Coalition MP says Maybelline advert “could lead to eating disorders”

Ad banned after MP Jo Swinson complained to watchdog

By Ian Birch

Last week, Mental Healthy reported concerns over Katie Price's body image 'hang-ups' and her influence on vulnerable young women and eating disorders.  They stemmed from news that she’s promoting a “juice diet” and we at Mental Healthy felt that as a role model she was behaving irresponsibly.  Meanwhile reality TV star Chantelle Houghton has been extremely open about the devastating effects of eating distress on her life and her fertility.

Foundation Make-upI have an attractive 20 year old friend who is trying to come to terms with anorexia, and a pretty petite 24 year old friend who is in recovery from bulimia, so this is something I feel passionately about. 

Coalition MP Jo Swinson told BBC News yesterday of her concerns that image enhancement on photos of Christy Turlington, used to promote a Maybelline foundation, could lead young girls who are already very self-conscious and suffering low self-esteem to go on to develop eating disorders.

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned the adverts featuring Turlington and ruled that Maybelline misrepresented the effectiveness of their make-up by “blocking” images of her face to enhance her already stunning looks even further.

The ad for “The Eraser” foundation claimed to show parts of her face uncovered and parts enhanced by the make-up alone.  Text stated: “The Eraser perfect cover foundation.  Conceals instantly, visibly, precisely … For ultimate flawless-looking perfection … The Eraser covers, fills and smoothes precisely."  In addition, the ad described the product as “the new anti-ageing foundation”.

The ASA made no connection between the ads and eating distress.

But it’s perhaps a reminder that even those whom women uphold as physically perfect still want to look even more special.  

It’s often a severely traumatic event, such as abuse, bereavement, divorce, bullying, or concerns about sexual identity, which trigger off eating distress in young people – men get eating disorders too --  in fact B-eat, the national eating disorders charity, says 11-20% of sufferers are male.   People of any age can be affected – middle age is quite a common time to develop anorexia or bulimia please see our recent news on the rise in eating disorders in older women

But it’s the scandalous social and peer-pressure to conform to the impossible and flawless images of celebrities we see in magazines and on TV and billboards that are in the spotlight today, because without these pressures women, and yes guys too, would not suffer the same low self-image and self-esteem which feeds into and helps trigger eating distress.

I have been heartbroken supporting the family of my 20 year old friend with anorexia and watched helplessly as my 24 year old friend went through the bingeing-purging cycle of bulimia.  I was supported constantly by B-eat’s helpline and their website with so much information about local services, support groups, eating distress clinics and treatment centres, plus detailed guides to each type of eating disorder – including EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and overeating disorder – which aren’t so high profile as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

For some girls, nearing a BMI of 14.5, the point at which someone is deemed to have lost capacity, their life is deemed to be at risk.  Most people with eating distress are referred to specialist clinics and have regular blood tests to monitor for signs of damage to bones and major organs.  It’s also often the case in girls that their periods stop as their bodies go into shutdown. CBT can be particularly helpful for bulimia -- talking therapies are also used for anorexia.

It’s high time the government took note of its own Coalition MP Jo Swinson’s fears and put legislation into force to compel advertisers to use only responsible means to market their beauty products and to regulate the advertising of diets and promotion of celebrity makeovers in glossies.

So many people are vulnerable.  And even those we consider to personify physical perfection strive for even greater beauty.  What kind of reflection is that on modern society? All girls are beautiful and I can honestly say I have never once judged a girl harshly because of her appearance.   It seems so wrong that so many people feel the need to strive for what they see as the perfect face and figure and the media and social pressures are the two biggest factors in modern society.

Useful Reading

Anorexia Nervosa: a survival guide for families, friends and suffers by Janet Treasure. Published by Brunner-Routledge

Buy this and other useful books here.

For more information on eating disorders please also see:


One of our bloggers wrote a very open and interesting post on her experience of eating disorders here:

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