The Story of Thai Beauty

In a recent cross-cultural survey, TapestryWorks talked to more than 1,200 women across four countries and, in this article, we focus on Thai women and their feelings about beauty.

Thailand was one of four countries surveyed along with Australia, Indonesia and UK. Let’s start with the beauty goals of women, which are focused in five main areas: the needs for Courage, Confidence, Innocence, Fun and Discovery. Thai women, along with Indonesian women, value Innocence (expressed as Hopefulness) more than those from Australia and UK, and are less motivated by the need for Courage (which is more important in Australia and UK).

Overall, Thai women are a little more Western than Indonesian women giving higher importance to self-focused goals such as Courage and Creativity. In ranking the most important ways to enhance beauty, they place good diet first and regular exercise second, consistent with Australia and UK (Indonesian women place smiling first and showing their inner beauty second).

While Thai women use similar cosmetic products to Indonesian women, perhaps reflecting the climate of Asia and priorities of Asian women, they prefer Western brands over local brands (unlike Indonesia), and although Mistine is a strong second place for popularity, nearly all others in the top ten brands are international (based on past three months usage and brand used most often).

There are some subtle differences in motivation between different groups of women in Thailand, with women aged 35 and over having more need for Order and Harmony, while younger women need more Sophistication (similar to other countries). Women in Greater Bangkok have a stronger need for Harmony, while up-country women have a stronger need for Pleasure in beauty, and married women have a greater need for Affiliation (Love and Belonging) while single women want more Sophistication and Discovery (also consistent with other countries).

Even more than in Indonesia, Thai women seem very comfortable with the beauty that they already have, which is highly correlated with the beauty that they desire (over 90% similarity, unlike UK and Australia). This is reflected in the more positive sentiment that Thai women have about their current beauty, although there do remain some negatives.

Some Thai women feel Ignorant and Bored with their current beauty (common negative sentiments among women across different countries). Overall, the biggest opportunities to improve their perceptions of beauty are to increase their feelings of Courage and Confidence.

Given their level of satisfaction with their beauty, it is a little surprising that Thai women rate their body image a little lower than Indonesian women (but still much higher than in Australia and UK). The difference may be that Indonesian women generally feel less pressure to look different, while Thai women feel more social pressure to change (and at the same time are more likely to believe that beauty is fixed and cannot be changed).

Some other attitudinal statements confirm that Thai women are more likely than others to experiment with their looks, exercise and to want to look young.

As with other countries, TapestryWorks tested verbal concepts against visual concepts, and with the same overall findings in Thailand. Responses to visual concepts were far more nuanced and realistic than those from verbal concepts. 49% of Thai women chose the verbal concept of Confident to reflect the beauty that they desire, the lowest of all four countries, but more than twice as popular as the next most popular verbal concept of Strong at 22%.

Confident translates into Thai as มั่นใจ (more literally stable heart or sure heart), but when choosing visual concepts Thai women prefer a visual designed to represent Hopeful (see below) and Confident or Charismatic is their second choice. The reason for this, consistent with other countries, is that Confident is a “catch all” term in the beauty category which can mean different things to different women in different beauty contexts.

Overall, our findings showed that women across the world, from Thailand to UK and Australia, are better able to express the motivations and emotions that surround beauty through images rather than words and phrases. The visuals give more context and local colour to help women link the ideas to their real-life experiences and memories, giving a more granular and realistic portrayal of the meaning of beauty for them, and also capturing the subtle differences between the four cultures that they represent.

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