Cosmetic technologies of the body: an exploration of self and identity through the consumption of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures

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2008-01-01
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Tyner, Keila
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Mary Lynn Damhorst
Linda Niehm
Susan Torntore
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

The Department of Apparel, Education Studies, and Hospitality Management provides an interdisciplinary look into areas of aesthetics, leadership, event planning, entrepreneurship, and multi-channel retailing. It consists of four majors: Apparel, Merchandising, and Design; Event Management; Family and Consumer Education and Studies; and Hospitality Management.

History
The Department of Apparel, Education Studies, and Hospitality Management was founded in 2001 from the merging of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies; the Department of Textiles and Clothing, and the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management.

Dates of Existence
2001 - present

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies (predecessor)
  • Department of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management (predecessor)
  • Department of Textiles and Clothing (predecessor)
  • Trend Magazine (student organization)

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Although much research has been conducted on cosmetic surgery and some research has been conducted on cosmetic use in general, little to no research has explored nonsurgical cosmetic technologies of the body, particularly as a symbolic form of consumption in shaping notions of the self. Thus, the purpose of the present qualitative study was to gain understanding of the consumption of nonsurgical cosmetic technologies of the body from multiple theoretical perspectives. Of particular interest was how this consumption serves as a symbolic means for shaping the self, specifically in the context of self-presentation and impression management (Goffman, 1959).;For this study, in-depth interviews lasting approximately one to two hours were conducted among a targeted sample including women over the age of 25 who had undergone a nonsurgical cosmetic procedure. The sample (n = 10) for the present study was obtained using a snowball sampling technique. Constant comparison processes were used to analyze the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), and through analyses, three major overarching themes emerged: (1) The Consumption Process: From Information Search to Meanings of the Self, (2) Experiences of Ambivalence, and (3) The Aging Female Body: Experiences of Possible Selves.;Content from the first overarching theme, "The Consumption Process: From Information Search to Meanings of the Self," reflected the decision and meaning-making processes of consuming nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. Within this theme, the following subthemes emerged, reflecting the consumption process stages of: (a) Prepurchase, (b) Purchase, and (c) Postpurchase. During the prepurchase stage, participants' motivations were explored in addition to the ways in which information about nonsurgical procedures was obtained. The purchase stage examined participants' experiences of the actual procedures. Finally, the postpurchase stage uncovered participants' reactions from others, the overall experience, and future intentions for consuming nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.;The second overarching theme, "Experiences of Ambivalence," explored the ways in which nonsurgical cosmetic procedures may incite feelings of ambivalence about the body and self. In particular, subthemes related to this theme included: (a) The naturalness of nonsurgical cosmetic surgical procedures, (b) Acknowledgement of cultural norms of physical attractiveness, and (c) Conflicting feelings of the self: Experiences of ambivalence. Ambivalence arose for participants within the study as they negotiated their appearance management choices, particularly nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, in light of cultural expectations and norms of attractiveness.;Content within the third overarching theme, "The Aging Female Body: Experiences of Possible Selves," examined the range of possible selves for participants within the study. Using Guy and Banim's (2000) possible self terminology, the following subthemes emerged: (a) The woman I used to be, (b) the woman I want to be, (c) the woman I fear I could become, and (d) the woman I am most of the time.;Results from the present study suggest that the consumption of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures serves to reinforce and enhance positive feelings of the self and appearance. Participants viewed the nonsurgical cosmetic procedure experience as a tool in their "identity kit" and an appearance management strategy. As these types of procedures become more commonplace among the broader social discourse, research should explore how the meanings of such procedures change over time.;This research adds to the existing literature and knowledge related to the body and appearance management as well as the sociology of the body and feminist perspectives of the body. Because little to no research has been conducted on nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, findings from the present study begin to uncover aspects related to this rapidly growing form of body modification. By exploring women's lived experiences with nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, knowledge is gained related to social discourse and meanings of this phenomenon. Within sociology of the body and feminist perspectives of the body, a trend in analyzing the body's relationship with technology has grown, therefore making the present research not only timely but also justifying it as an important subject of inquiry.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008