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.

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

In collaboration with 34 countries representing over 55 organisations across Europe, the Centre for Appearance Research co-ordinated 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. The collaboration has forged 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 by the Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), with support from the European Commission. The project is COST Action IS1210.

Find out more about this project.

Be Positive

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

We prepared 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 was accomplished by developing a training curriculum "Be Positive". The result is that organisations have a resource that address the psychological issues that are relevant to this group in a positive way.

This project was funded with support from the European Commission.

For further information please view Be Positive


As part of a consortium of multi-disciplinary vocational training experts, CAR developed a modular training course to educate health professionals about the educational trajectories of common congenital anomalies such as cleft lip and/or palate. The aim of the course is to increase awareness about the need for diagnostic screening and improve access to care provision to support childrens' educational development.

The Innovative Health Educational Module (IHEM) is currently being piloted with 50-100 health professionals in Bulgaria, Latvia, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey.

This project was funded with support from the European Commission.

For further information please view the IHEM webpage.

Face Value

In collaboration with a consortium of experts from across seven European countries, CAR developed 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 was piloted on 80-120 health professionals in Bulgaria, Latvia, Serbia and Turkey. The project has also raised awareness and contributed to a social dialogue about discrimination and social exclusion for individuals/families with disfiguring conditions.

This project was 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 led a EU funded collaboration between universities and NGO’s across six European countries. The group developed an academic programme for health professionals from a variety of specialist areas (doctors, nurses, dentists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists etc.), which provide training to enable them to identify and support patients with appearance-related issues and thus optimise patient outcomes.

This was in response to research showing 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 was 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 health professionals and their patients who are considering surgery that will alter their appearance.

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 purpose of the Mirror, Mirror Project was to develop a teacher training pack that addresses the consequences of negative body image. The project aimed at 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 ultimately contributes to an easier and more successful training completion and access to the job market for the students.

This project was 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 developed 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 was 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 Scar Free (formerly 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.

Scar Free Foundation's Cleft Collective cohort study

The Cleft Collective is the world's largest cleft lip and palate research programme. The project is an initiative of the UK charity The Scar Free Foundation, and is a collaboration between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol. The programme aims to address three key questions that parents often ask following a diagnosis of cleft lip/palate in their new-born: 1) What caused my child’s cleft? 2) What are the best treatments for my child? 3) Will my child be OK as he/she grows up? With the help of NHS cleft teams across the UK, more than 3,000 children and their families are being invited to contribute biological samples (such as saliva) and longitudinal questionnaire data, as well as access to medical and educational records.  The information collected will create a comprehensive resource of data relating to individuals born with cleft and their families, and will be made available to researchers and clinicians around the world for high quality collaborative research projects. Please visit The Cleft Collective website for more information.

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. Further funding was provided by Dan's Fund for Burns, and the Scar Free Foundation Children's Burns Research Centre

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 Now 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.

Back to top