Photoshopped Beauty Ads: Misleading or Aspirational?


(My real lashes! Not photoshopped!)

I’ll be honest, prior to beginning A Girl’s Gotta Spa! several years ago, I truly did not understand what happens behind the scenes at beauty magazines or the advertising within its pages.

I mean, if an ad for mascara shows amazing lashes, isn’t that the look the mascara is expected to deliver? Sounds simple enough, right?

But those ads are being enhanced all of the time to make you take notice. We all hold out hope for that holy grail beauty product, and these ads seem to reach out from the pages dangling that carrot stick that prompts us to run right out to buy it.  

The UK has been the pioneer when it comes to banning these photoshopped advertisements. They came down hard on L’Oreal for its Telescopic ad with Penelope Cruz (lash results were not real.) Although, I’ve tried Telescopic and I liked it…a lot. They also banned L’Oreal ads featuring Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts, who were so clearly digitally enhanced that neither one had a wrinkle! Their ads were for skin care and foundation.

Now, L’Oreal filed a complaint against Christian Dior for a misleading ad for Dior Show mascara featuring Natalie Portman. Dior admits that the image was digitally enhanced to add length and curl to Portman’s lashes. They state that the image is clearly aspirational. However, the UK banned it, agreeing with L’Oreal.

My question to you is, do most consumers know the difference?  Do you look at a beauty advertisement and know they are lying and instead see the ad as a work of art? 

Honestly, giving you the real scoop on how a product works with actual pictures has been our mission for the past several years (celebrating 7 years on Oct. 26!) I’ve shown my ugly forehead in a review for Freeze 24/7′s Freeze & Go, I’ve shown my ugly neck in another Freeze 24/7 review of ArcticLift, I’ve shown my lashes for mascara reviews and so on.  It is my personal opinion that REAL images sell themselves far better than anything photoshopped.

I’d love to hear your take on beauty companies photoshopping their ads: misleading or aspirational?

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Posted on by Shannon Smyth in beauty, Makeup 5 Comments

About the author

Shannon Smyth

Shannon began A Girl's Gotta Spa! beauty blog in 2005 to morph her love of beauty and in educating women on what truly works and what does not. She has been featured in Glamour, VOGUE Australia, Woman's World, Nail Pro, SHAPE and on WBRE's PA Live. She is a go-to source for social media consulting when it comes to beauty brands.

5 Responses to Photoshopped Beauty Ads: Misleading or Aspirational?

  1. Jean

    I may be an idiot but for years I try looked at the pictures and expected similar results. More recently I have come to expect less. To me, this is not presenting an aspirational ideal, it’s lying. And it turns me off to a brand.

  2. Shannon Nelson

    Agreed. Ads with enhanced images, especially if the enhanced image in question (like lashes) is the product focus, are nothing short of fabrication. Aspirational would be if the image was to be used for an editorial story…but an ad is a completely different ball game.

  3. Kath TheFabZilla

    No way I’m going to have tarantula lashes sans photoshop or falsies. Like you, I’d rather show my lifeless lashes than fabricate results. Sad that these companies resort to gimmickry with false promises.

  4. Candice Sabatini

    I agree with you 100%. If a company is going to showcase result of using their products, it should be true to the results. As a professional beauty editor myself, it angers me to see ads for mascara touting fabulous results with a model clearly wearing false eyelashes. We don’t show this in our magazine. Sadly, now with photoshopping, it’s even easier to lie to the consumer.

  5. Shannon Nelson

    Agreed. I don’t mind the photoshop of the blemish or random stray hair, but saying you’ll get amazing lashes with a mascara when the image used is of a model wearing false lashes is just plain out lying and misleading advertising.

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