What do Julia Roberts of Pretty Women, Beyoncé (formerly of Destiny’s Child), and Kim Karadashian of reality television infamy have in common?
From Kim’s abs, to Beyonce’s skin colour and finally to Julia Roberts’ wrinkle-free, perfectly toned face, they have all been subject to what has now been ruled excessive and “misleading” airbrushing.
The U.K. government, together with the Advertising Standards Authority have recently banned several L’Oreal advertisements, deeming them as untruthful representations of the products being sold.
The French government has gone even further by proposing legislation that would require health warnings on unrealistic and unattainable images.
The issue is not simply one of false advertising. How do these highly manipulated representations of faces and bodies affect perceptions of our own (and other peoples’) bodies? Although there’s no causal link between representations of beauty in ads and an increase in plastic surgery, statistics indicate we’re more obsessed about changing our bodies than ever: half of young women between 16 and 21 would consider cosmetic surgery, the rate of surgery for those under 18 has doubled in the last decade, and incidences of eating disorders have also more than doubled in the last fifteen years.
As already slim models are made to look slimmer and more perfect, and plus-sized models are “enhanced”, where does the madness end? In 2005, Dove thought they had the perfect antidote in the “Real Beauty” Campaign. The advertisements featured real women, in their own underwear. No retouching. But, there were problems. Not only were there allegations of airbrushing, but the campaign did not help their sales. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to sell cosmetics to people who want to look different (or ‘better’ as cosmetic companies might say), than to those who are happy the way they are.
As of yet, there has been little comment on this issue from the Federal Trade Commission. But maybe more cosmetics companies (without being forced to) will follow in the footsteps of Make Up For Ever who have debuted the first unretouched makeup advert.
What do you think? Should the FTC should regulate airbrushing in ads? Share your comments below.
- ASA Ruling (asa.org.uk)
- Misleading adverts correlate with increase in eating disorders and cosmetic surgery (bbc.co.uk)
- French government wants health warnings (melindahutchings.blogspot.com)
- Make Up For Ever debuts first unretouched makeup advert (beautyhigh.com)
- Make Up For Ever site (hd-not-retouched.com)
- Unattainable Beauty slideshow (thedailybeast.com)