Every few months, a researcher somewhere asks a different version of this question. Each comes up with a different set of answers. And in our highly networked world, we usually hear about it. They send people to interview women and publish the results at media outlets, and in product marketer’s websites and PR sites. In this article we look at three such surveys of women in Australia, Canada and the United States, and their findings.

At Costhetics we admit to being suckers for such surveys. After all, don’t they promise to reveal the inner workings of women’s minds, a subject that has kept men baffled for thousands of years?

We have done it ourselves in the past, trying to find out what Aussie women (and men) care about more, whether it’s their skin tone or waistline. You can read about our findings in Does My Bum Look Big In This?

But is it only women who read these survey findings? Do men ever read them? If they did, judging from the sheer numbers of surveys everywhere, men and women might have a perfect understanding of each others’ minds, and there would never be instances of men buying the wrong present or saying the wrong thing. Ever. Sadly, somehow that does not appear to be the case.

Guys everywhere, if you read these survey findings, please let us know in the comments whether they are helpful.

Now here are the results of two more surveys conducted in the latter half of 2012. One questioned 1,000 American women, the other, 1,000 Canadian women. Let us see whether their concerns reflect ours.

Canadian Women

1,000 Canadian women between the ages 25 and 60 took part in a survey conducted on behalf of Syneron Medical. Results were released in September 2012.

Survey findings show that

  • More than 90% of women surveyed say there is something about their body they would change.
  • 65% of Canadian women were not at all satisfied with their mid-sections, including their:
    – 48% Muffin top
    – 47% Spare tire
    – 39% Love handles
  • 71% of Canadian women found the time to integrate a solution to improve their body shape including dieting and/or exercise (59%).
  • 49% of women would consider a non-invasive, non-surgical body-shaping procedure to address these problem areas.
  • 50% of women would prefer a non-surgical procedure to a surgical procedure (17%) to target fat pockets on their body.
  • Key barriers to having an invasive surgical procedure to get rid fat pockets include:
    – 88% Cost
    – 72% Pain
    – 71% Downtime

American Women

1,000 American women took part in a similar survey conducted on behalf of Syneron Medical. Results were also released in November 2012.

Survey findings show that:

  • Only 8% of American women surveyed were satisfied with their current appearance. This is the same figure for Canadian women, revealed a few months earlier, in which over 90 percent said they would change some aspect of their appearance.
  • 70% admit they are most worried about developing a tummy bulge now.
  • 66% worry about developing a tummy bulge in the future.
  • 50% worry about wrinkles and/or fine lines now.
  • 57% worry about getting wrinkles and/or fine lines in the future.
  • 73% admit that if they were to come into some money, they would be more likely to invest in a better body shape than a designer wardrobe.

In explaining the results, Tina Alster, a board-certified dermatologist and director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. says “It has been a long-held belief that a flawless complexion represents youth and beauty. With the rise of pop culture and the focus on shapely bodies, this perception has shifted beyond a perfect face to include the perfect body as well”. She went on to say “Fortunately, most American women today are conditioned to believe that living a healthy lifestyle yields many rewards in appearance, both for the face and the body. But for many women, despite avoidance of carbs and regular exercise, there remain certain body areas that still trouble them…”

So, are Aussies different?

Everyone seems to be more concerned about body shape and size than about their faces.  Had the surveys been structured differently and for a different purpose, no doubt we would hear more about their faces and complexions. The two surveys above were carried out to promote two product lines, UltraShape and VelaShape, marketed by Syneron Medical in the USA.

In fact, according to the 2012 annual survey of the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia conducted via the Costhetics website, skin tone on the face topped the list of concerns.

Here’s a breakup of what 751 Aussies—97% females—said were their top concerns when asked “which feature or features of your appearance concern you the most” and allowed to pick multiple responses:

Skin tone and texture on the face 58.5%
Fine lines 38.9%
Loss of volume in the face 34.7%
Weight 34.7%
Stomach 32.9%
Neck 25.9%
Buttocks / thighs 25.9%
Veins on the body 24.2%
Deep wrinkles 23.7%
Décolletage 23.5%
Hands 22.9%
Arms 22.6%
Breasts /chest 19.0%
Hair 14.7%
Veins on the face 13.1%
Other 5.6%
None –I’m very happy with my appearance 2.2%

See that last line? Only 2 in a hundred Aussies wouldn’t change a thing! Compare that with the American and Canadian figures, where nearly 10 percent claim to be happy with their appearance.

You can read more about the survey results here: Does My Bum Look Big In This? As that article sums up, Aussies may say they are worried about their faces and appearance, but spending patterns show they worry about their shape, weight and overall health.

So we are not all that different from Americans and Canadians. We all worry about shape and size, and also about our appearance. What stumps the survey designers is that people—both men and women—are complex creatures who can actually chew gum and walk at the same time. Our thinking patterns cannot easily be reduced to headlines like: Skin tone or weight? Your Body or Your Face – Your Thighs or Your Eyes? Which Would You Choose to Improve?

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