Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Temptalia Asks You


How do you feel about airbrushing in beauty advertising? How much is appropriate? When is it too much? Will it affect your purchasing decision?

Temptalia's AnswerI like my ads to look like ads to an extent, but I don’t want it to be over-the-top and obvious. Women should look like women. softening fine lines are OK in regular ads, but I’m more frustrated by extensive airbrushing in anti-aging advertisements, though, since you can never tell the efficacy of a product by the ad.

Thanks to Jennifer for today’s question!

Got a question idea? Submit yours here.

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

Comments that include advertisements, self-promotion, insults, etc. may be in violation of our comment policy and subject to deletion. Please see our comment policy for more information.

62 thoughts on “How do you feel about airbrushing in beauty advertising?

  1. Tigress

    I don’t care one teeny tiny bit since everyone generally looks like a caricature of a human being. I’ve come to expect nothing but false advertising.

  2. Maeve

    It frustrates me. A LOT. I hate that beauty ads can’t even show real, beautiful women, but always have to make some tweak to make her look ‘perfect.’ Perfection doesn’t exist! It isn’t attainable! So just show women as their beautiful, natural selves. But, that’s just my own opinion.

  3. Ruth

    I disagree with it, totally false advertising.

  4. sam

    i dont really like airbrushing in anything. i get annoyed by them. i wanna know what the products will actually do for me!

  5. Pawsha

    The mascara ones are ridiculous!

    • Janet T

      Exactly! And it definitely is questionable – like, if a brand’s mascara isn’t good enough to be used alone in an ad without being retouched, then how bad is it? All credibility of its claims just goes away. If a mascara (or any product, for that matter) needs to be retouched to oblivion in order to make it appealing, then the product can’t be as fabulous as they claim. Otherwise, they would use it without photoshop!

    • Avatar of Evelyn evelyn

      I completely agree. Mascara ads are the worst offenders because they are so obviously fake. I ignore them completely.

    • samplelover

      I agree! You can never tell the effect they have on the eyelashes!!

    • Abby

      Totally agree! 99% of mascara ads are better off advertising for falsies.

  6. I would love a world where airbrushed advertisements were banned, but realistically, as long as the product itself isn’t airbrushed, I’m fine. (e.g. it’s a foundation ad and the skin is airbrushed vs. it’s a mascara ad and the skin is airbrushed). I love the MUFE airbrush free ad…really makes me think the product can stand its own ground, if that makes sense.

  7. As a business student, I understand the “do what will sell” philosophy, but I cannot stand with airbrushing and special effects are misleading.

    If you read the fine print in mascara/hair commercials, you’ll see “lash inserts used” or “hair extensions used.” This is absolutely not okay!

    I think LORAC goes overboard with the airbrushing to the point that the women look like cartoons instead of real humans who were photographed.

  8. Kristine

    A little is ok but what I hate are mascara ads. You can totally tell the lashes are completely fake AND computerized. I don’t know if I’ve seen one mascara ad with just real lashes.

  9. Andrea

    What really irks me is false eyelashes in mascara ads!!! The mascara WONT make your eyelashes look like that because the model is wearing falsies!! So misleading!

  10. Ashley

    It’s too much when it distorts what the product actually does. A good example of bad airbrushing / editing is MAC’s Blast O’ Blue lipstick. The model wore opaque blue (vivid) lips, while the actual product was actually VERY sheer. Another example is in Milani’s Infinite Liquid Eyeliner. The ad has a very blended blue line on the model, which is not possible with the actual product (it’s a great product still). It’s actually obvious that the blue line (supposedly the eyeliner in color “infinite”) was placed there via photo editing. How insulting! People who love makeup are not stupid!

    For the sake of artistry and advertising, a little airbrushing is acceptable (makes the products and models look cleaner, perhaps, with lighting), but misrepresentation of the products is never okay.

  11. Ashley

    And just to add on–I think an example of good airbrushing is MAC’s MAC Me Over promo pictures. They’re very lightly airbrushed, but the individuals are still appear to be themselves, not erased in any way. Fine lines, wrinkles, freckles etc. are still there, but the lighting also looks wonderful, and the shots are very clear and well-made.

    • Avatar of Diana queenfrostine

      I LOVE MAC’s Make Me Over promo ads. Even if they were photo-edited within an inch of their lives (though like you, I don’t feel they were), MAC’s to be applauded for bringing faces into cosmetics ads that you never usually see. It’s nice to see an ad campaign that reflects the diversity of their clientele, one that’s of both genders, all races, all ages and all sizes.

