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L'Oreal brushes up against reality

July 28, 2011 Reviewed by Marta 8 Comments
Airbrushed pictures of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington in campaigns for two L’Oreal brands have been banned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that they breached code by exaggeration and being misleading.

It seems more than a little Nanny State and I can’t really imagine something like that happening in the US. But the two ads – one for Lancôme’s Teint Miracle (with an airbrushed Julia Roberts) and the other for Maybelline’s The Eraser (featuring a touched up Turlington) – say a lot more about L’Oreal in my view.

Plainly, L’Oreal is out of touch. Women identify with real women. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that Julia and Christy look fantastic as their expressive, maturing selves. Advertising that makes ridiculous promises and holds up impossible standards of beauty is patronizing and old fashioned.

This airbrushing story comes only a couple of days after I read about a beauty industry study on why women buy beauty products. Okay, prepare to be depressed, or angered or both.

The study, based on interviews with women ages 18-50, concluded that beauty products are bought for emotional reasons rather than whether they work, by creating the perception of “caring for oneself” and removing the “guilt and worry” of not taking care of oneself.

One way of doing this, the study says is “by subtly telling them they are ugly – something that many cosmetics adverts achieve implicitly and very effectively by showing them images of unusually beautiful images”.

Reading that again and two words spring to mind. L’Oreal and cynical.
  • August 1, 2011

    by T.

    You've seen the ad for Photoshop Day Cream, right? It's exactly what goes on with most of these ads. . .

  • July 31, 2011

    by Bella

    Does anyone still look at these photos and believe they are real?! Even I Photoshopped a zit off my 12 year old's chin on last year's holiday card--long live Photoshop!

  • July 30, 2011

    by Justd


  • July 30, 2011

    by Justd

    I come from a much different perspective since I am a deeply hued woman of color who has had to contend with the notions that beauty is something not immediately attributable to women of my ethnicity, with the limited exceptions of women such as Halle Berry, Beyonce, J-Lo and a few others apparently, who are only flies in a bucket compared to some non-starlets I've seen in my lifetime. Undoubtedly, if we had the money, stylists, beauty experts and makeup artists laying in wait for us, we'd be extraordinarily more delectable as well.

    Regardless, it's a continuing challenge for the rest of our gender, in this hugely compartmentalized society, to remember that this is what they get paid for. We live inthe real world and should not ever look to a small segment of society to ditctate to us what is acceptable beauty no moreso than what is acceptable behavior among us as human beings. by both the movie, fashion and beauty industry, as we know it, opens up its doors to be all inclusive to the world as a whole. You either got it or you don't, which means many of us can become challenged by the notion that we don't measure up. I struggled with that for decades, who knew in my fifties that I'd be termed as such, and now I struggle to accept that! Talk about CRAZY!

    Whatever gene that I missed from my parents in self-acceptance has not been passed on to my granddaughters, they are DIVAS extraordinaire, and I'm not sure that they are getting the message that beauty is only skin deep, true beauty lies much deeper and is far more pervasive that what is seen on the outside. Regardless, suffice it to say that if someone took a glamorous photo of me, as I am, I'd be asking for the photoshop folks to invoke Adobe CS software with unabashed fervor. Make me appear beautiful on paper, I don't's a picture of me, not the whole of who and what I truly am.

  • July 28, 2011

    by Bella

    Images of very young women are just as retouched/airbrushed/Photoshopped. Why are they not banned too?

  • July 28, 2011

    by Julie Kay

    Sandy- you've stated things so well! and it's true. While "celebrity" is wearing their -2s - size 4s... the rest of us are size 8 (if we've worked hard and have the genetics), but likely 12 and over! And we look healthy and beautiful. My husband told me after hearing my tirage regarding Kirstiy Ally supposingly wearing a size 6 when it was looking like a 14 that (designer companies like) Chicos deliberately size lower, so that their size 2, for instance, is our size 10- How nuts is that!??! But once you know this (educated is enpowerment) you can start to deal with it better!! ~jk

  • July 28, 2011

    by Jaysie

    I could write a thesis on the topic of misleading and exaggerated beauty ads. One aspect is that many models/celebs have had surgical procedures or deep peels to maintain their looks, but there's no disclosure about it. I'm glad that some celebs are finally admitting to it, giving the rest of us more realistic expectations. Hooray for the UK!

  • July 28, 2011

    by Sandy

    I'm glad you said L'Oreal is out of touch. Maybe they'll read this and consider cornering the market on older women; we have money and we have smarts, and there are a lot of us, so L'Oreal could make a bundle. Also Plus Sizes -- I'm a Plus Size, not that you'd think it because I'm tall and busty, but I don't want to look like a tent. If someone will also take that group under their wings and bring out well-made, fashionable, affordable clothing that shows off our terrific figures (and I have the T&A to prove it!), they, too, would make a bundle, and for the same reasons. Christina Hendricks of Madmen is 5'8", a size 14, called one of the most beautiful women in the world, and no designer would make a dress for her for the Emmys because she's a size 14. That's B.S. She was 15 pounds heavier as an Italian model. The idea of beauty (and it is only an idea) is so toxic in the U.S. -- but, Marta, you're one of the ones who's helping to change things, by changing how we think about ourselves! Thank you for providing this place. I pass on the word to my women-friends, and we're starting to feel damn good about ourselves.

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