The Deception: ‘UnREtouched’ VS. Untouched

When news broke yesterday claiming that a makeup company had published the ‘first’ unretouched makeup ad, we knew we had to inform people of the smoke and mirrors behind that claim.

When advertisers declare that an ad has not been airbrushed or retouched, it's important to think through a couple of things before you jump for joy or come to the conclusion that the photo is completely natural.

First of all, ‘unairbrushed’ or ‘unretouched’ does not
equate to ‘au naturale.’ All images published online, in magazines, catalogues and on billboards have been edited or doctored in some way. That’s right – ALL of them. Even images that claim to be ‘unairbrushed’ have been edited in Photoshop or programs like it.

The reason we can make that claim is simple. The most basic qualities of a photo depend on a few fundamental characteristics: exposure, brightness, contrast, sharpness, and color (color correction can make colors more flattering or true to life). In any type of photography, it’s an industry standard to alter and edit these basic components of an image. In addition to its magical editing capabilities like making inches disappear from thighs, or blemishes, pores and wrinkles vanish from faces, it can do wonders for brightening up a dark image.

Allow us to reiterate something we’ve said time and time again…

ALL mainstream images have been retouched. The question is – to what degree
? Let that question be your mantra as you flip through ladies’ magazines. ‘HOW retouched is this ad?’

A few more things to consider:

1. BEAUTY’S LITTLE HELPERS: Models and celebrities have makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists, lighting specialists and professional photographers who specialize in making them look as flawless as possible. Keep in mind that is all BEFORE Photoshop has even entered the picture.

2. LIGHTING: Even when a picture is praised for its limited airbrushing, it’s important to know it’s likely that Photoshop has been replaced with another trick… lighting. Things like wrinkles and cellulite can easily be ‘blown out’ with fancy lighting, which was described by one photographer as having ‘the same effect as Photoshop.’ So really, companies aren’t being completely forthcoming when they claim a model wasn’t retouched. Technically, they can say that if they didn’t use the airbrushing tool in Photoshop, but are they being completely honest? Not really.

3. THERE’S AN UNDERLYING REASON for hopping on the positive anti-airbrushing bandwagon… As is the situation with the ‘Make Up Forever’ ad, it would appear that the model has a pretty flawless, even skin tone to begin with (her youth probably doesn’t hurt the cause either). Notice how smooth her face looks compared to her arm? This was not by accident. Advertisers wanted you to look at the uneven shadows on her arm. That way, you’d believe they left her face just as untouched as her arm, which would then hopefully convince you that their foundation works amazingly well.

The moral of the story is this, RRW ALLIES™: ‘Unretouched’ does not mean ‘untouched.’ Next time a company or magazine comes out with a claim that an image is ‘sans airbrushing,’ try to stop yourself before automatically supporting it and concluding that it’s completely natural and ‘undoctored’ in any way.

This is not to take away from small steps in the right direction, but it is crucial that we are educated on other ways we may be deceived by the images and messages surrounding us. And because advertising and media aren’t going away anytime soon, we’ve got to know how to interpret them for ourselves.

©2011 REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN, LLC. All rights reserved.

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