Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Print Advertising (Mini-rant)

Does this ever happen to you, where you think about something, and suddenly lots of things related to that thing appear in your path? For example, an image of a former colleague might bubble up to my consciousness, and out of the blue, she'll email me. That has been happening to me a lot lately. In fact, a discussion not too long ago about my finding my best foundation resulted in a request to talk about my experience with laser treatments. This topic made me think about how my face looked before I had the laser done, as well as how it had looked years before the mild rosacea made an appearance. All these competing thoughts about skincare and young and aging skin practically caused an ad to jump out of a magazine at me.

There was Christy with flawless skin, combined with a bizarre visual of her skin being tugged off her face, as though it were a taffy-pulling contest.



To be sure, I did not look like Christy before my laser treatments. But Christy, now a middle-aged woman, doesn't look like that anymore, either. I suspect that her just-woke-up skin does not even resemble the portions of her face before The Eraser touched it in the above ad. I am not criticizing her looks—there is no question that she is a beautiful woman at any age, with and without makeup.


Christy Turlington Burns without makeup


Many women of a certain age who read about health and beauty are aware that advertising is so altered that there should be a law against it. But how aware are we? My 72 year-old mother doesn't follow beauty blogs or read fashion magazines. If she were to flip through a magazine in a doctor's waiting room, what's to stop her from seeing an ad and believe the impossible in her naïveté?

Doesn't the media have a responsibility? Aren't there at least minimal ethics surrounding truth in advertising? Hasn't the airbrushed-to-death trend in advertising caused countless eating disorders, not to mention women (especially young girls) who loathe their faces and bodies because they don't measure up? Why don't we realize that the model in the magazine doesn't wake up looking like that, either?

As many of you probably know, some of the most controversial ads are actually being pulled, such as the Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington L'Oreal-owned ads, which the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK banned after receiving complaints that the ads were misleading. You think?


Again, with no disrespect to the Julia (I am using her as an example because of the controversy), Lancôme is using her image to hope we customers will literally buy into the fantasy that Teint Miracle will make our skins wrinkle free, poreless, and flawless. That it will turn the clock back 23 years and return Julia to a 22 year-old Pretty Woman again.

Christy and Julia are 43 and 45, respectively. Some of us might remember that Lancôme dropped the stunning Isabelle Rosselini as the face of Lancôme at 40, for being too old. And yet now we have Julia as a new model when she is older than that. I would be inclined to think this is a positive step, but not when digital retouching and lighting tricks make Julia look under 30 in these ads. When does print advertising become complete fabrication?

I have no issue with basic photo retouching. (Disclosure: I erase my upper lip hairs in pictures of me wearing lipstick on this blog, hairs that are blonde and barely noticeable in real life but which turn into the Black Forest in macro shots. What has been seen cannot be unseen, so you're welcome.) These women are hired for their beauty, after all,. Readers don't want to see their undereye circles or blemishes in a beauty spread. However, these ads go beyond the artistry of makeup. They digitally (falsely) whiten models' eyes and teeth, slim their faces and noses, make their nostrils smaller, tighten sagging chin at chin, jawline, and neck (or lengthen the neck), adjust their hairline and/or alter the color of their hair (usually warming it up), lengthen and thicken their eyelashes, change the shape or the tilt of their eyes, plump their lips, straighten their teeth, and—finally—erase every single last pore. That just pisses me off.

Does Twiggy (63), look like the following Olay ad at left? Apparently not. Like most models in print, her unretouched skin is not as smooth, flawless, and wrinkle free as the seemingly unedited photo at right. Her hair is less golden, and her teeth are less brilliant while, and she has sun damage on her chest, but she looks great in her more natural state!


Twiggy still has a swan-like neck, fabulous hair, and beautiful eyes. So why does Olay feel the need to erase 25 years from her face in their ads?

It seems clear to me that unless we
  • Are extremely genetically blessed
  • Never purposely tanned our skin
  • Never went out in daylight without a giant-brimmed hat or parasol and super-high sunscreen
  • Never smoked
  • Rarely drank anything but tiny amounts of red wine and oceans of water
  • Ate like a monk (actually I have no idea what monks eat)
  • Always got 8-10 hours of sleep
  • Led a stress-free life
we will look more like the candid, unretouched shots of these women.

Perhaps more ludicrous than at those airbrushed-to-death models-retouched-to-look-two-decades-younger ads, is anti-aging skincare advertising that features models who are not old enough to vote or drink. Anti-aging skincare pushed by a 15 year old? Please.


OK, so she's in her late 20s, but we know it exists!

I recently came across an article where Origins used a younger model to sell a skincare product designed for women between the ages of 45-60. That should be no surprise, but last summer, model Caroline Louise Forsling sued Estée Lauder for using her photo to show a before-and-after image of the skincare trial. Not only did Caroline allegedly not participate in the trial (the "results" of which are so obviously digitally altered), she's only 35!



Advertising just gets more and more strange. So bizarre, in fact, that there's a new imaging utility that can spot the fashion industry's photo alterations.


source

Apparently this tool is being trained to catch images that have become barely human, as in almost entirely computerized faces. Check it out: Nina looks the most fake.

