Drugstore Chain CVS Health to Ban Retouched Images

Drugstore Chain CVS Health to Ban Retouched Images

Drugstore chain CVS Health announced today that it will stop using photo manipulation in the promotional images for its store-brand makeup and will require all other companies to follow suit by 2020. Companies that continue to use manipulated imagery will have their adverts labeled by CVS to help customers understand that the photograph has been altered. 

This is a bold move from an influential company that could have a large knock-on effect across the beauty industry. CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes explained that the decision came about as a result of increasing amounts of research that shows that manipulated images are distorting women's concept of beauty and have become "a serious driver of health issues."

Acknowledging her role as a mother and president of a business whose customer base is mostly female, Foulkes went on to explain: "The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established."

Research from earlier this year suggests that most girls aged between 10 and 14 know that many images are manipulated but the profusion of imagery still has an impact on their mental wellbeing. They may realize that the photographs represent unrealistic aspirations but it still has an effect on the body esteem of young women. CVS Health's new policy may help to counter this impact.

CVS Health will introduce the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark that will appear on all in-store imagery - not just its own products - to vouch for its authenticity. Any imagery that doesn't comply will be visibly labeled to make customers aware that the photograph has been manipulated, putting pressure on other companies to be more honest with their advertising. 

The CVS Health website offers some detail of what this entails:

We will not digitally alter or change a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics.

For retouchers working in the beauty industry, finding the line between what is acceptable and what will be labeled as manipulation might need greater clarification.

[Via USAToday]

Log in to post comments


The second image is retouched so great that you don’t notice it. And that’s the future of retouching.

How do they define "retouched"? Raw files out of camera only? Can I remove a pimple that could be covered by makeup or be gone the next day?

They did define it. Reread the article.

John Pyle's picture

Can they just come out of the stores and make sure no one takes pictures of people on railroad tracks.

Kirk Darling's picture

I'm not in the beauty photography business--I just do portraits. But the women I photograph come out of the MUA's chair looking more like the woman on the left, not the woman on the right. I might have to deal with the wrinkles, but not the blemishes or the uneven skin tone.

Ryan Cooper's picture

The problem with a policy like this is that it will only lead to even more extreme requirements on models and instead of addressing things in photoshop there will be an increased demand for even more perfect makeup work. Its not like the image on the right reflects how that woman would look if you just met her on the street so there is still a certain degree of obfuscation compared to reality, regardless.

Richard Barcelo's picture

Totally agree! And when you think about it, what's the difference between retouched in photoshop and retouched with make-up ? It's not real anyways...

They are selling makeup, and that is why this is important. Makeup can only do so much. Retouching can remove all the wrinkles. Much more than any cream. If a woman buys some really expensive wrinkle cream and her wrinkles don't all disappear like they did in the overly retouched ad, she's going to feel ripped off. The ad was fraudulent. Ads should reflct the actual capabilities of the products, not mislead the consumers into thinking the products can do what they can't.

Tony Northrup's picture

+1 to this... though I'lll add that posing and lighting also contribute to unrealistic beauty in picture. But CVS gets a PR win because consumers blame the problem on Photoshop.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Yup, was going to mention that too as well as lens choice. Though in that case those situations are very good for skilled photographers as it allows them to expand the gap between them and photographers who lack said ability and overly depend on photoshop.

It'll put a lot of average looking models out of work.

Robert Nurse's picture

In my own experience, retouching actually brings out what I saw and felt at the time I took the shot. As you said Ryan, if I met the woman illustrated in the photo, I would probably see and feel the image on the left especially if the encounter were friendly, personable and funny. Am I crazy? (Don't answer that!)

user-128252's picture

Finally. I think it will become a new trend now. Because every single image out there shows the same skin texture that is coming from photoshop and is not genuine.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Well, there is a gap between thin/healthy and thin/starving to be fair. But that isn't retouching that causes that. Its why I've always preferred to work with lifestyle models instead of fashion models. I prefer to shoot models who look healthy, not ones who are so thin and pallid that they look like they are dying. I think people almost would be surprised how often photoshop is used to make dangerously thin models look healthier. (rather than the presumed norm that its always used to make women thinner)

Andy Day's picture

I think the research that's going into this is finding that the impact of beauty images on mental health is a bit more complex than that. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/05/poor-body-image-makes-gi... Of course everyone should just cheer up and stop worrying about it, but mental health isn't quite so straightforward, unfortunately!

