How much "Photoshopping" is acceptable in beauty advertisements?

How much “Photoshopping” is acceptable in beauty advertisements? Share your thoughts!

I don’t mind touching up the skin, but the skin should have texture, fine lines, and so on! With makeup, cleaning up edges or erasing smudges or smears, sure. I don’t like when the colors get altered, replaced, or pumped up to the point where it’s not just a matter of adding contrast but making the product look 100 times better than it really is.

Do you have a question idea? Submit yours here.

We hope you'll consider supporting Temptalia by shopping through our links below. Thanks!
Explore Temptalia

We're here to help you make better beauty purchases that you'll enjoy and love! We recommend signing up to take advantage of personalized features like tracking products you own, viewing dupes that you already have, and more!

Here are some useful resources for you:

Compare Any Two

Curious how two shades compare to each other? Type in the shades below to get instant side-by-side swatches!


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.
We hope you'll consider supporting Temptalia by shopping through our links below. Thanks!

I don’t mind it, as long as the colors aren’t altered. I’ve been around long enough to realize that what you see in ads isn’t always what you get, no matter what the product is. Even in ads for food, actual food isn’t always used. I also know what “flaws” I have, I’ve embraced them, and I don’t expect “miracles” from any product. Also, what we may perceive as being altered or photoshopped may not be; there are actually people who exist with perfect skin, lashes, etc, and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

It’s gotten so out of control. I think the adds of today will be laughed at worse than an avocado fridge in the not-to-distant future.

I remember when you could look at a product listing for a magazine cover. Now they don’t do that because the products don’t actually exist in real life for you to buy. That great nail colour is made digitally and the model wasn’t wearing polish in the pictures. Good chance those aren’t even her hands!

For me, its acceptable to photoshop the skin in a mascara or lipstick advertisement, not one for foundation
Just like they should not photoshop lashes or put fake ones on to sell a mascara.

Enough not to distract people from very obvious flaws/the focus of the picture, but not enough to qualify it as false advertising.

As someone who used to retouch images for a living, I can safely say that smudge tool to the face is generally a no-no.

I’m sick of mascara ads using false lashes on models, and I hate it when they alter the models face so much that she doesn’t look human. Nobody has picture perfect skin. I consider myself to have good skin. I’m in my early 20’s with no lines/wrinkles/sun spots/age spots/acne/etc but I do have redness from time to time and pores on my nose.

If it’s to enhance something that doesn’t directly affect the presentation of the makeup, I don’t have a problem with it. But if you’re deliberating photoshopping pictures to make your product look way better, or even to mislead people into thinking it looks different, then that’s wrong. Mascara ads are the biggest offenders here.

I hate when they photoshop beauty ads. I want to see what the product REALLY looks like on. Photoshop the background if you must, but not the model

If a product claims to do something then I don’t think you should be able to create that effect with anything but that product. If a product supposedly sits on top of skin instead of settling into lines then they shouldn’t be able to edit any product settling out. Or if a mascara isn’t supposed to clump then they shouldn’t be able to separate those lashes digitally later. Otherwise it’s false advertising and that’s illegal. I’m okay with them removing errant hairs or a scar, that’s fine.

I actually think they should take the millions of dollars they spend on photoshop and hiring movie stars and spend it on developing a better product. Then when (and if) they choose to advertise the product they should use real people in their ads. That way you get a better idea of what a product can actually do. And with the added money spent on product development they may actually be able to do some of the things they claim.

Mmh, tough question. I agree with you on the smudges and smears. However I do not like the amount of retouching in beauty ads nowadays. PhS turns what is supposed to be a picture into a work of art. I feel it contributes to making many girls and women reach for something that is not reality, which can lead to suffering. There is already so much one can do with lighting and proper makeup that to me this much PhS is something of a lie.

I’d like to see “the real deal”, to be honest. I mean, if I were buying a car, I would be really ticked if the car company was allowed to falsify (for that’s what it is) the mileage or other details about what I could realistically expect in terms of performance. We women spend a LOT of makeup and skin care and I really believe we deserve the truth (it’s one of the reasons I think so many of us embraced Paula Begoun’s books when they first came out). Makeup artists are highly skilled in any case so why not let them do their work, let the products do what they can do and then let us, the consumers, see the results? Some years ago, Jamie Lee Curtis did a magazine shoot where she very bravely showed “the real her” – with face and body imperfections, and then the “computer enhanced” final version. She wanted women to know that even SHE couldn’t/didn’t measure up to the image of her on the magazine pages. I remember a LOT of women praising her for doing this.