And all I can say here is, What the what? How extreme is that photo of model Phillipa Hamilton on the left, especially when compared to the less aggressive slimming on the right? Who wants to buy clothes from Skeletor?

source

Ah, if only it were this easy to lose weight. Can someone please go back and fix all of my wedding photos?

source

I shouldn't care—especially since I no longer get sucked in. I should just continue rolling my eyes and move along and be happy with my current, real-life body, face, and simple skincare routine. But it still frosts my pumpkin that during a sustained period in my 20s, I felt "less than" and punished my perfectly-good body and very good skin with diet and products, all because I had visible pores and I was curvy instead of willowy.

What do you think about today's advertising? Has it gone too far?

All photos scooped off Google images. If you own the copyright to any of them, I will be happy to take them down.

60 comments:

  1. Advertising is stupid. I never pay any attention to any of it. It helps that I don't read magazines, I suppose. I prefer blogs! Plus, I have MCS so I can't deal with those fragrance inserts.

    That tanning woman--I saw her on tv. She's like a human negative.

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    1. I had never in my life seen anyone like that NJ tanning woman, and I grew up on the beach. Absolutely frightening. She can't possibly think she looks good.

      Anyway, I gave up magazines ages ago, but you know what? I can't get away from them. Whenever I place an order at dermstore and the like, they send me a subscription, whether I want it or not. I get so tired canceling More, Vogue, Shape, Fitness, Elle, Lucky (gag), and lord knows what else, I end up taking them to work by the armload. I didn't mind getting the gardening magazine, though. :)

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  2. I don't pay any attention to ads. It's easy, since I don't read magazines. I prefer blogs. I have MCS and can't deal with the fragrance inserts.

    That tanning woman is like a human negative. She clearly needs psychological help.

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  3. It has gone too far. Period. What really chaps my butt is that the cosmetic companies refuse to acknowledge or address the issue. The Julia Roberts ad is a textbook example. I mean, really? Considering that Julia is one of the most famous faces in the world do they really think we haven't noticed her normal, changing looks as she ages? Do they think we haven't see her recent films or recent pictures of her.....that look nothing like this ad? And to add insult to injury, do they really believe that the savvy consumer of today is actually going to believe that by applying their foundation we will look like the over photoshopped version of Julia? If they do, they live in a land of denial that is far and away more removed from reality than even our elected leaders. It is the insult to my intelligence that is the most difficult to bear in this never ending debate.

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    1. Absolute insult to our intelligence, but surely someone must believe the pictures or would they continue spending who knows how much $$ on all the extra editing? I think for it to end, models and actresses need to push back, but I understand that some of them have contracts where no photo can be published without their staff approving it.

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    2. I agree totally about the actresses and models pushing back. But then if they did, they would probably get dropped for someone who would go with the program. My humble opinion is that the beauty industry is so overblown now that each company is desperately looking for something bigger, better, newer, etc. Let's face it, there are only so many foundations, lipsticks, blush, etc, that a person can accumulate. How many pinks or corals or neutral palettes does one person need? The companies know this yet they put out more and more. They have to find someway to sell it. And it's worse than the photoshopping; have you seen some of the claims that are made on the products these days? It's getting more outrageous by the day. And a lot of bloggers are buying into the hype. I read a few well known blogs where the owners just reproduce whatever drivel the company marketing department puts out...without question. And then they fawn all over the company and the spokespeople as though every word they utter is like a proclamation from the gods. I would love to see some bloggers step up and start questioning some of the marketing claims and force the companies to produce their research. This is also something that makes me criminally insane. One of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much is you point out BS when you smell it.

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    3. Thanks, Deb. I hope I continue to do so. I don't actually write too many negative reviews 1) because I write primarily about what I like and 2) I refuse 99% of the brands that contact me because I do want to keep my reviews "pure." I have never directly contacted a brand asking them to send me goods to review. That just somehow seems ... rude. :)

      As a blogger, I feel conflicted that the beauty blogosphere has almost certainly contributed to this overinflation, and I did my part early last year before I realized my disposable income was circling the drain. Look at how drugstore makeup prices have soared, and the brick-and-mortar stores can't keep the hot stuff in stock, like those Revlon Colorburst lipsticks. I've seen Wet & Wild eyeshadow palettes on eBay for more than $50, a palette that cost under $5 in the drugstore.

      All these brands are getting free advertising, with continual (almost unctuous) raves over their wares. So why would they continue to pay magazines for full-page spreads. And magazines seem to be a dying breed so desperate for readers that every time I place an order somewhere I get a new year's subscription to X, whether I want it or not. Hoping to what? Fish me in.

      So, yup, that's why we consumers are assaulted with constant collections, including the limited-edition products that they purposely don't make enough of, like Tom Ford's cream eyeshadow in Platinum, that probably sold out overnight after a few bloggers got their hands on it early and posted about it. Boom. Gone, in a wisp of vapor, as though it had never existed. Every brand is trying to one-up the other, and guess what? Quality is going downhill. (Which is one reason I tend to favor makeup that doesn't do a lot of advertising, like Chantecaille, Laura Mercier, Chanel, and so on.)

      I remember something similar to this product hysteria in the late 80s when I worked for Nike. Sales were done in "Futures," or six months ahead, much like the fashion industry. The hottest of the hot shoes, the Air Jordan, were made in limited amounts specifically to keep them in demand. There were kids being murdered over their sneakers in the inner city, and trucks had to be accompanied by police when making a shoe delivery to an athletic store. Oh, and speaking of "sneakers," my boss corrected me my first day on the job when I called them that. He said, "You don't pay $125 for a pair of 'sneakers.' They're called athletic footwear." *rolls eyes* But $125 was a huge amount to spend in SNEAKERS back then. Much the same way $52+ is a crazy amount to spend on a lipstick.

