Embracing authenticity and diversity, CVS bans airbrushing from beauty imagery

An unaltered image from the new CVS Beauty Mark initiative
An unaltered image from the new CVS Beauty Mark initiative, launching in April 2018. (Photo: CVS)

From brands refusing to airbrush models and even Vogue forgoing Photoshop, it almost seems retrograde for a company to admit to editing photos. The latest brand to ban airbrushing is CVS, the pharmaceutical giant that has probably sold you at least one pack of hair ties and a foundation at some point.

According to the New York Times, CVS will no longer “materially alter” any images associated with beauty products in stores, online, and on social media. The company pledged in a statement to “no longer change or enhance a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics.” It plans to highlight these unaltered images with a new watermark, dubbed the CVS Beauty Mark:

“The CVS Beauty Mark will start to appear on CVS Pharmacy-produced beauty imagery in 2018 with the goal of all images in the beauty sections of CVS Pharmacy stores reflecting transparency by the end of 2020,” according to a company statement.

Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health, alludes to the #MeToo movement in her explanation for the change. “It was really a response to the bigger conversation women are having over their own level of empowerment in society,” she said.

In perhaps an even bolder move, CVS has asked the brands it carries to label retouched images as “modified.” Companies like L’Oréal, Maybelline, and Coty will have to either ditch their own editing practices or develop new packaging for CVS shelves. The products that show unaltered photos will be labeled with a “beauty mark,” which the NYT describes as a “heart within a broken circle.” The scarlet lettered packages will be on shelves as soon as April.

The same image, digitally modified, that will soon require clear labeling
The same image, digitally modified, that will soon require clear labeling. (Photo: CVS)

“The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established,” Foulkes said in a statement. “As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

As the Times reports, CVS has five million shoppers daily — and 80 percent of those customers are women. This move may have been a long time coming, but it’s also going to help shift the perception of beauty for millions of women.

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