None. If a product doesn’t look good on the model without all the computer help, than I don’t want to be wearing it around, because I can’t be carrying around a computer in front of my face in realty. If a company is worried about the makeup and are considering photo shopping because it looks cakey and unnatural, well then the product has kind of lost it’s point our is simply too heavy for normal people to be wearing, right?

I don’t mind it at all. Adverts for me are something to gush over: something that is supposed to be a bit dream-like and unrealistic. It’s the beauty industry, and seeing a normal girl just like me… with normal imperfections, just won’t make me want to buy a product.

I really hate when they take a woman who is in her 40s or 50s and photoshop her skin so much that it looks like she is 18. Not a line or wrinkle on her entire face! It’s completely unrealistic looking.

And completely adds fire to the idea that we shouldn’t look the age we are (or that we shouldn’t accept aging gracefully). Nothing wrong with wanting to dial the clock back a bit, but when you’re 30, you aren’t 12, and when you’re 40, you’re not 18! And that’s OK!

What’s even worse is when they use a 15 year-old girl as a model for an anti-aging cream. Of course she has no fine lines under her eyes; neither did I as a teenager!

I would be more interested in purchasing something from a nonphotoshopped ad than one that you can tell is completely photoshopped. Whitening teeth is ok in my opinion, but removing wrinkles is not. the product being advertised should remain untouched. maybe if ads started looking more real we would trust beauty companies more.

I can’t believe it’s LEGAL to remove or soften wrinkles for any skincare product that touts it reduces/removes wrinkles. C’mon!

Christine, one reason your site is so valuable is that it presents the product with lots of controls in place: the same person, with pretty much the same skin color/type in each photo! It’s possible to compare one product to another and see if one item might be better than another. By contrast, an ad takes away a person’s ability to tell what’s so special about each product–it’s so removed from reality that it’s laughable.

Blemishes like pimples brushed out and harsh cast shadows on the face lightened I don’t mind. With the photoshoots I so myself these are thinks I like to touch up.

I have a prominent lines under my eyes that can look bruised with cast shadows in lighted shoots so I soften those but not erase them. 😉

I agree with using it to touch up shadows and for covering blemishes and tattoos that a client would not want in a picture, but erasing every wrinkle and stretching lashes up to the eyebrows is false advertising in my opinion.
Why not just use animated models and skip humans altogether? By the time all of the tweaking is done, that’s about all that’s left anyway!

I think it’s perfectly acceptable to colour-correct something so that it looks more accurate (not all photos show the proper balance of colour and light), but the level to which this has been taken is ridiculous. Models in cosmetic and fashion advertising don’t even look human anymore. I guess the theory is that you’re selling an idea rather than the reality, but when you look at a lot of these photos, you see that necks are impossibly long, or arms and legs are attached in the wrong place… The one thing I do enjoy about it is that it can be fun to spot the ads where things haven’t been done properly.

I was going to say the same about color correcting to make it more accurate, I used to do retouching professionally and very frequently had to correct the colors to make them more accurate to real life.

I also agree with what you said about selling an idea rather than a reality.

As far as what they SHOULD use photoshop for, I think what Christine said was pretty dead-on.

I hate when models look like CGI characters. Which I find most models in beauty ads do, so that’s why I always look up blog and youtube reviews before purchasing because I don’t place any value in the ads at all.
I mean the lashes on this models in mascara ads… come on. You aint fooling nobody!

It’s one thing to color balance because your camera lighting was too white, but it’s another to completely erase pores on skin. I’m sorry I thought makeup was supposed to do these things already. You know, shrink pores, soften blemishes/redness, fill in bald areas on your eyebrows, make lips/eyes appear fuller, and similar ideas. Why are we digitally enhancing our analog enhancements?

This is why I prefer to see blog swatches or swatch them myself in the store. How does this perform in real life?

The retouching shouldn’t alter the perception of the product they’re trying to sell. If they’re trying to sell eyeshadow and alter the colors, bah to them. If they’re trying to sell foundation and they retouch the skin so it’s perfect, then that’s unacceptable because I can’t tell how the product performs. I am much more likely to buy from a brand with honest advertising.

I must be one of the few that doesn´t mind it at all 😀 I´m allways curious to see the photoshop miracles. I really don´t mind it since I mainly swatch the products on my own skin, to be sure that I like the product. However I allways buy my makeup at the counter, I can understand very well why photoshop could be a problem for the people that buy online, since if the color on the model or swatch is altered they could get an entirely different color from expected, and might not like the actual real color of the product.

Anything that looks to unreal, to me, screams “we had to photoshop the living daylights out of this to make it look good” and actually makes me not want to buy it.