      Who are they kidding? I totally agree that there are only so many taupes and roses and pinks and bronzes, but I don't see makeup hysteria ending any time soon because these brands feed off women's insecurities. As in, maybe that next X that comes out will make me look younger, fresher, more hip [ _____ ]. I do succumb to temptation, but it's getting much easier to resist all the time, partly out of disgust at the oversaturation of products and ads.

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    4. Excellent points, eloquently phrased, and not a whiff of BS :). I feel like you were peeking into my head when you wrote this, it's exactly how I feel. My dream is that I will wake up one day, look at some of the blogs I read, and see something like this. "LMDB is releasing a new eye/cheek/lip Kaleidoscope next week and it will be limited edition. If I manage to get one, I will post swatches. Im sure it will be lovely as we all know their products are consistently high quality. If you or I miss out, that will be ok. Because no one will be able to tell that the eye/cheek/lip color you are wearing is not from this new Kaleidoscope and you will look great anyway." LOL, I can dream, right?

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    5. Oh, come on, Deb. I can see that the taupe eyshadow you're wearing is soooo last season, hee hee. :^)

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  4. This reminds me, someone posted some vintage Victoria's Secret ads from the 70s over at MUA, and everyone was astounded at how the model's bodies looked (of course there was plenty of airbrushing, but the bodies looked more or less real, especially in the breast department).

    There should be a certain amount of truth in advertising, but we have apparently gone back to the snake-oil days. And I don't see regulation happening in the U.S. any time soon. In the meantime, I don't look at beauty magazines often, and I haven't purchased one in years. (I'm sure I'm a better person for it. :D)

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    1. In the very early 90s, just a bit before Stephanie Seymour and Rebecca Romaijn were famous Victoria Secret models (and before Tyra Banks and Heidi started walling the VS runway), I remember seeing Rebecca in a magazine. No idea which one, maybe Allure. Anyway, she was curvy, even a little fleshy. Absolutely gorgeous. The kind you hate because you want to look like her, but you can't hate her too much because getting that body would be attainable with a few mornings hitting the pavement in your Nike Air Whatevers.

      I also remember Stephanie Seymour being very thin--but proportional--posing in her VS undercrackers when she finally made the catalog ... and then I was absolutely shocked when, a few years later I saw her again in VS and thought she should topple over from her giant breasteses. By then fake boobs seemed to be a requirement of a VS model, and they all looked ridiculous with their skinny bodies with ZERO curves and these enormous grapefruits stuck to their chests.

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  5. Arg! This drives me bananas as well! That first "photo" is especially creepy. For some reason the mascara adds are particularly aggravating to me; perhaps because it's blatant false advertisement.

    On a more serious note, I spent the better part of my teens (and even now sometimes...) feeling sub-par. Even when I did ballet and was 30lb thinner than I am now, I thought I was overweight. I wish I could go back in time and smack some sense into me. I only recently figured out that most under eye circles are edited out. Wish I knew that back then. *sigh*

    Oh and that tan lady scared the crap out of me! I can't even believe that's her real skin!!!

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    1. The mascara ads make me want to scream. Millionize my butt. What I learned only recently was that the models have been wearing false eyelashes for ... who knows how long. I didn't know that, but of course it makes perfect sense. So an old fart can still be duped.

      EmmyJean, I know how you feel completely. I still have a very sad picture in my scrapbook of me in my tutu at the barre. I was around 7 and had already been dancing for 3 years. We'd just moved to a new town from NYC, and as I was being led to the new class, the woman said to her friend, "Did you see the calves on her?" I really took that to heart. It might have been a compliment, but I interpreted it as criticism and felt so ashamed. So back to the picture: It was a photo for the newspaper of the cute little ballerinas dancing at the school for the blind (I'm not blind, it's just where the classes were held), and every single one of wee girls was in full side profile, except me, who stood in 3/4 profile because I heard you looked thinner that way. I was SEVEN!

      Things didn't get much better, as far as my body dysmorphia is concerned.

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    2. Wow you started dancing young! I think I started in 2nd or 3rd grade. I wasn't self-conscious about anything except my teeth back then. Junior high is when all the angst started hehe.

      I can't believe you were also self-conscious about your calves too!! I've always had HUGE calves! I used to walk around on my toes all the time so it's no surprise, but it was still annoying to not fit into skinny jeans back then 'cause they wouldn't fit past my calves. I remember the first time someone pointed it out to me too; a boy I liked of course. Le sigh.

      I've realized that spending time in nature really helps me with perspective; having a sturdy frame is not such a bad thing. I'm build to withstand a famine! :)

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    3. Yes,I remember my mother walking me to dance class in NYC shortly after we moved there. It's one of my first memories, which started between 3.5 - 4 years of age.

      "Those aren't calves, they're cows!" lol. Not just skinny jeans but I also have the hardest time finding boots that fit. AND I have a waist that's 15" inches smaller than my butt (or a butt that's 15" bigger than my waist) so I should just give up on wearing pants altogether, and god spare me from yet ANOTHER years of this low-rider trend. As for sturdy ... Let's just say you couldn't make my corpse wear a tutu now. ;)

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  6. Advertising has gotten ridiculous to grab attention and sell products and I feel for impressionable preteens and teens who feel insecure because they compare themselves to these images. But younger people today may be luckier than we were because they are less naive. They use Photoshop and other tools to alter images themselves and have access to tabloids and magazines which show celebrities in their everyday lives sans makeup, saggy and less than perfectly dressed. My concern is whether allowing this kind of blatant deception gives kids the impression that it is okay to lie to the public. I don't know how we can change what these companies do (and would be interested to pursue this topic further) but I know that what I can do is to have a discussion with younger family members about these ads and to let them know they are fine just the way they are.

