Toxic influence | A Dove film

The article below was written by this week’s work experience student Victor De Oliveira, a 17 year old student from St John the Baptist. Enjoy!


Valued at approximately 5.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, Dove has become internationally renowned for its promotion and advertising strategies since 2004. The highly influential brand, which is one of Unilever’s most prominent, has been highlighting the importance of women’s body positivity for over 15 years with their initial launch of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It is clear to see that this message continues to be at the forefront of the brand’s ethos following Dove’s recent release of the breakthrough film: ‘Toxic Influence’. 

The film features 5 mothers and their daughters scrolling through what is a typical Instagram feed for girls their age. “Botox is amazing, you’re never too young to start” and “if your teeth are uneven you can always file them down with a nail file” are just some of the countless toxic messages delivered by some beauty influencers on the platform. The parents are clearly worried by what they’ve seen so far but the real shock sets in when the film uses face-mapping technology to literally put these words into their mouths. This part of the film particularly interested me as a teenager due to the fact that it addressed a relatively well-versed topic from an original and thought-provoking perspective – to what extent would you be affected if your own mother said your appearance defined your self-worth?

Toxic beauty advice causes low self-esteem in countless girls


A stark contrast of the mothers’ views towards social media’s impact on their daughters’ mental health was also demonstrated in the film with some initially saying, somewhat naïvely, that “it can build [their] confidence” to being on the verge of tears by the end. This juxtaposition of notions surrounding the harm these platforms can cause highlights parents’ lack of understanding about what their children are potentially being exposed to. How then can we do something to prevent this harmful content reaching girls online? 

Dove’s Self-Esteem Project followed up ‘Toxic Influence’ with another video on how to ‘Detox Your Feed’ which offers lots of useful advice to parents on how to help their daughters rid their social media feeds of this type of content. However, in the first video, many mothers admit they “can’t prevent their daughters seeing these things but [they] can talk to them about it” which also sheds a light on the importance of openness in tackling these issues.


To conclude, those who have seen the short film on YouTube, over 1.5 million people as it currently stands, can certainly agree that ‘Toxic Influence’ transcends traditional advertising and inspires a conversation that needs to be had in our society – what impact does toxic beauty advice have on the mental health of teenage girls? I believe that Dove has done a brilliant thing in using their large platform on the world stage to shine a light on and expose such a relevant issue that plagues countless girls across the globe. My hope is that other influential companies like Dove, continue to use their voices to inspire these conversations and create a better world for the future. 

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