16 Teen Magazines from the ’90s That Would Be Criticized for Unrealistic Beauty Standards

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Magazines have guided many young readers with fashion advice, beauty tips, celebrity gossip, and personal stories. In the 1990s, which defined an era for teen magazines, many articles started to heavily emphasize appearance, making many teens feel insecure about their bodies. Here are 16 iconic teen magazines from the ’90s that were popular but set an unattainable ideal of beauty.

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Seventeen

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Seventeen magazine was launched in 1944 and dominated the industry in the 90s. It shaped the lives of teenage girls with its fashion advice, beauty tips, and relationship guidance. However, it also made them feel bad about their body shapes. The magazine’s covers would showcase thin models with flawless skin, promoting a single standard of beauty. It was not only unattainable for many but also made them feel excluded. The magazine even featured unhealthy diet tips and weight loss plans. This would be seen as inadequate due to a lack of diversity in body types and promoting insecurity.

Teen

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Teen magazine, as the name suggests, was geared toward teenagers. It targeted them through a blend of fashion, beauty, and celebrity gossip with pages filled with images of white, thin, and conventionally attractive models. They presented a narrow definition of beauty to young readers, which made them doubt themselves. The readers saw a completely different image from themselves, setting an unrealistic persona of looks. Focusing on achieving a specific look through expensive clothing and beauty products also creates a disparity in society.

YM (Young & Modern)

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Known for its edgy content and willingness to address mature topics, YM Magazines has gained unique recognition in the industry. However, despite its progressive attitude on some issues, YM still kept its view limited regarding beauty standards of the time. The beauty tips in their article featured slim, mainly white models emphasizing physical perfection. Today, they would receive backlash for promoting articles that suggested that achieving a thin, toned physique was essential for self-worth and happiness.

Sassy

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When Sassy started to tackle issues like mental health and body image and took a feminist approach, it made it stand out in the 1990s. Even though they wanted to tackle body image issues, they struggled with promoting inclusive beauty standards. Though it featured a broader range of styles and personalities than other magazines, its models were still thin and conventionally attractive. It sometimes reinforced the challenges it sought to remove and might receive criticism today.

Mademoiselle

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Mademoiselle captivated the minds of many teenagers with its high-fashion content. But like its peers, the featured models were almost exclusively tall, thin, and conventionally beautiful. The clothes they would wear were out of reach for an average reader, which made them feel insecure about their financial status as well. Young readers felt pressure to match the unattainable looks and lifestyles portrayed in the magazine.

CosmoGirl

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CosmoGirl was a younger version of Cosmopolitan magazine, and it aimed to bring the appeal of the adult magazine to a teenage audience. However, it distracted the young readers into thinking that a thin body and flawless skin are a polished and perfect appearance through fashion spreads filled with glamorous and airbrushed images of celebrities and models. They focused on perpetuating superficial beauty rather than messages about self-confidence and personal growth.

Teen People

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Teen People was launched in 1998. It combined celebrity news with fashion and beauty tips to reach teens’ minds. Though praised for featuring a diverse range of celebrities, its beauty and fashion advice still leaned heavily towards superficial standards. Teen People promoted the message that beauty is compared to being slim, stylish, and perfectly groomed, and one is not beautiful if one fails to attain these standards.

Bop

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Bop magazine played a good game of blending celebrity gossip, posters of teen heartthrobs, and fashion advice in its magazines, but soon enough, it started playing with one’s appearance through its beauty and fashion sections. The models and celebrities featured were typically thin and conventionally attractive, which narrowed the idea of beauty for young readers and made them think that only one kind of beauty type exists.

Tiger Beat

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Tiger Beat was another celebrity-focused magazine that combined gossip with fashion and beauty tips. As you could have guessed, its pages were filled with images of slim, attractive celebrities, which promoted a singular ideal of beauty. They even emphasized achieving that standard through wearing expensive clothes and applying beauty products. It left readers thinking they needed to adapt to a specific standard to be considered attractive and fashionable.

J-14

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To target young readers, J-14 mixed celebrity news, quizzes, and beauty tips. The articles kept them engaged and curious. However, they also made them think twice about their appearance due to the constant feature of slim models and celebrities with white skin color. The lack of representation of diversity made young readers believe that the presented version of beauty is the only attractive way one should look.

Twist

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Twist magazine focused on the latest trends in fashion and beauty and presented them in a way that attracted readers. However, the presentation also made them feel insecure about their appearance, as it promoted a thin and toned physique as the ideal body type through its articles on how to achieve the perfect body and the latest diet trends.

All About You

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Similar to its competitors, All About You Magazines targeted young teenage girls with content about fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. It also promoted the feature of white and thin models in its magazine. This created a limited view of attractiveness and overshadowed the ‘self-love’ narrative. It would be heavily criticized today for filling young minds with insecurity about their appearance and looks.

Teen Vogue

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Teen Vogue was a very different magazine in the 90s than it is now. Earlier, it was much like its peers where a ‘one-size-fits-all’ narrative was followed. The beauty and fashion pages were filled with only thin and white models, which kept the focus of young readers solely on appearance and distracted them from more essential messages like self-worth and individuality.

BB (Beauty & Body)

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As the name suggests, BB Magazines focused on dieting, exercise, and fashion articles. They emphasized how girls could achieve a slim and toned figure by following potentially harmful methods to their health. It sets unrealistic beauty standards and creates a culture of body dissatisfaction among readers. This made the readers feel excluded and doubt their visuals.

Girlfriends LA.

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Girlfriends LA was a pretty short-lived magazine that aimed to capture the glamour of Los Angeles. Its pages were filled with fashion and beauty tips that showcased models and celebrities with a ‘perfect’ appearance. The magazine emphasized a limited standard of beauty, which received heavy backlash in today’s generation, where diversity is promoted, and every body type is embraced.

Blast!

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This unique magazine fuses music and entertainment news with beauty and fashion advice. It focused on a particular type of beauty while earning young people’s trust through collaborations with celebrities. It reinforced the idea that attractiveness was tied to being thin and flawless and demeaned those who did not fit this mold.

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