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    1. I agree completely that young girls are more savvy than when I was coming into my 20s, and I may really be showing my age by saying this, but I am SO thankful I grew up when I did. I wore makeup but not tons of it (mascara, blush, and Chapstick), and it certainly did not take precedence in my life. I was outside in the fresh air, playing, having fun, living my life. I wasn't constantly thinking about wearing or buying makeup, nor did I spend all my free time at the computer (computer? what computer!), or dreaming up and executing vlogs. I also wasn't spending all my free money on makeup and beauty products—I had a few that I actually used up and then repurchased. I spent my disposable income on books and music and clothes or used it for dining out with friends. I was a lot more innocent. I am not sure if that's good or bad, but I am grateful for the experience.

      I would also be really interested to see some kind of backlash, or at least an ethics movement against this kind of advertising. I'm sure someone is studying it, so I was really pleased to read that article in Wired about the tool to detect altered photos. Maybe one day we'll all be able to scan our "smart" phones over print ads and have a big honking alarm go off. :)

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    2. I, too, feel lucky to have grown up when I did when there was less disposable income to spend foolishly and had more access to fresh air, healthy food and ways to spend our free time. Very few of the kids I knew while growing up had chronic ailments while my kids and many of her friends have asthma and other health issues.

      In a way, it may be good that advertising has perhaps reached its tipping point and gotten so obvious that lay people can tell it's fake. Rather than think, "Is it real?", most of us, unless we have been living under a rock, know images have been altered and don't buy into the hype. I am consistently surprised at how much research my kids and their friends do on the web consulting blogs, Yelp, their friends, whatever, before they buy. They are a lot more savvy and want to make sure they spend their hard earned dollars for things that fit their needs and desires.

      By the way, this is "It's me again, anonymous" aka Pinky.

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    3. Hi Pinks! Right, none of the kids my age had asthma, ADD/ADHD, autism, depression, or was fat. We've become more social by opening ourselves to global contacts, like the Internet provides (which is so cool), but the irony is it can also be very isolating. It takes effort to go outside and interact with 3D people. ;)

      I have to wonder, too, if advertising as at it zenith. I sure hope so!

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  7. All this false advertising makes me really angry. I am deeply offended when I see photoshopped/airbrushed images of women made to look 20 years younger and Lord knows how many pounds thinner. Likewise, I am horrified to see young girls in ads for anti-aging products. The sad thing is, companies wouldn't do this if they didn't get a financial reward for it. There are lots of innocent, naive, and gullible women out there who open their wallets and feed the beast. I was so happy when the UK pulled the Julia Roberts ad; I only wish there was more of a social conscience out there.

    I saw the tanning woman on the news last night. Wow. Anderson Cooper on CNN said, "There's a fine line between SPF and WTF." Too funny!

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    1. I was really happy they pulled the ad, too. It sends a strong message, but it needs to happen over here, as well.

      Mr. Petals said that NJ woman looks like burnt toast.

      There's a fine line between SPF and WTF. LOLOL!! That clip will end up on Youtube for sure.

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  8. Where to even begin...Absolutely, advertising has gone too far. When I have to look for the blurb that says who is in the pic, yes, it has gone too far. When part of a hand is missing, yes, it has gone too far. When the proportions are completely whack - see Ralph Lauren pic above, yes, it has gone too far. I have watched my niece who will be a sr. in college this fall struggle with insecurities about her body image. She is tall (at least to my 5'2" frame), slender & nicely proportioned. When she said at 9, she needed to go on a diet, I cried. Off & on since then - "I'm not as tall/thin/pretty/insert word here as the model". Ugggghhh!

    I gave up magazines years ago as I couldn't stand the bombardment of pictures of women that I would never, in my wildest dreams, come close to looking like. I was secretly glad that I had 2 boys because I, naively, thought we wouldn't have to deal with that. Not true, it is there for the boys as well. Just not quite as "in your face" as it is for girls & women.

    I would like the US to follow the UK's lead on some truth in advertising. Sad but true as long as a company is financially rewarded for what they are pushing, they will keep making the goods & pushing the ads. Even with as much as I know now, I still occasionally succumb to the hype - this will be the eye cream, foundation, etc. that does the trick! But I don't fall prey like I used to!

    The tan lady was beyond freakish. And her daughter with a burn already...so very sad. She can't possibly look in the mirror & think she looks good.

    I read the same article on detecting photo alterations Zuzu. Love the idea of being able to scan a photo & an alarm go off if the photo has been altered!!

    Thanks for sharing Anderson Cooper's bit - that is too funny!

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    1. My heart breaks for your niece, lov2. Especially that she felt so inadequate at 9. I hope things have improved now that she's nearing her early 20s. Advertising can be so cruel, but it's an absolutely calculated plan. It's good business to make us feel like crap.

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  9. You ladies have all made such excellent observations and comments that there isn't really much more to add from the comsumer's standpoint so let me say something about the models--especially those who are well into their middle years. What must it be like to see nothing but photoshopped perfection in print and then be confronted with the reality when you look in the mirror? Knowing that no matter how beautiful you are, you just aren't good enough and must be digitally altered to be acceptable. I don't think it's just gullible young girls who suffer the consequences of such dishonest advertising, but I think it harms the celebrities and models as well.

