This week, leading US pharmacy chain CVS announced that they were banning photoshopped images from beauty and makeup advertisements in their stores.
The company’s president, Helena Foulkes, said that the change was to tackle “unrealistic beauty standards” and to draw attention to the impossibility of these ideals.
The announcement was met with much praise, and rightly so.
However, there remains the murky and sometimes confusing fact that beauty is not just being sold by massive conglomerates and the media anymore.
It can be sold by anybody.
Now, during a time where consumers make their choices via social media, product placement, television advertising, and everything in between, it’s more important than ever to ensure that what we’re being sold is the truth.
… And if it isn’t, that we at least know about it.
Social media advertising is now the norm and we need to know what we’re buying.
You’d be hard pressed scrolling through Instagram and not landing on a post (or seven) by somebody sharing a candid image of themselves, attempting to break a stereotype or crush some stigma.
The age of brutal honesty, body positivity, and bravery is here.
It’s a welcome break from the front pages of magazines from yesteryear that screamed about cellulite and drew red circles around stomach fat.
Those do (somehow) still exist, but the tide seems to have shifted ever so slightly in favour of not tearing young women down or suggesting that having body fat is the worst thing a person could ever do to themselves.
(Because, spoiler: it’s not.)
At the other end of the spectrum though, apps like Facetune have never been more popular.
When years ago the only way to digitally alter an image came via expensive software, professional equipment, and the assumption that your subject was a person of note, these days anybody can lengthen lashes, elongate legs, and erase unwanted blemishes.
The introduction of apps like these has allowed people to comfortably express themselves without fear of being judged, to build aesthetics that they feel represent who they want their online personas to be.
But they have also heightened our fear of transparency, increased our anxieties about how we look, and fed into an idea that the beauty industry has been trying to perfect all these years – you can try, but you will never be good enough.
A survey conducted by ReachOut last year showed that 72 percent of teenagers in Ireland experienced body image issues.
Almost half of those surveyed also noted that social media negatively affected their mental health.
CVS’s decision to ban digitally altered beauty advertisements is a welcome one.
As the biggest pharmacy chain the US, they have an influence that is unparalleled with other major brands in the States.
Their promise to include a ‘digitally modified’ tag on any advertisement that does photoshop their images will, if anything, ensure that young women will be aware of what they’re buying and whether this particular standard of beauty is realistic or not.
And if it’s not, at least they’ll know this time.