Dove has been running its “Real Beauty” campaign for almost a decade. In 2004, a major global study found that only 2 percent of women in the world thought that they qualified as “beautiful.” Dove began its campaign in an effort to “challenge beauty stereotypes and invite women to join a discussion about beauty.” Part of that discussion has included efforts to promote self-esteem, confidence, and a positive self image. Today, 4 percent of women believe they are beautiful.

In its most recent advertising project, Dove used a forensic artist to make its point: how we view ourselves is not how others view us. We give ourselves too little credit and often fail to see beauty where others recognize it.


Dove Real Beauty Sketches highlight the difference between how women see themselves and how others see them.

Dove Real Beauty Sketch
Image: Gil Zamora

In “Real Beauty Sketches,” forensic artist Gil Zamora sketched several women based on their and others’ descriptions of them. Zamora sat in the same room with each woman, separated by a curtain and never seeing their faces. Each woman was asked a series of questions to describe themselves, Zamora sketching to match what they told him. When he was done, he thanked them and they left the room, him still never catching a glimpse of their faces.

There was also another set of women that day who had been asked to get to know the women being sketched. Zamora interviewed these “strangers” and had them give descriptions of the women they had met, asking them the same series of questions. What he ended up with were two separate sketches for each woman.

How did the sketches turn out? Women describing themselves were far more critical of what they looked like, giving themselves bigger foreheads and noses and smaller eyes and mouths. The strangers’ descriptions turned out sketches that portrayed the women as far more attractive than the first. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the second sketches were also much more accurate.

Afterwards, the two sketches were placed on display next to each other. When the women saw the artwork, it produced a powerful effect. They realized their image of themselves did not match what others saw.

“I should be more grateful of my natural beauty,” said one woman. “It impacts the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children—it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to our happiness.”

Check out this video from Dove:

Dove Real Beauty Sketches