CAR has been involved in a variety of research projects in appearance, disfigurement and related studies. See how our projects are making a difference.

Dove Self-Esteem Project

In partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project, CAR has conducted three streams of research to improving body image in young people.

This has included the development and randomised controlled evaluation of a school-based body image intervention for high school students, designed for delivery by teachers (Confident Me); randomised controlled evaluation of an online information and resource hub for parents of adolescent girls; and developing and evaluating a body image programme (Free Being Me) for delivery by youth leaders to girl guiding groups, conducted in collaboration with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

These resources are now being disseminated by Dove worldwide, with over 8 million young people reached since 2012.

Adult Body Image Study

Researchers at the Centre for Appearance Research are currently conducting a study to explore how adults over the age of 18 feel about the way they look.

Taking part in this study involves completing a brief online survey. Individuals who take part will be entered into a prize draw for the chance. If you are interested in taking part, find out more on our Participate in research webpage.

Appearance Matters: Tackling the Physical and Psychosocial Consequences of Dissatisfaction With Appearance

In collaboration with 32 countries representing over 55 organisations across Europe, the Centre for Appearance Research will co-ordinate a harmonised approach to establishing levels of appearance-related distress and the damaging impacts on physical and psychological health in European countries.

Although there are examples of research and activism in the field in Europe, many researchers work in isolation, diluting the potential impact of their work. This will forge crucial links between researchers, practitioners and policy makers, offering the potential for significant benefits to the millions of Europeans adversely affected by these issues.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

Find out more about this project.

‘Child’s play: Internet games, body image and career aspirations of 8-9 year old girls'

In this innovative new study researchers from the Centre for Appearance Research are exploring the role of appearance-focused Internet games on how young girls feel about themselves and their bodies and how this may affect their thoughts about what they want to be when they grow up. We are aiming for around 100 year 4 girls from local schools to participate.

The findings of this study will not only contribute to our theoretical understanding of the influence of media on the development of body image concerns, but may also have practical implications for social education in promoting play that has more favourable outcomes for girls.

The project is funded by the University of the West of England.

Be Positive

The Centre for Appearance Research is working closely with partners from Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain and Sweden to develop a new innovative method of training that will empower young unemployed individuals and/or NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training).

We will prepare participants to not only adapt to potentially stressful events and successfully assimilate these, but also to use these potential stressors as opportunities for positive growth based on identification and utilisation of key Positive Psychology constructs and processes. This will be accomplished by the development of a training curriculum "Be Positive". The end result is that organisations will have a resource that will address the psychological issues that are relevant to this group in a positive way.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

For further information please view Be Positive

Face Value

In collaboration with a consortium of experts from across seven European countries, CAR is developing a training resource for health professionals together with RSBDF (Norway) and ECO (The Netherlands) that aims to optimise the provision of psychosocial support for individuals with visible difference.

The modular training course is to be piloted on 80-120 health professionals in Bulgaria, Latvia, Serbia and Turkey. The project will also raise awareness and contribute to a social dialogue about discrimination and social exclusion for individuals/families with disfiguring conditions.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

For further information please view the Face Value webpage.

When Looks get in the way: Optimising patient outcomes through the training of health care professionals

The Centre for Appearance Research is leading a EU funded collaboration between Universities and NGO’s across six European countries. The group is developing an academic programme for health professionals from a variety of specialist areas (doctors, nurses, dentists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists etc.), which will provide training to enable them to identify and support patients with appearance-related issues and thus optimise patient outcomes.

This is in response to research that has shown that a significant number of patients may have concerns about their appearance or body image that could impact on their health and psychosocial well-being, and influence their health-care decision making and their recovery.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

For further information please view the When Looks webpage.

Promoting shared decision making about appearance-altering surgery

Researchers in CAR have developed an intervention, known as PEGASUS, to support shared decision making between patients seeking surgery that will alter their appearance and their potential surgical team. Research to date has explored its use with women contemplating breast reconstruction after mastectomy or breast augmentation as a cosmetic procedure.

For more information go to:

Appearance Matters on Facebook

In this exciting new study, researchers from the Centre for Appearance Research are exploring the ways in which young people use Facebook and how they feel about themselves and their bodies.

The study will significantly contribute to our understanding of body image concern in adolescents by investigating in depth one potential contributing source, that of social networking sites, which have now become an integral part of young people’s lives. We are in the process of recruiting approximately 1000 adolescent girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 16 years. The findings will inform a theoretical model to explain the relationship between Facebook use and body dissatisfaction and help to promote safe and healthy use of technology.

This project is funded by the University of the West of England.

Find out more information about this project.

