Words By Eve Davies
Photoshop in marketing is no secret. It only takes a few seconds of scrolling through Instagram to be inundated with retouched advertisements posted by influencers, celebrities, and fashion and beauty brands. Skin is smoothed over, features are altered, body shapes and sizes are tweaked to look ‘flawless’, presenting unattainable body image ideals to men and women of all ages, all over the world.
Image editing has been prevalent since the dawn of technologically advanced software and is something that the beauty and fashion industries have reckoned with over the past few years. Ultimately, the general public have demanded to see more realistic, natural images in the media. Finally, these industries are beginning to step up. It is great to see several brands taking a stance and initiating change.
Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty in the early 2000s made them the forerunners of this evolution. Their mantra: “Beauty is for everyone” and belief that “beauty should be a source of confidence not anxiety” shine through their marketing, which accommodates the population’s diversity.
In their Beauty Pledge, Dove makes three vows. The first is that their brand will only feature real women introduced by their real names (never models), who represent an eclectic mix of age, size, hair colour, skin shade, and ethnicity. The second is that their brand will always portray women as they appear in real life without any digital distortion and every image is approved by the woman featured. Dove’s third promise is to help girls build body confidence and self-esteem through their ‘Self-Esteem Project’, which is a community of mentors, teachers, and educators that work with and help young women boost their confidence and self-belief. This is part of their mission to ensure that the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with their physical appearance – a freedom that so many women have been denied in the past.
Fashion conglomerate, ASOS, has been slandered over the years for their photoshop fails, including missing ankles, disjointed faces, and disproportional bodies. However, shoppers have begun spotting unedited images on the ASOS website. Abandoning airbrushing, ASOS models have featured with stretch marks, pimples, and natural tummies on show. Shoppers have praised the company on Twitter for portraying ‘normal’ bodies. They described it as ‘refreshing’ to see ordinary, familiar body types in the fashion industry as these kinds of bodies represent who we all are as ordinary people.
Beauty brand Olay soon followed suit. In February 2020, Olay did away with unrealistic beauty expectations and announced that they are officially committed to ‘zero skin retouching’ in all their advertising materials, including content created by their influencer partners and brand ambassadors.
Procter & Gamble, who own Olay, announced via Twitter that they would stop skin retouching in their advertisements. They followed this announcement with a billboard reading ‘NO RETOUCHING’ in New York City, which was posted on Olay’s Instagram story, to celebrate the brands progressive steps towards body positivity.
Busy Philipps is a lead spokeswoman for Olay’s natural skin initiative. She said, “The more huge companies like Olay that can stand up, the better everyone’s going to be. You want to see yourself reflected. You don’t want to see something that’s completely unattainable because that’s not real.”
Philipps is now leading the ‘My Olay’ campaign which will feature purely untouched photos to “inspire women everywhere to live life authentically and unapologetically”. The main message behind this campaign is that authenticity is key. What’s more, the company produced an Olay Skin Promise logo to feature on all the brand’s imagery across print, digital, and audio-visual media. This logo assures buyers that the advert is completely untouched.
Gymshark is another fashion-fitness brand that prides itself off their untouched advertisements and website content that is inclusive of a wide variety of body types and shapes. Their website exhibits hip dips, stretchmarks, hourglass figures, slim figures, round figures, and muscular figures. They have models from a range of ethnic backgrounds, do not blemish skin, and are not shy to show off models’ wacky hair colours and tattoos – all the things that make us individual. Visiting Gymshark’s website makes me (and I’m sure others can relate) feel validated as it portrays how normal bodies, bodies just like mine and most others around me, would look in their fitness apparel.
The world of Instagram influencers is still a far cry away from total transparency, but brands are certainly taking steps in the right direction by encouraging their brand ambassadors to share natural, REAL photographs.
Likewise, the advertising industry is inevitably a largely unregulated domain of pretentious perfection and photoshop, however, the brands I have discussed are working hard to change toxic body image standards, making social expectations in terms of physical appearance far more accessible to young people while living a happy, fulfilled lifestyle.