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    1. I could not agree more! I did say above (and actually mention it to my husband from time to time, especially when yet another magazine shows up in the mailbox) that it must be so hard to grow older and lose that bloom of youth in front of the world. I so took that feeling for granted, well into my 30s until one day I looked in the mirror and said, WTH. And I wasn't starting from Photoshopped images!

      It's no wonder women like Demi Moore are ending up in rehab. :(

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  10. Great post Zuzu!!
    I think they have gone too far with ads. I never believe any of them anymore. Not one. Which is why I rarely look at magazines anymore. The anti-aging ads really bug me the most, especially when they use such young girls in them. These celebrities need to start owning up in my opinion and demanding that their photos remain untouched. But none of them have the balls to do it. Well, most of them don't.

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    1. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but the worst ads seem to be the more tabloid-style ones, the ones I make a beeline for at the doctor's office (guilty pleasure). People, for example, recently had a full-page shot of Elle McP in a bikini, with the article saying "This is what 48 looks like."

      Initially I was excited to see a middle-aged woman nearly bearing it all, but as I looked closer (after putting on my readers!) I saw what was really going on. Maybe they're counting on us biddies not seeing as well as we used to, and I am sure Elle is in great shape, but she was PERFECT in that photo spread--her skin was flawless, completely blemish and spot and wrinkle free. Please! She's an Aussie who grew up on the beach. You can't tell me she doesn't have sun damage and sags and wrinkles like the rest of us, no matter how many crunches she does. Obviously she'd been smoothed and slimmed--those editors just can't resist. And that pissed me off because they missed an opportunity to be brave and real and let the rest of us know she's just like us, albeit genetically blessed.

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    2. SHE missed the opportunity. I think they really need to start owning up to what they really look like.
      And yeah-she's gotta have sun damage. If I have it just because of driving, then she bloody has it.

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    3. For sure. And you, too? The left side of my fave isn't as nicely textured as the right, so I guess that's my driver's-sun side.

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  11. Great post, as always, Zuzu. I think it creates an unfair perception of what aging actually looks like, or portrays natural aging as an undesirable thing. We only have to look at our mothers and grandmothers to see that aging is beautiful and a natural process of life, and I'm not sure why that is not the case in the media. Yes, I am still going to use anti-aging creams and such, but I don't believe they will "rewind" time. The ads just seem ridiculous at that point.

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    1. Exactly! The creams really just temporarily improve the surface. Unless we're getting a prescription of Retin-A or having some other cosmetic procedure, that's all the OTC stuff can do, no matter what the ads claim.

      I agree that our mothers and grandmothers are beautiful. My 92 year-old paternal grandmother had the most gorgeous skin, and all she used her entire life was glycerine soap (Neutrogena, when it had been invented).

      I get the feeling that other cultures might not be as ageist as Americans, which to be fair, is a young country, but maybe the tides are changing overseas as well. But over here old is invisible, a non entity. So sad.

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  12. Yes, great post. Didn't read through all the comments, but last night on Nightline, there was a segment about a young girl, about 14 I think, who got together a group to protest altered photos in magazines aimed at teens. She was able to meet with the head of Glamour. I rely on you and other bloggers for most of my fashion/beauty info now, in large part because I think you project a more realistic and healthy attitude toward grooming and beauty, regardless of age.

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    1. Thank you, pinkazalea. :) And I am really happy to hear that women are taking back their dignity and pride and that these girls actually got an audience with Glamour.

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    2. Great post, Zuzu! I think the British are onto something. This is just so distorted, bizarre and devalues real women incredibly. Glad the girls -- and the models - are striking back. (couldn't log in, it's Suzanne "Gulfside.")
      keep the rants comin'!

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    3. Thanks Gulfy! I hope the Brits help turn the tides, and I'll keep calling BS when I see it. :)

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  13. Good post! I agree that all this airbrushing is way too much especially on us older women who have the beauty of wisdom that shouldn't be airbrushed at all. My mum like yours doesn't flip through the magazines any more because she finds them to be more ridiculous than beautiful.

    Now, if only Hollywood would stop airbrushing in post production or taping actor's and actresses faces, then we would see that we are all the same except for the woman whose had too much plastic surgery that looks like a cat, her name escapes me.

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    1. Jocelyn Wilderbeast ... or something like that? Agh. I think she was married to a plastic surgeon. He must have really hated her.

      So they retouch actresses faces on film???? Why on earth am I even surprised. By tape do mean hold up the jowls? I get the feeling that's not new, that they probably used tape on Bette Davis, et al.

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  14. I'm kind of a prude purist when it comes to digital image, so all this photoshopping really get the giant eyeball of disapproval here. <@>

    While most women are intelligent enough not to fall for the image hyping the product, I think most of us are prey to the desire to look that unbelievably good and that's why these ads work. They fan the hope and desire to look better and that's the selling point. The images make us want to buy whatever, anything. We may not buy the mascara that promises 400% volume but we just may end up buying the same brand's subpar foundation because of the airbrushing job. God knows that's happened to me more than once, twice, thrice...

    I'll never see beauty in that skeletor peddling Ralph Lauren, though. Just don't get it.

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    1. Luckily I am not tempted by foundation, but I sure do get sucked in to lipstick ads. Hook, line and sinker.

