L’Oreal Forced to Pull Airbrushed Advertisements


The British Advertising Standards Authority forced the cosmetics giant L’Oreal to pull advertising campaigns featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington, after upholding MP Jo Swinson’s allegation that the ads were too airbrushed. Swinson has been long been part of the effort to end the practice of photoshopping models until they no longer resemble real people.

The ASA supported Swinson’s complaint, ruling that the ads were exaggerated and misleading. According to Swinson, the images had been manipulated to the point where they were “not representative of the results the product could achieve.”

In their defense, L’Oreal released red-carpet photos of the women to prove that any changes (and there were, they admitted, changes) were “not relevant.” They said that the images still showed signs of aging, but then added, rather defensively, that these were “aspirational” photos. You know it’s a bad sign when even Julia Roberts has to be airbrushed to reach the beauty to which L’Oreal wants us to “aspire.”

The cosmetics company also pointed out that the advertisements were produced by professional styling, flattering light, and an excellent photographer. The ASA acknowledged that many factors had gone into the unrealistic image that emerged, not just digital manipulation, but concluded that “on the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques.”

In other words: not even L’Oreal’s makeup can make Julia Roberts look that good.

“Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don’t reflect reality,” said Swinson. “Excessive airbrushing and digital manipulation techniques have become the norm, but both Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts are naturally beautiful women who don’t need retouching to look great. This ban sends a powerful message to advertisers let’s get back to reality.”

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Photo from dreamgirlpumpkincate210 via flickr


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago


Don Lukenbill
Don L6 years ago

With food ads, photographers are allowed to create a product that is appealing but has little relation to the actual item the consumer receives. Why should cosmetics, clothing, or any other consumer goods be held to a higher standard?

Ira P.
L. Parker6 years ago

The ads should be as appealing as possible, whatever it takes. The idea, here, people, is to sell a product. Why should any company be penalized for putting out their best product, whatever it took to get there. Is there not any freedom in advertising?

Colleen Maranda
Colleen B6 years ago

The photo at left appears soft and beautiful to me and the one at right suggests a canvas-like object to be viewed and judged rather than a living, feeling entity with whom to engage.

Cindy B.
Cindy B6 years ago

"REALITY?" Political rhetoric is so scrutinized, spun and vetted that by the time it's released, NOT ONE SPECK of "reality" remains..." Late-nite comedians' schticks are so fine-tuned you wonder if this "funny" guy could even recite his name and address without rehearsals, handlers and cue cards.... Ads for anything and everything are steeped in psychology, worked and reworked by ad men and focus groups to finagle the dollars out of our pockets as efficiently as possible... Banks and oil companies (et al) employ the best and the brightest to paint them as unsung heroes, only out to serve the common man...

Yes, "Reality" has become a very scarce commodity indeed. But hey: let's get 'em to stop airbrushing those darn models and celebrities! That'll show 'em we're mad as hell and we ain't gonna stand for it any longer, by golly.

Christine S.

If the ads were for clothes and the models faces were airbrushed- it wouldn't be a problem. But when the ad is for make-up, then the airbrushing is very deceptive. Like the ads for mascara, and the models are clearly wearing lash extenders- not cool.

Tracey D.
Tracey D6 years ago

If even those who are beautiful to begin with are airbrushed then the standard is not only set too high but it is unattainable, by ANYONE. I'm all for banning airbrushed adds.

Linda P.
Linda P6 years ago

This airbrushing is ridiculous, it sends a wrong message. We are all different and beautiful in our own way.

Manuela C.
Manuela C6 years ago

I don't know what's the problem with people, the girl from the left is way prettier than the one from the right (looks like she's made out of plastic)...

Diosdado P.
Diosdado P6 years ago

It's ridiculous the lengths this 'shopping craze has gone. Nothing looks natural, everything looks flat & it's an unrealistic representation of beauty. I prefer to see all the flaws & imperfections, at least you know it's natural.