Research Seminars

Research seminars

Problems and Solutions: the inadequate female body in cosmetics advertising

Helen Ringrow (University of Portsmouth)

Many contemporary (cosmetics) advertisements display a discursive structure commonly known as the Problem-Solution pattern (Hoey 1983; 2001). In female-targeted media discourse, this pattern takes as its basic ideological starting point that the female body is inadequate and products can provide solutions to these shortcomings. This ‘self-improvement’ often involves an attempt to disguise or delay the visual signifiers of ageing, which are conceptualised as fundamentally negative. This paper will consider how language is used to create this idea of ‘self-improvement’ through analysis of a corpus of recent English and French beauty advertisements. The paper offers an adaptation of Hoey’s (1983; 2001) Problem-Solution model for specific application to cosmetics advertising discourse (from Ringrow 2016). The Problem-Solution pattern is used in beauty advertising to equate femininity with the continual pursuit of the young, ideal body.



Hoey, M. (1983) On the Surface of Discourse. London: Allen and Unwin.

Hoey, M. (2001) Textual Interaction: an introduction to written discourse analysis.

London: Routledge.

Ringrow, H. (2016) The Language of Cosmetics Advertising. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.