Summary: This commercial featuring actress/model Brooke Shields is for Latisse, a prescription drug approved by the FDA for “inadequate or not enough lashes.” The ad claims that Latisse can be used to treat symptoms of hypotrichosis, a condition characterized by a "less than normal" amount of hair; advertisements for Latisse have appeared in beauty magazines such as Allure. This clip is excellent for teaching students the concept of medicalization, the process by which normal life conditions (such as menopause, childbirth, aging, or death) or issues not traditionally seen as medical come to be framed as medical problems (e.g. alcoholism, eating disorders, compulsive gambling) (Conrad 1992). The Latisse commercial is particularly powerful when shown alongside a typical mascara commercial (e.g., here); while the latter claims to be a cosmetic product and the former claims to treat a “medical problem,” both are clearly targeted toward women and share many similarities -- e.g., promises of “better” (i.e., longer, darker, and/or fuller) lashes, before/after shots, celebrity actress/model spokeswomen, and scenes of attractive women having "fun," suggesting that longer, darker, and fuller lashes can result in happier social lives for women. Moreover, both commercials imply that women, and not men, should be concerned about their eyelashes, even though men can also have sparse, short, and/or light-colored lashes. While the producers of the commercial never say Latisse is developed for use by people with hypotrichosis (this message is only written in a caption at the bottom of the screen), a classroom discussion can underscore the blurring of the medical and the cosmetic in this advertisement. Instructors can point out that the active ingredient in Latisse is used to treat glaucoma. When some glaucoma patients began to notice more prominent eyelashes, they perceived this as a desirable side effect of their glaucoma medication since longer, thicker, and darker eyelashes on women are symbolic of beauty in our culture (Law 2010). Class discussion can then lead to a conversation about human diversity, in which the diversity of eye color and eye shape, as well as the length and thickness of eyelashes, among the world’s population can be examined. The Latisse commercial can prompt students to question whether eyelash hypotrichosis and other medical problems (e.g., andropause, erectile dysfunction, short stature, ADHD) (Conrad 2007) are medical problems or natural human conditions and/or characteristics that create human diversity. Advertisements such as this point to the commodification of such naturally occurring human conditions.
Submitted By: Amy Irby