Is airbrushing creating unachievable beauty?

It is a common tool used in the media industry, but certain evidence suggests that airbrushing may have gone too far. We are bombarded with images of the ‘perfect body’ in every magazine and film – but the question The Linc‘s Style team want to raise is whether this is even possible to achieve without the wonders of Photoshop.


Airbrushing affects more than just the pages of a magazine, studies show.

In a recent survey by leading women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, 60% of over 1000 women surveyed weren’t confident with their bodies. With airbrushed photos all over magazines, many women are left feeling inadequate and striving to reach a goal they can never achieve.

Other sources of inadequacy, luscious long hair and eyelashes, are often made from artificial enhancements that we don’t notice.

In recent study by The Sun,they found more than a quarter of beauty product advertisements are false, with models wearing hair extensions and false eyelashes. This, coupled with airbrushing, makes the models look impossibly beautiful, and that’s exactly what it has been proven to be: impossible.

Currently, most advertisements do state that the image has been enhanced, but usually in tiny small print at the bottom of the page.

Photoshop is an essential tool within the media industry and editing photos comes with the territory. Many pictures need to be sharpened or brightened, but the real issue comes when airbrushing is being abused, to distort the original model’s looks.

Steve Slocombe, director of Super Super magazine, says: “Airbrushing itself is neither inherently good nor bad. It is, after all, simply a tool, a technique – for us what’s important is the intent with which it’s used.

“We’ll run pictures that are untouched and realer than real, and we’ll also run pictures that have been airbrushed into absurdity, depending on what our creative intent is. Needless to say, if your intent as a publication is to deceive your reader by presenting something as real that isn’t, we’re not down with that,” he said.

The worrying thing is, it’s directly affecting women’s confidence and many young girls are being treated for depression because they feel inadequate as they can’t compete with these images.

Emma Pearson, 20, a journalism student at the University of Lincoln, is annoyed by airbrushing within the media. “Airbrushing should be banned; it creates a negative image to young girls who think they can obtain a figure like those of celebrities, who have been airbrushed,” she said.

Things are slowly changing, however. Dove has been campaigning for real beauty since 2004, and do not distort their images to create an unrealistic and unattainable view of beauty. Of course, a few changes have to be made to meet professional standards, but they are leading the way for real beauty.

We are all familiar with their advertisements featuring women of all shapes and sizes, and their key aim is to raise the self esteem of women across the globe.

Airbrushing is such an issue that even the Liberal Democrats have taken notice. They are spearheading a ‘Campaign for Body Confidence’.

Their aim is to encourage people to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority over airbrushing in advertisements until the rules are changed. They also held a panel debate on International Women’s Day.

However, one political party that don’t seem to be as against airbrushing is the Conservatives. Many have accused leader David Cameron of being airbrushed in his campaign posters. He has, on a recent television program, denied this, saying that he just has a young face.

Politics may be renowned for being dishonest, especially financially. However, being dishonest about a few signs of ageing is taking it to a new level. When we start using airbrushing in politics, it raises the question of us being able to trust anything we see in the media.

Taking a stand and fighting back does work. Back in December, Twiggy modelled for Olay Definity. The advertisement received over 700 complaints over its use of airbrushing and the advert was banned.

There is still a long way to go however, and it is quite clear that images distorted in this way are directly affecting women’s self esteem. The fight isn’t over, it seems it has only just begun.

Watch the Dove evolution film to see the effects of airbrushing.

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