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CVS Bans Retouching On Beauty Products—Can We Get an ‘Amen’?

The drugstore chain will no longer "materially alter" photos—so now models in ads will look a little more like you and me. Finally!

We’re in the midst of a sea change when it comes to how women are treated, talked to and marketed at. Unless you’ve been in a floatation pod for a few months, you know about #metoo and #timesup. But the shifts are going deep and happening in varied facets of our culture. This week, CVS, the drugstore chain that recently acquired Aetna insurance, has taken a step forward and broken with past conventions. Yup, CVS bans retouching and we do a little jig.

The company has committed to no longer “materially alter” images that relate to its beauty products.

Whether you see a photo inside a bricks and mortar location, on the company’s website or social media, you will know that that the models haven’t been photoshopped into beautiful but unreal creatures. You will see women who have birthmarks, lines, wrinkles and other signs of real life—aging included.

Why the shift? There’s increasing recognition that the media creates artificial standards of beauty that make women feel deeply insecure and inadequate. (In fact, in England, there are rules about such things, and a few years ago, L’Oreal was forced to pull some overly airbrushed ads.)

“It was really a response to the bigger conversation women are having over their own level of empowerment in society,” Helena Foulkes, the president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health, told the New York Times about this initiative. CVS is also urging the cosmetics brands it carries to join in; if their beauty products are represented with unmodified images, they will soon have a special symbol on the image – a heart inside a dotted circle. This will let the customer knows they are seeing the real deal, not a fictionalized image of what females look like.

While it’s not a ginormous win like world peace, this policy is a small victory to savor. It tells us a big company is coming clean and wants to celebrate images of real women. For that gift of understanding and honesty, we’ll probably enjoy a few more notches of self-acceptance and self-esteem. We’ll take it, and hope others follow suit ASAP.

By Janet Siroto


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