How much “Photoshopping” is acceptable in beauty advertisements?

It depends on what’s being sold; if it’s selling me a product that covers blemishes, then I don’t want to see so much retouching that skin loses texture, blemishes disappear (in a way that’s not actually feasible using the product!), etc. In a mascara ad, I don’t want to see lash inserts or digitally added lashes to improve how the mascara looks. In general, I don’t mind retouching as long as it looks achievable–like someone in the best lighting with a team of artists behind them.

— Christine
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None whatsoever. And the widespread use of photoshop is the reason why I never take beauty ads seriously when judging a product.

I don’t care for ads about skin products or mascaras since I always base my decision on written reviews. What infuriates me is color products (eyeshadows, lipsticks, highlighters etc.) that have been color-corrected to mislead from what the actual color or tone they are. Looking at you, UD with Backtalk palette!

Nailed it…and I’m well beyond annoyed. My ‘rule’ is not to take back stuff that is my fault for getting..and it clearly was…for believing them!

I think very little should be allowed — if it’s a face product such as concealer, foundation, blush, highlighter, etc. then the skin shouldn’t be altered to cover scars, hide pores, and eliminate wrinkles. For mascara, no changes to lashes at all. For any product, the color should not be manipulated.

And for what it’s worth, I no longer believe ANY mascara ads.

Even if things weren’t retouched, the lighting, the models, the makeup artists are all capable of achieving a look that you, yourself, may not be able to recreate. With that said, I’d love to see more transparency in this industry, i.e. disclaimers from both beauty brands and beauty influencers noting that a photo was altered or enhanced.

If it’s a magazine cover or a fashion shoot or something like that, a minimal amount is alright for me. If it’s a beauty campaign advertising a certain product, then I’d prefer to see none at all because I want to see how the product actually works. I’m so over mascara ads with massive falsies while the model pretends to apply an empty mascara wand. The ones that annoy me the most are 20 year old models selling anti aging skincare. ????

“20 year old models selling anti aging skincare” YES!!!! That’s a huge pet peeve of mine, along with photos of slimming shapewear being modeled by skinny women.

Oh you mean like Cara Delevigne’s new Dior Capture Totale ads? Haha! so true. And I couldn’t agree more about the mascara ads. I’ve yet to see one without false lashes.

I say photoshop ad nauseum with disclaimers.

I’m thinking of models advertising a product and it being implied that “with this product, you can achieve xxxx” – those models have an army of stylists and lighting technicians behind them and probably an 8 hour workday for the “insert look here” photoshoot. If that’s the case, show a before photo untouched, then they can add the fancypants end result or photospread, so long as they add the disclaimer “all photos henceforth have an ungodly amount of stylists and lighting technicians, a truck load of spackle, 4 wind machines, an unlimited budget, a model that may or may not have had enhancements/augmentation, infinite chances to retake the shoot and face-tuning sorcery that could make an elephant look like a unicorn”.

There is a makeup artist on youtube – Goar Avetisyan – and the videos show the progression of the model from the start all the way to the glamor shot at the end. The transformation is amazing, and I appreciate being shown all that it takes to achieve the look. I don’t believe that product xxxx is a miracle worker, I can accept just a solid staple and workhorse. When there is a disclaiimer and/or you’re shown what it can look like used another way or in conjunction with product xxxx, at least you are informed and have a choice. I say add the disclaimer and show me the process, not just the glamorized (or hideous) end result.

As you said, it should never be done for the product being sold, as with concealer or makeup and blemishes. None should ever be done to make products look more opaque or pigmented than they are.

However, I don’t care if stray hairs are taken out, or if a lipstick ad removes a zit from the model’s face, and other minor stuff like that that doesn’t affect how the product works.

Like most others, I would like to see NO photo-shopping. If the product (skin care or makeup) is as good as you claim, you should be willing to show us just how it really and truly performs on mere mortals who have to walk around in the real world. And while you’re at it, please stop showing me “anti-aging” or “youth enhancing” products (skin care or face makeup) on 15 year olds. Show it to me on someone 40 or 50 or – heavens – even 60! L’Oreal is doing that with Helen Mirren and some others, and Olay/Covergirl are using Maye Musk so I suppose it’s a start but even so, some of those photos look pretty heavily “manipulated”.

Absolutely agree, Mariella! It bugs me to no end when those ridiculous ads for anti-aging products are being modeled by someone young enough to be my child or grandchild even! Like grrrrr!!! ?

I’m sure we’re not alone, Nancy – it’s a criticism I’ve read here many times and I’ve heard from my real life friends, my hair stylist, etc. If you really want to “sell” me on your product, pick some ordinary women off the street – not model-beautiful models, not 14 year olds but women the age the product is being pitched to. Another thing that yanks my chain – a company will publicize its results – “99% reported brighter looking skin; 87% said their skin felt more hydrated….” and then you read the small print and it says “in a 14 day test of 37 individuals”…..37 people is hard a telling sampling. And I always want more information – were these people who’d not been using moisturizer before the test? Were they people who DID use a skin care program? All those “clinical results” seem pretty nebulous or misleading; I always want to know MORE.

Advertisers are purely in the business of selling as many hotcakes as they can and I don’t ever expect ads to show the full truth of what a product looks like (let alone what it would look like on me when applied in a rush in ordinary lighting!)

