Altering media images of women to erase any flaws has become a hot-button issue, with critics saying it makes women hold themselves to impossible standards. Now pharmacy giant CVS Health says it will stop making significant touchups of images used in its advertising for beauty products.
The company said it has a responsibility to think about sending messages of unrealistic body images to girls and young women.
CVS said it will not "materially" alter photos used in stores, on websites and on social media by changing a model's shape, size, skin or eye color or wrinkles.
The drugstore chain said it will use a watermark, called the CVS Beauty Mark, to highlight images that have not been materially altered beginning this year. The change affects marketing materials produced by CVS, which said that if suppliers use altered photos in their material, they will be labeled.
Advertisers and publishers are often criticized for editing images of already beautiful women into impossibly perfect images. When AdWeek adjusted a cover image of actress Kerry Washington in 2016, she said she barely recognized herself. "It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It's an unfortunate feeling," she wrote on Instagram with an image of the cover.
"Women and girls compare themselves to these images every day," ad critic Jean Kilbourne told an audience at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in 2015. "And failure to live up to them is inevitable, because they are based on a flawlessness that doesn't exist."
CVS said it hopes the beauty sections of all its stores will comply with the new policy by the end of 2020.