      As for Ralph, I honestly have never seen the appeal for him or his apparel or his models or his fragrance, though I had a really pretty quilt with his name on it once. I don't go for that Little Annie on the Preppy Prairie look. I'm more rumpled J. Crew Meets The North Face. And I am certainly no skeletor.

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  15. Thank you for writing this, Zuzu! It is all mind boggling anymore - what really is "real"? I appreciate when I see celebrities do photos in magazines without airbrushing. I remember Jamie Lee Curtis did it a few years back and most recently Cate Blanchett. I wonder what the folks over at SK-II have to say about Cate's magazine cover?

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    1. Yes, I applaud Jamie Lee for showing us her real face, and I also saw pictures of Cate recently with crow's feet and lines around her mouth. Both looked gorgeous. But yes, I wonder how long Cate's contract will last with SK-II.

      I was just thinking of another one that bothers me. I can't remember the brand, maybe Neutrogena, but it features Ellen DeGeneres--another very attractive woman, but surely not as smooth and flawless as the ad would have us believe. She must be in her 50s by now ... not in her 30s as those ads make her look.

      Monica Belluci posed on the cover of French Vogue (I think) without makeup, but she's totally genetically gifted and will continue to look amazing well into old age. And then I think about some of the the French actresses who seemed to go about looking quite chic and natural. In fact many of them did in recent times, except for Marion Cotillard and Audrey Tautou who have been swept up by Hollywood and seem to wear a lot of makeup. But before that, Aïssa Maïga, Emmanuelle Béart, Isabelle Adjani, Sophie Marceau, Julie Delpy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Irène Jacob, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche ... all stunning minimalists.

      I bet instead of spending their extra $ on makeup (not that any of them is hurting for $, mind you), they'd save up and buy one excellent Hermes bag or a Chanel outfit. You know? There's so much more to life than smoke and mirrors, as fun as it is.

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  16. I loved this post! You often start interesting discussions like this one and I'm with you on false advertising: it should be banned, or regulated.
    It's like publishing fake scientific result in a paper.
    However, I don't agree with you ladies on the importance that this false campaigns might have in building one's own self esteem.
    Already in the late '80s/early '90s, when I was a teen looking for my place in the world, I *knew* that the images on magazines and TV where not to be taken seriuosly. There wasn't photoshop back then, but with my friends we would talk of magic studio "lighting", professional photographers who knew how to make your pimple disappear and your legs look longer...and legions of make up artists conspiring to make average looking ladies in the show-biz appear wondrous (in my naivete, I though make-up artists could really transform your face, having never met one at the time. Well, maybe there was a bit of truth in that.) Today, every teen knows about photoshop, so I suppose they can take those images with even more skepticism.
    Now, I am a very confident person. I've always felt beautiful, though probably I'm not, and I could fill a telephone book with my many imperfections. Like every other women, sometimes I feel insecure... but then I wear a killer heel, some make up, and there I go again! If the matter is serious (like when my mirror reminds me that I'm almost 40 and it shows!!!!) I schedule an appointment with my hairdresser.
    What challenges 8and has always challenged) my confidence is that I meet real-life people that look like those photoshopped images in the ADs. There are ladies out there combining beautiful features, pore-less skin, and an athletic body. Worst of all, there are ladies out there with long, perfect legs.
    Those beauties look perfect in a shape-less Zara dress, they don't need to know what a crease color is, and therefore have no worries in the world!
    I've learnt to accept that I'm not defined by how flaw-less my skin is.
    To conclude (sorry for this looong comment!!!), while false commercial campaigns certainly are a sort of fraud at the consumer's expense, I think that our self-esteem is challenged by our real life, not distant ads, because we mostly relate to what is close to us: a friend, a colleague, a relative...a passer by.

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    1. Don't even get me started on science. I could rant for hours about scientists not considering ALL possibilities that fall outside those that will lead to the desired result, or positioning statistics so they aren't exactly wrong but so which show a favorable outcome (e.g., misleading/not the whole picture). Those tactics are how America ended up one of the fattest nations on earth from the transfat and HFCS push 40+ years ago, all because one man said fat was bad for us (thanks a lot Ansel Keys) and because the US needed to deal with the surplus of corn. Based on funding, politics, ambition, and ego, humans were treated as guinea pigs for nearly a half century—and look at all the children with diabetes, which used to be called "adult onset." So sad and unnecessary. I have little respect for scientists who only want to prove their findings right (or steal credit from others, like Dr. Robert Gallo) and respect and admiration for those who continually try to prove it wrong, knowing it will lead down other interesting paths.

      I do agree with you that there is much beauty around us to appreciate and envy, but I don't see it as much as I used to—at least not surface beauty like the long legs and poreless skin you mention. Before I moved into high tech (where very few women wear makeup at all), I worked in consulting where we dressed well and made up our faces—mostly for other women. I remember talking to someone I thought was flawless and she said to me, "We all have our little insecurities." That really stuck with me.

      I am sure we all knew that girl in high school who wasn't that pretty, and who may even have been a bit plump. But the boys flocked around her and she was always very popular with the girls, too. I used to ask myself, "What doe she have that I don't?" And the answer was always the same: confidence, kindness, generosity, and maybe even a little self-deprecating humor. She didn't take herself so seriously, and her goodness attracted more goodness. :)

      Every one of us is beautiful if we truly believe in our self worth and radiate our beauty from the inside out, no matter how fat or thin or young or old. A happy, vigorous 65 year old woman with a map of her age on her face is far more attractive to me than a brooding, petty, 25 year-old surface beauty.

