OLAY QUITS RETOUCHING SKIN IN ADS

It's been a decade since Make Up For Ever debuted its un-retouched makeup advertising image. What's taking everyone else so long to get on board?
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Olay officially stops retouching skin in ads

Olay has taken an official stance on skin retouching on print and television ads as well as billboards, posters and social media, and that stance is NO MORE. Given the size and reach of the mass skincare brand, it's big news. But, damnit, when is a company's decision to present more real beauty not going to be news? 

I say "more" real because great lighting and makeup can make most of us look like stars. Most retouching, however, alters shape, size, tone and texture, as well as erases so-called flaws. Remember that Dove Evolution video from 2006, before high-definition and YouTube? (Fun fact: the makeup artist on that shoot was Canada's Diana Carreiro, who pops up in Beautygeeks posts several times.)

One of the famous faces of Olay's "zero skin retouching" campaign is actress and talk-show host Busy Philipps, who apparently thought Allure Magazine had naughtily retouched her image anyway.

Busy Phillips and her unretouched skin for Olay

Busy Phillips and her unretouched skin for Olay

Important to note: Busy is wearing makeup, and of course the photographer has employed excellent lighting. It's a professional shot. But her skin hasn't been altered, and any texture that might be hiding under the foundation hasn't been digitally erased. (See opening image.)

YouTuber, comedian and talk-show host Lilly Singh and her un-retouched skin for Olay

YouTuber, comedian and talk-show host Lilly Singh and her un-retouched skin for Olay

Interestingly, and of course this makes sense, Olay is also putting the kibosh on retouching when it comes to any influencer sponsored posts. On top of that, they'll be adding the wordmark "Olay Skin Promise" to every new visual that features a model whose skin hasn't been altered.

Models Sabrina and Zanana sans foundation or retouching in a Shopper's Drug Mart Skin Celebrated campaign image from January 2020

Models Sabrina and Zanana sans foundation or retouching in a Shopper's Drug Mart Skin Celebrated campaign image from January 2020

Olay isn't the first brand to commit to a retouching ban. Make Up For Ever did it in 2010. Dove officially did it in 2018. NYX Cosmetics has also done it, and Fenty seems to have as well. Fashion brands and retailers Asos and Aerie no longer digitally erase stretch marks and other "imperfections," and CVS no longer retouches its beauty ads. 

Models Gabriel and Teagan and their bare, un-retouched skin for Shopper's Drug Mart's Skin Celebrated campaign in January 2020

Models Gabriel and Teagan and their bare, un-retouched skin for Shopper's Drug Mart's Skin Celebrated campaign in January 2020

Canada's Shopper's Drug Mart hasn't taken an official no-Photoshop stand, but one of their most recent campaigns featured models with makeup-free, un-retouched skin.

Hudson's Bay displays this ad from Montreal jewelry brand Jac + Jo; the model's skin appears unretouched

Hudson's Bay displays this ad from Montreal jewelry brand Jac + Jo; the model's skin appears unretouched

On a recent pop-in at Hudson's Bay at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, while taking an escalator I spotted a poster for Montreal-based jewelry company Jac + Jo that featured a model with un-retouched skin. I couldn't find the image on the brand website, so please enjoy the above snapped-while-in-motion iPhone shots, reflection-interference and all.

Cate Blanchett sans Photoshop on the cover of Intelligent Life in 2012

Cate Blanchett sans Photoshop on the cover of Intelligent Life in 2012

Celebs have also popped up in the Don't-Retouch-Me-There club over the years. Stars including Britney Spears, Keira Knightley, Annie Lennox, Cate Blanchett, Kate Upton, Zendaya, Emily Ratajkowski and Yara Shahidi have either protested publicly against having their images retouched, or participated in magazine shoots and covers that haven't been retouched.

Timing aside, congratulations to Olay for joining the big names that have made the jump over Photoshop. Who would we like to see make the same move next?

UPDATE (Feb 21): Been having a convo on Instagram that highlights a need for a bit of clarification here. Olay's "zero skin retouching" stance doesn't mean their images won't be edited to tweak lighting or shadows or hair or the whiteness of eyes or intensity/colour of makeup, etc. They've just committed to not changing the skin.

In a DM, someone said she saw this as further vilification of Photoshop, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Rather, it's a simplification of a nuanced concept that Olay is using for marketing purposes. Photo retouching is an art not widely understood by people who aren’t in the industry of producing advertising and editorial images. Basically, Olay is marketing the idea that they are going to show more realistic skin. (Note Busy Philipps' moles in the opening shot – she says they were "often digitally removed from photoshoots early in her career.")

over to you

Do you have thoughts about all this?

Are there specific brands you'd like to see quit digitally altering their ads?

Do you think influencers will comply on their sponsored posts?

Are brands too slow in getting the Stop Photoshop-ing message?

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