My own opinion is that if you’re going spend money on an advert to advertise a product, prove to me it works without photo shopping/editing/using falselashes, then I’d be more tempted to by a product.

If the photoshopping is being done on something else than the product area, I don’t mind.

For all I care they could just advertise without photos. Show a picture of a cute puppy or something to get people’s attention. Every ad is photoshopped and that’s no secret to anyone. Just tell me what the product is and where I can test it for myself.

It’s sad that Photoshop has become the norm. If I were to see a mascara ad using natural lashes it would look strange to me. Ii feel like I’m being brainwashed, and its upsetting. When I see a documentary or show with real people and they have crooked or not gleaming teeth it looks off. But that’s real life!

I get that companies are trying to sell their product, but excessive photoshopping really grinds my gears.

I mean, I hate that a lot of people strive for beauty that is near impossible for the average person (we can’t carry around a magic photoshop shield over our face & body). We shouldn’t judge ourselves based on what we see on the magazines.

I’m so over it. I try not to be influenced by promo pictures.

So yeah cosmetic companies. Maybe up the contrast, change the colors, have a cool environment around the model, but stop altering body parts to fit your needs.

When I studied advertising in college, we learned that in the US you have to show the product you’re advertising; if you’re selling Corn Flakes, you can hand select the perfect flakes for the photo and you can use glue for milk but you can’t show something that isn’t Cork Flakes to represent what your cereal looks like.

I don’t understand how mascara ads are legal if they aren’t showing the product on the lashes. I would say if you’re showing the product then SHOW the product; mascara ads can edit the eyes, skin, hair etc. but NOT the lashes. That just makes sense to me.

HOWEVER, I also don’t really believe claims made by ads, or buy a product because of how it looks in the photo. I rely on bloggers and on-line reviews to get my information. Ads just tell me a new product is available, not what I think about it.

I am okay with it to a point – my biggest problem is with lipstick ads. The products are almost never the same amped up, saturated (and unrealistic) color 🙁

You posted about a future Burberry collection using the photo of a model from the runway – and it was so exciting to see someone who looked like an actual PERSON associated with a brand.

Photoshopping should only be used to “tweak” certain areas on the model face or enhance the product being advertised- to a certain extent. What the beauty industry is doing now is beyond excessive.

I’m in two minds about it. On the one hand I tend to disregard ads for cosmetics completely because they’re always unrealistic (with retouching being just one part of that), look at mascara ads, we all know that the mascara, no matter how good it is, is not going to give us inch long perfect eyelashes. I would never buy a product thinking it will look like the ad, you can’t trust it at all. But I don’t want to have to see ads that look like mugshots in some misguided attempt to ‘be realistic’. Even when cosmetics companies choose ‘real people’ they always pick good looking ones.

On the other hand, I admire some ad campaigns more as art photography, rather than a realistic demonstration of the product (some car ads do this too), Illamasqua’s ads often fall into this category, Chanel’s too.

At the end of the day I don’t expect makeup to make me look like a model or a movie star, because I am neither. Emma Watson might look gorgeous in an ad, but I don’t, and never will, look anything like her, even if a lipstick works as well on me as it does on her.

None! There are plenty of 18-25 year old models with perfect skin and teeth. If you can’t find one your product looks good on, then your product is too crappy to sell. As far as anti aging products, perhaps you could show us what is really does, which in most cases next to nothing worth it’s price tag..*end rant*

I don’t like it when photo editors edit the models skin terribly, and it doesn’t even look like real skin. I feel like Lancome is the absolute worst offender when it comes to editing, and I’m actually surprised no one brought it up! Lol!
However, I loved the Makeup Forever campaign with the model wearing the HD foundation + powder, with absolutely no photo editing. Her skin looked flawless but natural. That ad really made me want to go out and buy those products!

I have a hard time accepting the fact that makeup brands use photoshop to enhance their photos. The whole point of makeup is to enhance your face. I think the advertisements should be an accurate depiction of the product. If it is a skincare product, I don’t mind if they use false eyelashes and if it is for a mascara I think its okay to photoshop the skin to an extent. It seems unfair to me though that mascara ads are enhanced beyond any realm of possibility and foundation ads are edited to make the skin look flawless.

I don’t want the product that’s being advertised to be altered to make it appear different/better than it actually is. If it’s an ad for mascara, I don’t mind if they retouch the skin or boost the lip color. Just don’t mess with the image of the product you’re trying to sell me.

What really irks me is ads for mascara!! The models are always wearing false lashes AND they’re heavily retouched before they are published.

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!