lifni's dialogue, "you are the one that defines your beauty," and her appearances, Somethinc establishes a brand-new standard beauty innovation that all races in Indonesia are beautiful. Even though East Asian beauty standards still exist, the message has delivered an excellent meaning by changing people's perceptions of beauty standards.

Similarly, Mad for Makeup also set a new beauty standard by featuring a deep-skinned model. Mad for makeup implies that dark-skinned women can be beautiful as well. Thus, it can be concluded that some beauty brands are aware of the standard beauty concept. These three beauty brands promote their products by providing a variety of makeup color shades ranging from light to dark tones that are suitable for Indonesian skin tones.

Body Care Advertising Representation

This research shows that these brands' representation of beauty standards varied. In the video screenshot for Wardah Hairfall Treatment Shampoo, four women wearing hijabs gather and interact in a scorching sun under a tree. The scene represents the experience of using shampoo products for women who wear hijabs. Wardah seems to be giving a message; not to be afraid of being under the sun because the Hairfall Treatment Shampoo product will make hair healthy and strong even if we wear a hijab. Because not all hijabi women feel comfortable being under the sun, considering the weather in Indonesia during the day is hot. Based on the advertisement, Wardah expresses that hijab-wearing women need not fear the sun because the Hairfall Treatment Shampoo will keep their hair healthy and strong. As the weather during the day in Indonesia is hot, not all hijabi women are comfortable being exposed to the sun.

The following advertisement is for a Somethinc body care product. The advertisement shows that Somethinc represents three models with varying body shapes and skin tones. This visual is interesting because it uses the phrase "Body Care = Self Love" and the hashtag #RespectMyBody to convey the message that all women's body types are different and unique, and women should love their bodies by taking care of them and respecting other bodies. Hashtags allow users to document and categorize their lives and activities (Mahoney, 2020). However, the phrase appears ambiguous. Sure, this message could enhance women's self-esteem and motivate them to accept all flaws in their bodies and treat them well, but how the message is delivered contradicts what they are promoting about body care products. Because the products aim to minimize body flaws, the messages and products should be more consistent.

Furthermore, the concept of self-love and body positivity campaigns has been widely used by beauty brands, and Mad for Makeup is no exception. Figure 8 shows the various beauty standards by highlighting the flaws of each body. Mad for makeup features a male model. This visual is significant because it is uncommon for Indonesian cosmetic brands to feature a male model. This contradicts a Goffman study (Maclaran & Kravets, 2018: 3), which stated that "men were more likely to be depicted as confident and in control, whereas women were most likely to be portrayed as submissive and vulnerable." Self-love campaigns will be more appealing if brands use persuasive sentences. The advertisement employs the phrase "F Beauty Standard, I am beautiful me," which creates a new beauty standard and opposes the notion that women must be beautiful by previous perceptions (tall, white skin, and other).


This research concludes that although the notion that women are beautiful if they have white skin, slim bodies, and straight hair still exists, Indonesians, especially local beauty brands, have begun to realize that beauty standards cannot be viewed from a single perspective, given that Indonesia is a country with diverse races and cultures. Beauty brands communicate their messages by using sentences that promote differences in beauty standards and the courage to use a variety of brown and dark-skinned models. Therefore, different beauty standards are formed. However, it was discovered that not all subcategories represented different beauty standards, as shown in the advertisement for Wardah Crystal Secret products. As a result, beauty standards in Indonesia have changed over time.

Limitations And Future Research

This research uses a qualitative approach to analyze message content using semiotic methods. Therefore, similar research is needed in terms of consumer opinion and behavior with a quantitative approach.