Mirror, Mirror Project

The aim of the Mirror, Mirror Project is to develop a teacher training pack that addresses the consequences of negative body image. The project sets itself the aim of lowering dropout rates and increasing completion rates of VET (vocational education and training) students in partner countries by focusing on precisely those dropout aspects seemingly ignored or avoided by others when addressing the same issue.

Promoting awareness about these issues to teachers will ultimately contribute to an easier and more successful training completion and access to the job market for the students.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

Find out more about this project.

Appearance Matters: Optimising the outcomes for vocational guidance counselling and vocational training

In collaboration with five partners from across Europe, CAR researchers aim to develop training for new or existing vocational guidance counsellors and vocational trainers, to enable them to understand and recognise the causes and consequences of disfigurement and/or appearance dissatisfaction in their clients and of the stigma and/or discrimination faced by these individuals.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

Find out more about this project and the partners.

Identifying the psychosocial factors and processes contributing to successful adjustment to disfiguring conditions

In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the Centre for Appearance Research worked in collaboration with researchers across the UK, to investigate psychological factors that influence adjustment to a visible difference. A CBT based intervention manual for specialists working with individuals with a visible difference has been developed as a result of this research. This project was supported by The Healing Foundation.

To learn more about the project please see the report summary or the full report.

Perspectives: A Photographic Study

As part of the overall aim of promoting positive attitudes towards diversity in appearance among the general public, researchers at CAR are working on some novel ways to improve levels of understanding about different forms of visible difference and in doing so, promoting people with an unusual aspect to their appearance as just that – people first, who just happen to have an unusual aspect to their appearance.

In this project we collaborated with professional photographer, Joanne de Nobriga. Joanne worked with participants on an individual basis to produce a photographic ‘portrait’ of them – not a ‘posed’ portrait in the conventional sense, but one which comes to life by communicating something about who they are and what they do. Participants were also asked to write a short biography about themselves to accompany the photo, so that they can introduce themselves to viewers of the photograph in a way of their choosing.

YP Face IT

Researchers from CAR have been working with young people to develop an online psychosocial support tool for young people with a visible difference. An NIHR funded feasibility trial to evaluate YP Face IT in primary care ended in October 2016 and we are seeking funding for the definitive trial.

The Succeed Body Image Programme

The Succeed Body Image Programme is an evidence based peer led negative body image and eating disorder prevention program. In collaboration with The Succeed Foundation, members of CAR are currently rolling out and evaluating the program in schools and universities in the UK.

The Scar Free Foundation

Funded by The Scar Free Foundation, members of CAR will be working closely with researchers at the University of Bristol (and other research partners) to inform the psychosocial aspects of this study. This is a 5 year project to establish a biobank of DNA material for children (and families) born with cleft in the UK from 2011. As well as blood/tissue samples, the 'bank' will collect detailed family history/environmental information for each child. Over time this resource, which will be open access, should provide a uniquely valuable tool for epidemiological and genetic studies in cleft.

The Bristol team will work  in close collaboration with the Scar Free Foundation Cleft Clinical Trials Team at the University of Manchester.

Find out more about The Cleft Collective.



Cosmetic Surgery Interventions

This project focuses on assessing the feasibility of routinely using a brief psychological screening and follow-up tool for patients seeking cosmetic surgical procedures. The project is funded by The Scar Free Foundation and The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

The Scar Free Foundation Children’s Burns Research Centre

Funded by The Scar Free Foundation , researchers in CAR are members of the Burns Collective, working with clinicians and researchers at North Bristol NHS Trust, the University of Bristol, Bath University and Cardiff University on a psychosocial stream within this exciting new, multi-disciplinary research group. The programme as a whole is aiming to improve the provision of care for young people and their families affected by burn injuries.

Find out more about the Children's Burns Research Centre.

Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS) in Burns

Funded by Restore Burn and Wound Research members of CAR are developing patient reported outcome measures PROMS for use by clinicians and researchers working with people affected by burn injuries.

Does Appearance Matter?

Members of CAR have been working with staff at Explore@Bristol an award-winning science centre, to develop an interactive exhibit titled ‘First Impressions’ which aims to encourage the general public to consider their use of appearance-related stereotypes and to promote acceptance of diversity of appearance. This project has been made possible with the support of the British Psychological Society and the Department of Psychology, UWE.

Breast Cancer and Body Image

With the support of Breast Cancer Campaign researchers at CAR have conducted a range of studies examining the psychosocial impact of breast cancer including breast reconstruction, DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), the experiences of Black and South Asian women, and interventions to support patients affected by chemotherapy-related hair loss.

PhD research projects

View a list of current and recently completed PhD research projects.

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