    • Ani_BEE

      That’s the one thing I do like about MAC ads is that they try to gt creative with th lighting and keep the airbrushing to a minimal. You can still see the texture of the skin on their models.

  12. Shannon

    Not a fan of it at all. I think it’s completely false advertising. I don’t think it should be done at all. Not for the tiny zit or the deep wrinkles on your face. As a huge consumer of cosmetics, I don’t believe the images for any cosmetic advertisements. Most of the time they are so over the top manipulated nothing looks real anymore. I try my best to go in person & test products out myself.

  13. The point of a photo retouch should be to fix something that wasn’t obvious during the photoshoot, but detracts from the final presentation. If a retoucher removes shine and keeps a nice, normal glow, then that’s fine; but if the face doesn’t look real, that’s the same thing

  14. Courtney

    I mostly don’t mind if the advertisement is for an eyeshadow or lipstick as long as the color and finish are accurate. But for foundation… A totally different story. Most models in foundation ads look as if they’ve never had a blemish in their lives. In a lot of ads, models’ noses and chins looks to be on the same plane as the rest of their faces. They just look TOO smooth. And nobody’s skin looks like that. So… I think foundation advertisements are the least likely to convey the capabilities of a product accurately.

  15. Emiloulou

    In some countries, L’Oreal had to remove ads that were way too airbrushed. One of the Chapman sisters recently wrote about this subject on Pixiwoo (post from Thursday, 4 August 2011).
    Finally authorities are reacting to these lying ads!

  16. meh… it doesn’t really bother me that much. the idea of it IS kind of odd though, since the ad is selling makeup shouldn’t the ad show you what it can really do??? but again, i don’t really mind – mascara ads are horrid though! i don’t understand how those are even legal.

  17. rowan

    it depends…some photoshopping is fine. they’re selling an ideal…but it needs to be believable. when they go over the top, it looks creepy &, not beautiful at all.

    good: http://www.temptalia.com/images/maccosmetics/media_doubledazzlep001.jpg
    clearly it’s been photoshopped, but you can still see texture and freckles on her skin, shadow under her eyes, eyeliner texture, etc. it’s a beautiful image, but not waxwork-like at all.

    http://sassisamblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Julia-Roberts_Lancome_01.jpg
    scary, she doesn’t look human. if you saw someone like that in reality, you would get the fright of your life. her eyes look like laser beams!

  18. Avatar of Diana queenfrostine

    Does anyone actually look at ads and believe that anything about the picture gives the viewer an accurate representation of what results from using that product would be like? I think airbrushing is lame, but I’m so used to being lied to in 1,001 ways by cosmetics ads that I can’t be bothered to really care about this in one way or another. Anyone who buys products based on what a model looks like in an ad is a fool in my opinion, because airbrushing isn’t the only way they lie to you. Mascara ads where they apply mascara over faux lashes (which are likely full, long and lush without mascara on top) are just as big of a lie, and that requires no photo editing.

  19. LM

    it tends to alienate me as a customer when I see claims about a product that’s enhanced. I don’t mind as much when it’s more of an art thing. I mean I think Drew Barrymore’s Cover Girl ads are really pretty and sometimes give me makeup ideas even though I’d never buy Cover Girl. things like false lashes on a mascara ad annoy me but I can ignore them in a perfume ad.

  20. z

    i hate it. it’s unnecessary to manufacture this false ethereal perfection just to sell products. most of the time it’s a straight-up lie, i.e. models in mascara ads clearly wearing false lashes and promising the same impossible results from the product. we all know it’s false but we accept it anyway. it allows brands to focus less on the quality of the actual product and put all their effort into pretending it’s something it isn’t. i think the surge in popularity of blogs like yours and the youtube beauty community in general has a lot to do with women needing an honest and clear opinion for once. we can see the real performance of the products on normal girls who don’t have the advantage of insane airbrushing and camera tricks, and hopefully avoid spending our money on a false promise because of it.

  21. Nic

    I don’t object to ALL airbrushing. If a model has a blemish or mole or something that’s going to distract the viewers from what’s being advertised, then go ahead and edit it out. But don’t edit what’s being advertised. If you’re advertising mascara, there shouldn’t be any false lashes or editing used to make them look fuller or longer than they look in real life. Don’t airbrush out the lines on a model’s face if you’re advertising an anti-wrinkle product. It’s false advertising and frankly it pisses me off that companies think I’m that stupid – it’s insulting.