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  17. Superb article. It's no wonder we, as women, continue to be neurotic and depressed about how we look. We look at these advertisements, and while the right side of our brain KNOWS its photoshopped, the left brain reacts with insecurity. I'm a firm believer that this should be considered false advertising and should carry a written disclaimer stating that the photos have been digitally enhanced.

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    1. What a great idea. If only that could be passed into law. We certainly read in tiny print under the diet du jour "results not typical" or "results may vary," but we can rest assured the skincare brands will fight fiercely to continue to protect their outrageous claims over what is, basically, just a topical humectant.

      I adore, for example, the Chantecaille brand, but would I ever spend $420 on their Nano Gold Energizing Face Cream? No. I don't judge anyone who uses/loves it (I bet it smells and feels divine), but I don't believe a non-prescription cream will do anything that lasts more than the few hours I am wearing it, and I would rather spend that money on a laser treatment, which removes red and brown discoloration and stimulates collagen. With results that last over time!

      No one looks in my medicine cabinet but me, so I don't need the self validation of a super high-priced cream sitting on the shelf, winking at me. With full disclosure, I use a mix of super-cheap (under $5) stuff, as well as items between $50-$75, but I splurge on the pricier skincare items because they smell lovely or feel silky or the pretty packaging gives me a lift, much the same way using pretty accessories, art, flowers, etc., around my house lifts my spirits. I am probably no more vain than most women I know, but I am not fooling myself that after 3 months of using my Caudalie serum, I'll look 30 again. :)

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  18. I think the UK has clamped down on it alot esp on TV, I mean EVERY advert for mascara has in tiny letter at the bottom of the screen 'model is wearing lash inserts' and Ive also noticed that all the hair dye adverts have 'model is wearing hair extentions' so ppl are now much more aware as well as the Julia Roberts thing getting pulled. I have no idea how it is in America though

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    1. I think it's still completely obfuscated here, Jessica. I had no idea half the world wears hair extensions. So some of us are still hoodwinked!

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  19. Standing Ovation!! I also remove the hairs too, just so you know. Having learnt how to do that, it quickly became clear how easy it would be to totally manipulate an image. I think the backlash is coming. I don't read magazines in the same way that I used to and the internet is my source of news and information, I think that realism tends to rule on the internet (trolls not included). The number of complaints that are withheld suggest that advertisers will have to take note.

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    1. I'm not very adept at photo retouching. I don't get the whole "layers" thing, so if I ever attempted to erase my pores or wrinkles or anything other than tiny spots, my lack of expertise would quickly become apparent. What I usually do with my lips shots is crop them in the right place and then blur the edges. ;)

      I really do hope that advertisers take notice. They will have to, given their primary source of advertising (us) is the same source that will be pushing back.

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  20. BRAVO!! BRILLIANT ESSAY! Such a very sad sad commentary on our society at large. Even once we reach an age where we are no longer so swayed by these insidious images- that doesn't means that they no longer impact us. We may become desensitized, but the rife succession of such images works on us at an unconscious level-- so even if we are able to catch it and identify it-- we still have to process it. I really worry about the effects of such images on younger girls--the cycle of self-doubt and self-loathing that these images promote is like a very pernicious disease that grabs them very young.

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    1. My heart breaks for young girls. I look back and think of how impressionable I was at 20 ... but at least most of girls today know those images aren't real. I had no idea--I though there were perfect people out there--and I felt ill with self loathing. Now I know differently, but you raise an excellent point about my having to still process it. At some subconscious level, these vile images continue to erode smart women's sense of self worth, even though we knows better. It's what these brands are banking on.

      I draw parallels to medical care. It's much more profitable for a doctor to have a Type II Diabetes patient become a patient for life, taking insulin or metformin, or whatever ... rather than educate that person to control her disease--even reverse it--by limiting refined carbohydrates and getting vigorous exercise to burn off the excess blood glucose. There's no profit in that.

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    2. Exactly! We kid ourselves if we actually think that we can ignore these images and not be impacted by them. If you are alive and part of this society then you will be impacted- plain and simple. It's not the conscious damage that they promote that is the most insidious- it's the unconscious stuff that gets through our filters unnoticed that are so cancerous. Three's a good book by Jean Kilbourne called "Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel" that deals with these issues beautifully.

      I like your analogy-- I think that it is a really smart one-- getting at the root of the problem is always a far better way to find a cure-- masking the symptoms always allows the proliferation of the disease, but more silently! This is always more dangerous!

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  21. I think it's fine in very limited situations, such as streamlining the flow of a dress in a fashion shot or enhancing hair color. However, the skin ads get me. They need to be a realistic representation of what a product will really do...not a photoshop version of what we WANT the product to do. It's blatant false advertising, and should be banned. And it doesn't do the cosmetics companies any good in the end...when the creams and serums can't achieve the perfection that's been advertised, companies have to deal with returns, or worse, lost customers. I don't get it.

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    1. Yes, I had forgotten to consider that. In the "old days" when we bought makeup or skincare we did not like, we were stuck with it. Of course, the ads weren't as bad then, but once we left the counter, those products were ours or they hit the bin bag.

