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The lifecycle of a social media beauty trend: a case study of the Instagram body.

Uti, Tokoni Olufunto


COMPLETED Research Student



The study pursued the creation of a functional model of the typical lifecycle of a social media beauty trend. Within the fashion and consumer goods industries, lifecycle models already exist that explain the typical manifestations of products and trends, chronicling their interactions with consumers from their introduction to their exit from the market. In the last decade especially, social media has established itself as both a breeding ground for beauty trends and a cultural meeting point for interactions with these trends, which drive billions of dollars in consumer spending. This is exemplified by the Instagram body, a body type characterised by a small waist, thick thighs, and large buttocks. Despite the popularity of this social media-driven body type in the last decade, no model currently exists to explain its lifecycle. As such, the study sought to close the existing research gap by creating a model using the Instagram body as a case study. To achieve this, interviews were conducted with groups identified as stakeholders in both the social media landscape and offline beauty endeavours. These were social media content creators, fitness professionals and a cosmetic surgeon. Additionally, an analysis was conducted of the song lyrics on the U.K. Offical year-end charts from 2010 to 2019, to map out references to the Instagram body. Finally, an analysis was undertaken of YouTube video titles with the search term "big butt" from 2010 to 2019, to map out content changes during this period. The study produced a six-stage social media beauty trend lifecycle, which consists of: the emergence phase; the mainstreaming phase; the normalisation/peak phase; the criticism/fatigue phase; the discard phase; and the retrospective phase. The study also identified several stakeholders who influence the lifecycle, such as social media content creators and traditional celebrities, as well as several factors such as the social media algorithm and content fatigue. Finally, the study identified gender as a factor in the manifestation of these trends, in that they disproportionately affect women and its treatment could lead to instances of misogyny.


UTI, T.O. 2022. The lifecycle of a social media beauty trend: a case study of the Instagram body. Robert Gordon University, MPhil thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 6, 2023
Keywords Beauty trends; Aesthetic trends; Lifestyle trends; Social media; Influencers; Instagram
Public URL
Award Date Dec 31, 2022


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