Still Doing What It Says on the Tin? Selling Beauty as Health Since the 1800s

Advertising has often played on the idea that to be beautiful you have to be healthy and vice versa. But have they delivered on the results they promise? And what damage may they have done instead?

Five MA students from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies invite you to visit and enjoy their online exhibition which looks at a selection of adverts from the 19th and 20th century and explores the link between health and beauty.

Underneath the lavish colours and sparkling slogans of these adverts, there lies the more sinister truth behind many of the products advertised to women promising healthier, happier and more beautiful lives.

Did you know that a corset can cause incontinence?

Or weight loss pills may just be baking powder?

Explore how women have been sold beauty as health over two centuries of relentless advertisement, and how society influenced what it meant to be beautiful.

Visit the online exhibition

Borrowing from the Wellcome Collection, Still Doing What It Says on the Tin? is part of a wider series of exhibitions and projects undertaken by MA students as part of an Interpretations course module.

Access the exhibition.


Detail from poster: Keep your hands soft and white with Zam-Buk : “rub it in” every night. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)