It’s no secret that the beauty industry uses post-production photo editing to help sell products. Not only do these images support societal pressures surrounding physical beauty, but they are also misleading, exaggerating product efficacy and suggesting additional benefits that are unrealistic. That’s why, in January of last year, CVS committed to creating new standards for the beauty imagery it uses in stores, websites, social media, and other marketing materials. As part of this initiative, the retailer introduced the “CVS Beauty Mark,” a watermark placed on advertisements confirming that the images weren’t digitally altered or changed to enhance a person’s appearance, with the goal of all images in the beauty sections of CVS stores reflecting transparency by 2020.
“We’ve reached out to many of our beauty brand partners, many of whom are already thinking about this important issue, to work together to ensure that the beauty aisle is a place that represents and celebrates the authenticity and diversity of the communities we serve,” Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President, CVS Health, said in a statement at the time. “We’ve been inspired by their willingness to partner with us to redefine industry standards around this important issue for the well-being of all of our customers.”
Now, just one year later, major brands like Neutrogena, Covergirl, Olay, and Revlon have joined in the effort, embracing unaltered images for new 2019 campaigns, and starting today, the company is pleased to announce that 70 percent of the beauty ads in stores nationwide are unretouched. This means your next trip to the CVS beauty aisle will look completely different, with models and celebrity spokeswomen baring their natural beauty — freckles, blemishes, wrinkles, and all. These are big names, too, including Kerry Washington (for Neutrogena), Ashley Graham (for Revlon), Ayesha Curry (for CoverGirl), and more. The retailer will continue to depict real women demonstrating their own definitions of beauty, too.
In case you needed to be reminded, this messaging is much needed. There is no shortage of studies showing that exposure to image manipulation in mass media leads women to internalize this as ideal, causing body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and depression. “From TV to social media to walking retail aisles searching for a beauty product, Americans, particularly young women, are influenced by media portraying an unrealistic representation of beauty, leading to negative feelings about their own appearance,” said Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, a practicing family physician in Bay Shore, New York, and member of the American Academy of Family Physicians Board of Directors.
While specialty stores like Sephora and Ulta are growing rapidly, and Amazon continues to disrupt traditional retail, drugstores in general account for much of the beauty market — and CVS is one of the top two players nationwide. Not to mention their online and social channels reach more than 100 million consumers each year. So, consider the impact this will have. Leaders in the company have recognized their responsibility to represent the communities they serve and rethink the messages they are sending their customers. By phasing out airbrushing and other digital alterations, they hope to lead change around transparency in beauty and showcase beauty in all its forms.