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Supporting self-esteem and wellbeing

Average read time: 9 minutes

Through our purpose-led brand campaigns and programmes, we’re helping to boost self-esteem and wellbeing.

A woman sits at her laptop with her eyes shut to catch the rays of a sunbeam

What impacts wellbeing?

There are a number of factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including the social, economic, cultural and physical environment in which people live their lives.

While many of these factors are beyond our control, we use our brands – and our voice – to do everything we can to make a difference. We’re helping women and girls to boost their self-esteem and supporting wellbeing by bringing people together. Championing inclusion through our brands explains how we’re tackling issues such as racial equity and women’s empowerment.

Celebrating real beauty and supporting self-esteem

Through Dove, we’re taking urgently needed action to improve self-esteem, as well as wellbeing. Our actions are founded on the belief that real beauty comes in many different colours, shapes and sizes.

Shattering beauty stereotypes through Project #ShowUs

Dove is partnering with women and non-binary individuals to create Project #ShowUs, a collection of more than 17,000 images that offer a more inclusive vision of beauty for all media and advertisers to use. We’re doing this in partnership with the largest international stock photo distributor, Getty Images, and Girlgaze – a collective of female-identifying and non-binary photographers.

It’s just one of the things we’re doing to transform our advertising.

The importance of self-esteem

We began the Dove Self-Esteem Project to empower young people and build body confidence through workshops and support materials. It combines our work with leading experts in psychology, health and body image with a vision of a world where positive body image equals positive self-esteem, and beauty is a source of confidence.

When people lose confidence in their body image, we know that many lose confidence in themselves, and this can affect their self-esteem, wellbeing and even mental health.

Our Dove Beauty & Confidence report (PDF 1.23 MB), for example, shows that eight in ten girls opt out of important life activities, such as trying out for a team or joining a club at school, if they don’t feel good about the way they look.

Seven in ten girls stop themselves from eating when they are worried about their appearance, or otherwise put their health at risk by not seeing a doctor. For adult women, it’s an incredible nine in ten.

We’ve helped 82 million young people

250 million Young people we’ve committed to empower with the Dove Self-Esteem Project by 2030

In 2020, we announced a new commitment: to empower 250 million young people by 2030 through Dove Self-Esteem Project education programmes.

Since 2005, our Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached around 82 million young people, and grown to become the world’s biggest provider of self-esteem education. More than 3 million parents and mentors have used our content, and over 1 million teachers have delivered a Dove self-esteem workshop. Our new commitment means more countries, more creative ways to engage audiences and many more young people feeling confident in their own skin.

We’re not just building self-esteem. We’re building our business too. Our research shows a direct link between awareness of the Dove Self-Esteem Project and brand equity.

A young girl holding the hand of a younger boy points at the camera

Alongside other brands, Dove is contributing to our broader Unilever Compass goal that we published in 2021.

Take action through our brands to improve health and wellbeing and advance equity and inclusion, reaching 1 billion people per year by 2030.

We will focus on: gender equity; race and ethnicity equity; body confidence and self-esteem; mental wellbeing; hand hygiene; sanitation; oral health; skin health and healing.

Reaching young people with self-esteem messages

Our Dove Self-Esteem Project reaches young people by offering free confidence-building workshops for classrooms and educational activities for parents, mentors and youth leaders.

We work with world-renowned body image experts and leading universities to develop evidence-based tools. The positive impact of these efforts has been proven by academic studies.

We’ve also worked with US media company ATTN to create a five-episode scripted US series from Emmy-award winning writer, producer and actor Lena Waithe.

Girls Room tackles the pain and power of female adolescence through the eyes of five girls as they face the challenges of growing up in today’s social media world. The series is based around those moments spent in bathrooms – the girls’ room. Nearly 300,000 people have watched it so far.

From selfies to self-confidence

Dove’s latest Reverse Selfie film and campaign aim to stop the damage social media pressure and retouching apps are having on girls’ self-esteem. Research we conducted in the US with girls aged 10-17 revealed that pushed by the pressure of social media, a staggering 80% of girls have already used a retouching app to distort the way they look online by age 13.

Research-driven and academically validated, Dove’s Confidence Kit offers a wide range of materials, including practical suggestions that girls can put in place, such as curating their feed to ensure what they see is appropriate and empowering. It also includes conversation starters that can help parents and girls evaluate the reality of what they see on social media. It was used over 50,000 times in 2021.

Working with the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

7 million Young people reached with Free Being Me and Action on Body Confidence programmes

For nearly a decade, we’ve also been working with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to get our message across to more young women.

Our Free Being Me and Action on Body Confidence programmes have reached over 7 million young people in more than 125 countries, and we’re aiming to reach over 9 million by the end of 2025. Examples of our actions include a virtual advocacy event called Journey to Self-Esteem, which gave girls the opportunity to speak out about body image issues that they feel passionate about, alongside our influencer partners. We’ve also formed our Dove Youth Board – bringing together young leaders from Women Deliver, WAGGGS and PLAN – to capture the voice of young people in our strategy, programme development and advocacy and help challenge the state of body image in society today.

Two young girls in Girl Guide uniforms at a Free Being Me workshop

New partnerships, new resources

Dove’s partnership with UNICEF brings together the scale and specialised skills of UNICEF with the expertise and experience of the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Together, we’re aiming to help 10 million young people boost their self-esteem.

In 2021, we introduced new education modules. These have been tested by academics and, starting in Indonesia and Brazil, they’re being taught as part of UNICEF’s wider adolescent life skills programmes for 10- to 18-year-olds in secondary schools and after-school programmes. They reached over 330,000 people during the year.

We’re also taking concrete action towards beauty inclusiveness. Through the Crown Act, for example, we’re campaigning to end hair discrimination and to create a more equitable and inclusive beauty experience for black women and girls. Through the efforts of the CROWN Coalition, federal law has changed to ban hair discrimination in schools and workplaces in the US. Now we’ve brought our campaign to the UK too, supporting the UK’s first black hair code for schools and workplaces, known as the Halo Code.

How our brands are supporting wellbeing

One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. Dove, as well as a number of our other brands such as CLEAR, have recognised how they can play a role in supporting people’s wellbeing.

We also stepped up our efforts during the pandemic. As well as donating products, we came up with new campaigns designed to help people through lockdown and beyond.

A CLEAR focus on resilience

Resilience is the ability to cope with challenges and the fear of judgement. We know that one in two young people experience social anxiety, and three-quarters of people believe resilience is important to overcome this anxiety, but don’t have the tools to develop it. But it’s definitely a skill that can be learned and as people become more resilient, they feel better prepared to deal with life, both mentally and emotionally.

An illustration of a pack of Clear shampoo on a green background

Our CLEAR haircare brand’s CLEAR 14-day Resilience Challenge helps people develop this skill. The Challenge’s online platform was designed with Dr Michael Ungar, co-director of the Resilience Research Center at Dalhousie University in Canada. It’s an evidence-based programme to help people feel more confident physically, creatively and mentally.

Every daily activity is supported by an exercise and a short film, featuring experts and special guests, and they can be used by individuals or educators. They cover topics such as focusing on our strengths, reflecting and building networks, being mindful, expressing gratitude and establishing routines that will make it easier to resist anxiety and other mental health problems.

The bigger picture

Young woman wearing headphones and studying phone, relaxes on a grassy field

Self-esteem and wellbeing are just one part of the bigger picture we’re addressing across our business – the concept of a fairer and more socially inclusive world that leaves no one behind. Championing inclusion via our brands explains how we’re running programmes from boosting career confidence for women to promoting racial equity for under-represented groups. We’re also building greater equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplace and advertising and supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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