Beauty Retouching

Beauty Retouching

Updated Dec 14, 2014 at 05:38PM EST by Brad.

Added Jan 17, 2014 at 03:57PM EST by Molly Horan.

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Beauty retouching, or the use of Photoshop in advertisements and magazine covers, has been widely criticized on the web in the form of anti-manipulation campaigns and time-lapse videos.


Online interest in beauty retouching hit its first peak when it was revealed the Dove Real Beauty Sketches had actually been retouched.[10] The revelation that the women in a campaign to promote body positivity and acceptance had their photos retouched lead to closer examinations of Photoshop culture by websites like Jezebel.[14]


“Body Evolution” Time Lapse

On May 22nd, 2012, GlobalDemocracy[9], a nonprofit committed to finding solutions to social issues through social media, uploaded a video to YouTube depicting the extreme changes a model’s face and body can undergo during Photoshop. The video ended with a statement about their call to action requiring all advertisers to indicate when they had used Photoshop to Manipulate and image. As of January 2014, the video has over 9.2 million views.

Dove Photoshop Hack

On March 3rd, 2013, Ogilvy Toronto[12] uploaded a Dove ad onto Youtube which depicted a Photoshop action Dove had created and leaked to sites professional photo retouchers visit. The action claimed to add a skin glow to models, but it actually caused the photo to revert to its original state. When it was used this message would appear,

“Don’t manipulate our perceptions of real beauty.”

Though there was some speculate over whether professional photo retouchers would actually use a Photoshop action, the commercial was well received.[13] As of January 2014, the video has over 1.5 million views.

Lena Dunham’s Vogue Cover

On January 16th, 2014, after Vogue released photos of actress and comedian Lena Dunham appearing in their February issue, Jezebel published an article titled, “We’re Offering $10,000 for Unretouched Images of Lena Dunham in Vogue.”[5] The feminist website explained in the article,

"Lena Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who’s unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is “a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive” and “if you are not into me, that’s your problem.” Her body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they’re probably not terribly real. So Jezebel is offering $10,000 for pre-Photoshop images from Lena’s Vogue shoot."

This call for the originals drew criticism, with TV critic Emily Nussbaum tweeting,

“If Dunham wanted to release her own retouched photos, that might be interesting. Asking for a bounty on them? GROSS.”


and screenwriter Diablo Cody adding,

“This is total mean-girl shit masquerading as feminism. I’m disgusted.”


Jezebel reported receiving the alleged untouched images two hours after their call, and published them in the form of before and after GIFs in an article posted on January 17th.[8]

Aerie’s Unretouched Ads

In January 2014 Aerie, a lingerie company aimed a teenage girls, released images from a Spring 2014 ad campaign that promised their models’ photos had not been retouched.[4] The photos featured in the campaign include the hashtag “#aerieREAL” and the tagline, “The real you is sexy.”

Notable Examples

Time Lapse Videos

Like the Body Evolution video, time lapse Photoshop videos highlight how severe Photoshop edits can be. They highlight the models’ imperfections just before you see them erased. One of the most popular Photoshop time lapses comes from a Dove ad (shown below, bottom left) that depicts the changes a model goes through with make-up, then Photoshop before her picture appears on a billboard. The video was uploaded by Youtuber zephoria on October 15, 2006. As of January 2014, the video has over 4.7 million views.[11]

Photoshopped GIFs

Websites and blogs have found creating an animated GIF out of a Photoshopped photo and the original can simply and powerfully illustrate the dramatic changes Photoshop can make and the unrealistic expectations men and women can put on their bodies based on the retouched images they are often exposed to.

Several websites have collected and curated these GIFs in lists including Smosh[1], Buzzfeed[2], and Heavy.[3]

Search Interest

External References

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Recent Images 17 total

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