  22. Hend

    I’d prefer an obvious airbrushing rather than a perfect photo that’s really airbrushed but doesn’t look like it , looks perfect and believable , Like: YSL teint resist foundation Ad , the model looks horribly perfect and it looks like a normal photo !

  23. Avatar of Celine Celine

    i dont mind airbrushing so much but it really irritates me when you see adverts for mascara and its obviously been airbrushed and shot with false eyelashes in. Seriously, what is the point of the advert? x

  24. Nancy

    I do not believe airbrushing should be allowed in ads. I would like to see some people over age 40,50,60,70 and 80 in beauty ads who have not had cosmetic surgery, Botox or airbrushing. Look at the customers at make-up counters, mature women buy a lot of products. The makeup companies don’t even have sales associates that age who know how to recommend and apply makeup for mature women. If they would stop airbrushing and cater more to Baby Boomers, I think their profits would only increase.

    • Avatar of Gina Gina

      That’s strange that you say that, because I work in cosmetics at my local Macy’s, and I’m one of about 5 people in the whole department under the age of 30.

  25. Airbrushing makes us the “normal” people feel like we should look that way….Some airbrushing is ok, but it overdoes it to the extent that it is not real and is misleading…Grazia magazine admitted that it narrowed Duchess of Cambridge’s waist with her wedding dress.

  26. Inge

    Airbrushing is a part of advertisement. That is why beauty blogs are so vital because it allows me to get a evaluation of a product before purchasing it. Mascara ads are the worst, I don’s think I have seen one where the model dosen’t have huge fake lashes on.

  27. Jill

    I agree that I hate ads for mascara with false eyelashes. That bothers me more than airbrushed skin. I’ve come to expect skin to be airbrushed. If it’s a color product, I would hope the color i left as close to the original as possible.

  28. John

    They don’t matter one bit to me, and shouldn’t to anyone. After a person, me for example, accumulates enough common sense and knowledge about the cosmetic and skincare industries including ingredients and production processes, ads simply become irrelevant. Sure they are great to look at; the faces shown are always beautiful, stunning, etc, etc… But ultimately they carry absolutely no weight in the determination of how well a product performs for any given person.

  29. Carrie

    Overall I’m not a fan of it because most advertisers don’t know when to stop. Julia Roberts looked ridiculous in those ads: she didn’t look real, let alone at all believable so I don’t even know how you can make the argument that it was even a good make-up ad.

  30. If it totally changes the look of the product the ad is promoting, then it’s false advertising… It doesn’t affect my purchasing decision though, I look up how it’ll actually look and perform.
    I don’t care about how they make the people in them look though. Well, I’ll be frustrated if I think the person looked better before or something like that, but yeah…

  31. Avatar of Laurel Laurel

    I never use ads to tell me what a product does, just to tell me about a product. I then do my own research about the product’s efficacy. There could be a dog on the ad and it wouldn’t make any difference to me.

  32. Brooke

    I would prefer women in advertisements to look like real people, however, the thing that irks me the most is mascara ads. I want to see what the mascara does, not how nice their choice of false lashes was.

  33. Avatar of Mariella Mariella

    I’m sure it doesn’t “sell” but I would much prefer less airbrushing/retouching, rather than more. If I’m buying something touted to give a “poreless look”, I’d like to see the REAL results using the product. It’s one reason I really love “before and after” type photos and articles, videos, etc. I want to see the real results I can expect.

  34. Scarlett

    It only bothers me if airbrushing has caused the spokesmodel to look like a completely different person, e.g. Zooey Deschanel’s Rimmel ads. It sort of defeats the purpose of having a famous person in one’s advertisements if no one can tell who they are from the picture! I also don’t care for the mannequin, deer-in-headlights look that turns up with some frequency. I don’t base my decisions on products from the advertisement anyway, because obviously, the company isn’t going to present any sort of realistic expectation.

  35. lazeny

    Airbrushing is the reason why I never trust ads. I always rely on blogs and swatches and modeling pics to get the gauge of the product. Who are they kidding? It amazes me that somehow they believe that we will buy a product just because it looks pretty on ads. In this economy, even if we have the money we are careful in spending it, so we make sure if the products truly deliver and are worth paying for.