Andy Day's picture


If our culture is causing sickness in a large portion of society, to me it makes sense to take measures to address it. A mental illness is still an illness. We banned advertising tobacco to protect the nation's health. To me, it seems logical that action can be taken to address other issues.

Andy Day's picture

As mentioned, I think that's massively simplifying a socio-cultural phenomenon that's much more complex than that. If mental health were that simple, then we could fix it overnight.

Andy Day's picture

I guess we should agree to disagree given the difference in our approaches to how we think society should work, and how mental health problems manifest.

I should add: this isn't about fat people. This is about a generation of young people growing up with an unhealthy image of their own bodies that damages their confidence, and consequently their capacity to work, their ability to socialise, and ultimately to live happy, fulfilling lives.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Genetics and hormones play a large role. I'd bet everything I own that there are people out there who exercise daily and eat all the right things who have higher body fat than you. I also guarantee that there are people who are sedentary and eat worse than you that look better than you. Thinking everyone's metabolic and hormonal systems are identical is incredibly naive.
That said, daily rigorous exercise and proper diet are a massive equalizer.
Therein lies another problem though, a "proper diet" for one person could be a catastrophe for another. I'd wager that most people don't know what their "ideal" diet is.

Anonymous's picture

Random guy tried to help "so many people" who are fat and found out they were overeating. Welp, close up shop, scientists. No other evidence needed.

The level of naivete and stupidity here is mind numbing.

Anonymous's picture

6ft2 and 173lb nearly my entire adult life. And not stupid enough to think that my own limited life experience and the starvation of prisoners is enough information on body weight and nutrition to make any reasonable conclusion off of.

Anonymous's picture

What an idiotic straw man point. You’re a sad sack who ignores science to peddle your oversimplified argument.

Keep complaining of the downfall of society without being smart enough to realize that your close-minded, ignorant blabbermouth is a part of the problem.

Anonymous's picture

I'll continue to avoid it for the exact reason it is a idiotic straw man point. Not my problem it you don't have the capacity or desire to understand why it is.

And I call them like I see them. You either stupidly or purposely hide information to try to prove an incorrect point in another post, then cowardly back-peddled and tried to rationalize your way out of it. Here, you either stupidly or unethically think that your own experience and vague references to history is enough to conclude the scientific complexities of body weight, nutrition, and diet, and then post multiple times ignoring others and trying to reinforce your own ignorant views. So I'll call you a close-minded, blabbermouth liar because you are one, and have proven to be one. I don't hide from the truth like you do.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Bob, something as simple as stress --> cortisol levels being off can cause weight gain.
I'm not saying calories in vs calories out is irrelevant, far from it. And for a healthy person eating a normal diet, it's the gold standard. But it's simply the tip of the iceberg in many cases.
And for all those people you tried to help, I'm sure they were all overeating, but that doesn't mean that hormones and genetics weren't compounding the issue.
Weight is NOT a binary issue.
I dated a girl about 12 years ago who ate just as much as I did, sometimes more, and was very skinny (her hip bones protruded from her body and her ribs were easily visible). She weighed less than 100 lbs and was 5'6". We lived in separate apartments but stayed at my place the vast majority of the time. I know she wasn't throwing her food up because she thought it was hilarious to go to the bathroom with the door open. Also, she struggled with her weight in that she tried to gain weight and could not. I'm 5 foot 8 inches and 170 pounds and you can see my abs. That's how much food she ate... enough to keep me healthy.
Weight is NOT a simple issue. It's mutli-factorial for a lot of people.

Michael Coen's picture

Yep, and there are other factors like leptin (hormone) that play a huge part in whether someone is overweight. Studies have demonstrated that mothers who do not eat properly while pregnant, or who do not properly feed their children after birth, can adversely affect their child's leptin tolerance. It's a hormone that is secreted during digestion to signal to the brain that the stomach is distended. Unhealthy eating habits by mothers can greatly alter their offspring's leptin tolerance. A high leptin tolerance means that stomach distention is not being properly communicated to the brain to signal satiation, which leads to over eating. It isn't just a matter of willpower, and I suspect most folks don't want to be fat. Having said that, leptin tolerance thresholds can be brought to normal levels, but only through exercise.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Wow, Bob. You'd make an excellent doctor.

Anonymous's picture

This is a delusional, unethical person.

I wonder if they realize that unless edited raw files right out of the camera will give them a page of 1s and zeros.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Pretty sure the policy only applies to editing that alters the physical body or texture of the skin. Stuff like color correcting and other post processing is likely still very much acceptable. As would be any cloning needed to do things like clean up clothing (dust and lint spots) or background distractions.

More comments