      Nowadays, most brands accept returns, and consumers are becoming so demanding and picky they won't hesitate to return a product that doesn't even come close to living up to its claims. I suspect the volume of returns is why prices go up so high ... that and blogging. When brands realize how hot their products are, they hike the prices. Supply and demand. Welcome to capitalism. :)

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  22. Thank you for this post. Nothing I haven't heard before, really, but it's always good to be reminded of how unrealistic the images we see really are. I struggle tremendously with body image issues and discouragement over how I look. I do enjoy beauty blogs but avoid magazines and other harmful propeganda as much as possible. Yet airbrushed images are everywhere (e.g. ads on almost every website!) and virtually impossible not to see, thereby polluting my mental environment.

    I also enjoyed your post about Hilary. Why are we as a culture so critical of aging or just a normal-looking human face? The sad thing for me is that I mostly internalize our culture's view of beauty (as evidenced by the skeletal bodies and smooth faces of the images we most often see), thus feeling like there is something wrong with me as a woman. Intellectually, I know that my self-worth isn't based on my appearance, and that even the women in those images don't look like that. But emotionally, I find myself constantly berating myself, comparing myself to other women, and finding myself lacking. In other words, for me it is a much deeper issue than how I look.

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    1. I empathize, Anon, truly I do. In fact you just inspired a new thought which is forcing me to write a new article! Maybe it will help take the sting off yesterday's innocent attempt at honoring HC. :)

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  23. I've said before, I really question the point of buying a celebrity face to promote your brand and then airbrushing that face so that it is almost impossible to recognise.

    As an aside on something you mentioned in passing, I've also posted before about feeling uncomfortable about the role of blogging in the 'you must buy this product' pushing. This is one of the reasons I always disclose PR samples - I think otherwise a lot of readers do think that bloggers buy everything, and that it somehow normalises the behaviour of buying everything from a makeup collection or buying every new product that comes out.

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    1. Grace, I couldn't agree more. Which reminds me ... I should check my Disclosure page. I think it says I buy everything myself unless I add a statement at the bottom. I haven't accepted many PR samples; so far I only accept anything I'd by myself, and my blog is way too young to get that kind of attention, so the goods have been few and far between.

      In any case, I feel like am becoming a bit of a naysayer, so that might not be too attractive to PR people. ;)

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  24. I totally agree with what you say in the article Zuzu. I am glad that discussions like this come up and there are many people who are outraged by ads like the above and their impact on younger girls.
    I don't know if the brands themselves expect us to believe that Julia Roberts look like on that picture after just using their foundation. I am not sure. Is there truly any person who would truly BELIEVE that? Nobody looks like that and this retouching is just getting ridiculous. I don't know why they do that. This is so obviously not true that I think even young girls would not believe it. It would be great if Photoshopping of this sort disappeared because it's just unnatural and ridiculous. There is another aspect to the problem. I think many women of any age want to look like celebrities or models but not the way they look in ads. I guess it's their "red carpet" look we want to get. On the red carpet (or the like) celebrities still look "natural". You can't photoshop them on TV, so when you are watching Oscars or whatever you tend to think you see them like they are: stunningly beautiful with glowing skin, shiny hair, white teeth etc. This is what we want. And here I think is the danger of getting bad self esteem and complexes about too short lashes or hair not so thick. Seeing them that perfect, it is easy to forget that they spend hours fixing their appearance before appearing on the red carpet. Well, not them, their make up artists and hairdressers and other people involved. Besides they all wear false lashes, many of them have got hair extensions and I guess there are many other tricks I know nothing about. If you take it all off they don't look like beauty goddesses. Many of them are really beautiful women but they are not THAT perfect. On the other hand, any woman if she is not notoriously ugly can look like a star after that much fixing and polishing. I just think we should bear this in mind and try to explain it to our younger generation. I am just sad that natural beauty is not fashionable these days. You should look like 25 when you are 50 and women make plastic surgery and all kinds of other desperate actions to defeat their age. And setting these standards is of course is good for someones purse. That's just sad.

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    1. Olga, what an awesome comment!

      I dunno, I bet there are young girls who, at quick glance, think Julia really looks like that. It's almost as if we want to believe, so we don't look for the flaws, and by flaws I mean the photo's utter and completely flawlessness. I was duped in my 20s, and granted, things weren't as bad then, but I am not a dummy and I was still tricked into thinking there were gorgeous, poreless complexions with long, thick eyelashes out there.

      I so agree about seeing more reality on the red carpet, but I have to wonder of the video cameras are using filters .. I mean, at all. Probably not, but maybe? You can't Photoshop on TV, but I remember my mother telling me about an actress (I think it was the woman who did a Celestia Seasons tea commercial a dog's age ago with James Garner) who was purported to be filmed through "gauze."

      As for celebrities in general, they're paid for their good looks, so it wouldn't do to have them walking around red carpets looking like the rest of us. Still, I really like the "Celebrities without Makeup" articles and often think the women don't look bad at all. Do they look better with a little makeup? Sure, but a bare face doesn't make then beasts.

      And yes, agreed, any woman who was not completely shortchanged in the good-looks department can be made almost beautiful with makeup and hair styling.

      One thing that also bothers me is to think how naturally beautiful a woman is, only to discover she's had plastic surgery, such as nose job, cheek implants, chin fixing. Catherine Zeta Jones comes to mind, and she looked fine the way she was born, but surgical, erm, enhancements have turned her into a beauty. But I shall say no more as I have read she is notoriously litigious.

      No woman can possibly look 25 when she's 50. Maybe she had a really REALLY good plastic surgeon, but don't let anyone ever see her eat or drink because her hands will give her away. And so will her neck if she hasn't had her neck done.

      I say take good care of your skin from the inside out and just be.

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