Photoshop, airbrushing and retouching distort women’s self-image

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By Haley Bianco

This is the first article in a series of four investigative reports on photoshopped ads and their effects.

In a society where flaws are erased, insecurities are heightened. Americans are surrounded by picture perfect models everywhere they look. Photoshopped photos appear on magazine covers, mall ads and highway billboards. Beautiful models are featured all over the country, but according to statistics from The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, “only 2 percent of women around the world describe themselves as beautiful.”

Retouching photographs has become the norm in today’s advertising world, but picture-perfect beauty comes at a price. As girls grow up and compare themselves to photoshopped models, they develop unhealthy standards of beauty. “The definition of beauty has become limiting and unattainable,” stated Dove.com.

Since 2004, Dove has been working to widen Americans’ definition of beauty by featuring real women with different body types and flaws in their ads. Recently, American Eagle joined them in their fight to capture natural beauty by using non-airbrushed models in their Aerie lingerie ads. According to an article on Mail Online, author Margot Peppers reports, “the brand [American Eagle] hopes that its authentic representation of girls will help young customers embrace their own beauty, instead of striving for the impossible ideal often promoted by the fashion industry.”


American Eagle’s Aerie is geared toward girls ages 15-25, and the models wearing the intimates will now represent different body shapes and sizes. Peppers spoke with a non-airbrushed Aerie model, Amber Tolliver. “The beauty of the Aerie campaign is that all my flaws are out there,” said Tolliver. She went on to say that she enjoyed being photoshopped in previous ads. “Any normal person is slightly insecure about little things on their body, and [with Photoshop] you can blink an eye and poof it’s gone,” said Tolliver. Aerie ads will no longer retouch anything, including tattoos, beauty marks and cellulite.

Models and celebrities are influential groups of people to girls and young women in America. Hollywood A-listers always appear tanned, blemish-free and inhumanly slender when featured in perfume ads and on the cover of magazines. A negative effect of image manipulation is the result of an unhealthy body image that can lead to an eating disorder.

Negative body image also leads to confidence issues for many girls and women. “So many girls and young women develop low self-esteem from hang-ups about their looks, and consequently fail to reach their full potential in life,” stated Dove.com.

Read more on Photoshop, airbrushing and retouching distort women’s self-image in the next segment of this investigative report.

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