  36. Lauryn

    I really find it to be misleading. Because when my clients see these products, they can’t understand why their skin,lashes, lips, whatever doesn’t “look like the girl in the commercial”.. its hard to explain that what you “see” is not what you get. I don’t even know how this practice is even legal…

  37. Steph

    I don’t like overly airbrushed advertisements at all. A great advertisement should catch my eye and make me look at the product, not make the first thing that pops into my head “Wow, too much airbrushing.” Companies need to use airbrushing techniques to enhance photos, not make them unhuman.

  38. Avatar of artemis artemis

    i only agree to the ‘erase the blemishes and cellulite part’ but i don’t like it when they make waists seem smaller, breasts look bigger and so on

  39. Dana

    Beauty and cosmetic ads are so misleading, I don’t see how they are allowed to get away with everything. The mascara ads are ridiculous, as are airbrushed 16 year olds as modeling for antiaging products.

  40. Can I just say something tangentially related? Using false lashes in mascara ads should be illegal.

  41. jan

    I don’t mind it if the advertisement is for eye shadow or lipstick, but it bugs me if its for a skin care or face makeup product, I feel that it is false advertising if the product being advertised is for the skin

  42. vee

    i really hate that sometimes, especially when i wanna buy a foundation and the model wearing it looks perfect… i would just assume its full coverage. — and would think opposite if the model has moles or freckles showing.. for mascara ads, i know their lashes aren’t that long.. i kinda just thought they wear falsies or had lash extensions before…
    sometimes even the lip products are advertised wrong.. like in the photo, the lip color is gorgeous, and when i swatch or use on myself its darker or not the correct shade.

  43. Courtney

    I totally understand the need to look aesthetic, but it’s still annoying knowing that you rarely get the truth out of the products. Nobody’s skin is THAT perfect. And don’t even get me started on mascara ads that claim “they’re real!” when they’re so obviously fake lashes.

  44. Avatar of Liz Liz

    Over-airbrushing *does* bother me a little, but it only affects my opinion of how nice the ad is to look at, and not whether or not I would buy the product – since ads are usually a horrible judge of how a product actually works anyway.

  45. AW

    I don’t pay any attention to beauty advertisements because they are overly airbrushed. These ads are pointless because I don’t think anyone pays attention to them. I don’t think that these days the ads are what sell products. I think youtube and blogs are a better ‘ad’ for products than anything else.

  46. I think it should be illegal to enhance images in ads without noting that the images are enhanced. And not a tiny ‘retouched photo’ note in fine print way at the bottom of the ad, either.
    I’m perfectly aware that it is done, but I’m constantly shocked by how many otherwise informed and intelligent women have no idea that airbrushing/ photoshopping is the norm.

  47. Sharon

    I’m on the “I Hate the Mascara Ads” bandwagon. Cosmetic companies must think we are stupid and believe our eyelashes are going to look like those in the ads with their mascara. The false lashes are so over the top and obvious in all of them. They should be outlawed and only “real” lashes used to depict the mascara, of course if that were the case a lot of them would not sell!

  48. Wendy

    I get airbrushing, I understand it. It’s like car commercials with the impossibly tiny lettering “professional driver on closed course” disclaimer. Trust me you will NEVER get your Prius to do that.

    I’m a grown, mature (45), educated woman and I know a touch up, air brush or lash enhancement when I see it, even forgetting the fact that I have been in the beauty industry for over 25 years. The folks I worry about are the younger consumers who already are trying to reach an impossible standard.

    My son is 22 and does a little print work, I think he’s perfect (because I’m his Mom, derp) but you should see the grease pencil on some of his pics! Holy Touch-up Batman! You would think he was a mutant. Thank heavens I raised him to ignore that, he just laughs and says “I didn’t get the job because I was airbrushed Mom, they like the original me.” I just wish we could see and accept more of the “original me’s” out there, I’d still buy your mascara.

  49. Avatar of raloves ra

    Generally, it is very obvious that the image is not an actual image but ‘man-made’. I also think the more airbrushed the cheaper the ad looks. Not only it does not help selling the product to me I have developed a prejudice that the more useless the product the more airbrushed the woman in the picture. I am not exaggerating really. I quickly skip such ads.

  50. Saffy

    I’d prefer if there wasn’t ANY airbrushing. Not only is it false advertising, but it creates unrealistic expectations about how women should look. Companies: If your product works as well as you claim, show us the actual results instead of photoshopping your models.