I’ve sat in on magazine editorial shoots and ad shoots before (ex was in the ad business) and there are plenty of models and actresses who have it in their contracts that certain flaws will be photoshopped away. And that’s just the start of what goes on. People are so used to it now they don’t realize how much is manipulated (outside the really obvious Photoshop silliness.)

But that’s why swatches, photos of real people, blogs and reviews are so incredibly valuable.

When it comes to advertising; please brands, keep it REAL. As you mentioned above, Christine, no lash inserts or falsies for mascara ads, no falsifying how well a concealer or blemish reducing product works. Or as Snow wrote below, where an ad for a color product has been altered to the degree that it’s downright deceptive. Another pet peeve of mine is when a brand “white washes”, lightens their model, especially if she is a PoC. Very unsettling. Ticks me off.

In the mascara ads, the law requires the advertiser to include the information that lash inserts or the like were used (at least here in Canada; I’m guessing it’s the same in the US and other countries but I’m not sure) – well, the print in the tv ads is so minute and it’s on the screen for such a short time (2 seconds, maybe) that reading it is almost impossible. It complies with the law but, seriously – why not just show me what your mascara can do and that might just impress me enough to try it. Ditch the inserts and enhancements.

Honestly, photoshopping in advertisements doesn’t bother me. Advertisements are designed to be fake. That’s just advertisements. The TRUE advertisements I seek out are blogs and reviews like yours. I trust REAL reviews from REAL people before I would trust an advertisement made to make the product look as desirable as possible in an attempt to persuade me to impulse buy.

So in short, any photoshopping is acceptable to me because advertisements are not how I purchase products. Reviews are. Brands can keep photoshopping; all they’re doing is wasting advertising dollars because savvy consumers just don’t care.

I would love to say none – but you get weird shadows, stray hairs, uneven colours/saturation and so on. If they only touched up stuff like that, I might not have a problem with it. But digitally altering a models shape, slimming waist and thighs, elongating limbs to weird proportions, erasing perfectly natural knee and elbow creases, etc is deceptive and I would like the industry to move away from these “norms”.

I have seen underwear ads that make the model look like a slightly melted mannequin – lengthened, slimmed down limbs where the proportions looked all weird, a waist circumference smaller than her skull and no lines anywhere on her body – poor girl looked like a warped paper doll with floral knickers printed over her bits. And don’t even get me started on mascara adverts where can you literally pick out the false lashes! And I’m still perplexed as to why lingerie models can’t have pubes or nipples AT ALL…. (oh wait, yeah I can think of a reason after all, funnily enough – but that doesn’t mean it’s a good enough reason)

Beauty adverts that lighten skin tone (not just evening it out), remove features like beauty marks, freckles, belly buttons or oh, the odd limb here or there or photoshop a spokesperson’s face to the point where they are unrecognizable (Lancome, cough) should be tossed straight into the trash, where they belong.

I think it’s ridiculous, mascara ads with obvious fake eyelashes on the model, just to name one. I don’t take any of it seriously.

I am not a big fan of photo-shopping for any reason. I personally feel like it contributes to unachievable looks that affect the self esteem of young people. As others have stated, the models have a team of people standing just off camera to tweak and straighten and light in a way that makes them look flawless. And they only have to maintain that look for the length of a camera flash. They aren’t living with the product, running to class, carpooling, cleaning the house, working a regular job. I am really against all of it and the increasingly hedonistic society we all live in. There are some who would say that just purchasing and using makeup contributes to that “I have to look perfect” life. I don’t think so but maybe I am deluding myself. I don’t have anything against trying to look our best or makeup as a creative outlet but we should have realistic expectations and photo-shopping does not give us that.

I think American advertisers should do what is required in France. You can do a lot of photoshopping but you have to disclose ALL of it.

Also, this is why I don’t rely on ads anymore. Even Instagram posts are filtered and altered. I go directly to blogs and reviewers I trust and I sample the product. Ads are basically lies.

I think photoshopping any cosmetic product should be banned. I know cosmetic companies sell the dream, the hope, the promise of beauty, but they are resorting to fraud in order to do it. Disgusting! Dishonest! Deceptive!

I am not bothered if they retouch the skin, remove blemishes, etc, as long as it has nothing to do with the makeup. It is absurd to me that any ad would use obviously photoshopped pictures of the makeup. Some of the most popular beauty “gurus” on IG & other sites are so edited it is like looking at a painting. There is not a shred left of the actual makeup. Then everyone is in the comments telling them how talented they are. I am disgusted that such fakery is celebrated.

None, as far as I’m concerned. I never even look at a product on the shelves if I’ve seen some glorified image of it in a magazine. How can you possibly buy something without knowing how it really performs: fave bugbears – mascara!

You have all covered the points I would make, except I don’t want disclaimers.
Use your mascara! Don’t use false lashes & a disclaimer.
The other huge irritation for me, is Maybelline lipstick ads. I have seen these gorgeous lipstick colors in an ad.
Underneath it says something about “trying X color to get this look”!
Excuse me. It’s an ad for a Maybelline lipstick. Why can’t I just buy that color? Because you used several colors to make that color? Or you photoshopped it to look like that color? Or you used a Mac lipstick in your Maybelline ad?
Makes me crazy.

I’m glad CVS is rejecting the idea. Somewhere I read their beauty ads will contain minimal photoshopping or entirely. I do not mind it much I guess for models and magazines is ok. but it can be deceiving for normal people in everyday life pretending some makeup will do some magic. I think a foundation shouldn’t hide the freckles I don’t like the overly made up bloggers and such it is just too much sometimes.

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