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Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman: Photo Retouching in the HBA Industry


Recently I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. The bride and groom decided to have their photographer take photos of a new trend called “the first look” where the groom sees the bride before the ceremony. The bride got a little exuberant when she saw her groom to be and accidentally got lipstick on his white-collar. While we anxiously worried about the pink mark and searched our purses for a stain remover, the photographer simply told us not to worry. She would Photoshop the pink out of all the pictures where it showed.

Photoshopping Controversy

The art of Photoshopping is not a new phenomenon, but it seems the more commonplace it becomes, the more controversial it turns. Photoshopping can erase accidental lipstick marks, wrinkles, blemishes, and even excess body weight. This technique can also add curves, make colors more vibrant, or give hair some extra shine. Recently several advertisements for makeup and beauty products have been pulled in America and the UK for inaccurately representing the results of the featured product. One ad featuring Taylor Swift claimed the mascara she was wearing would give lashes two times the volume, while at the same time including the line “lashes enhanced in post production” in miniscule print. Swift’s lashes, while beautiful, were enhanced using a Photoshop like method. Government organizations like the National Advertising Division are paying close attention to product claims like these and insist “product demonstrations in advertisements must be truthful and accurate and cannot be enhanced,” otherwise the ad will not be aired.

What Women Really Think

Last year Glamour Magazine conducted an independent nationwide survey of 1,000 women to find out their opinions on image alterations. Commercial retouching appears to be viewed cynically – only 43% of women believe that it is ok for magazines to retouch and 39% say the same of the advertising world. Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist says of the results:  “When women think about commercial retouching, it conjures up an image of a face and body that is biologically impossible and not attainable…Study after study has shown that when we see perfected, altered images, it leads to anxiety and low self-esteem and can even play a role in the development of eating disorders.”

Natural Beauty Trends

Responding to the growing number of women looking for a more accurate representation of themselves, several beauty companies have started campaigns that focus on what they claim is “real beauty.” Dove began this trend a few years ago and even started a program to improve self-esteem in girls. Bobbi Brown cosmetics also launched a campaign called “Pretty Powerful” in 2010. More recently, Bare Escentuals began a “Force of Beauty” campaign that features women who were selected in a blind casting call and MAC Cosmetics named 90-year-old Isis Apfel as their new spokeswoman! Barney’s has also announced that they will begin a natural beauty campaign this spring.

With four beauty ads pulled in the last eight months it seems as though some companies may continue to push through altered images to enhance their claims. It is clear, however, that voices of the average female consumer are beginning to be heard. Even Glamour Magazine told readers after revealing their survey results that “as your responses make clear, retouching has its limits – or should – and Glamour plans to take a stronger role in setting ours. You told us you don’t want little things like freckles and scars removed, and we agree; those are the kinds of details that make each woman on the planet unique and beautiful.”

The bottom line is that consumers and the media are more actively voicing their discontent with photo alteration practices. The Pert Group understands the beauty industry and consumer attitudes towards these important issues that can build or detract from brand loyalty. We have experts who understand the variety of real concerns facing the industry and have experience working with some of the world’s most well-known brands. We can help you better understand the attitudes of your consumers, and identify any new market opportunities you may have with them.  How can we help your company?

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