Airbrushed make-up ads banned for 'misleading'

Roberts and Turlington banned ads The adverts - for L'Oreal's Lancome and Maybelline brands - cannot be shown in their old format

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Cosmetic adverts featuring airbrushed images of actress Julia Roberts and model Christy Turlington have been banned by the advertising watchdog.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson complained that the L'Oreal adverts were "not representative of the results the products could achieve".

The Advertising Standards Authority agreed that the images were exaggerated and breached its code of conduct.

L'Oreal admitted retouching but denied that the two adverts were misleading.

Eating disorders

Ms Swinson said that while some retouching may be acceptable, the adverts were "particularly bad examples of misleading advertising" and could contribute to body image problems.

"We should have some honesty in advertising and that's exactly what the ASA is there to do. I'm delighted they've upheld these complaints," she said.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson: ''We just need to have a bit more honesty in advertising''

"There's a big picture here which is half of young women between 16 and 21 say they would consider cosmetic surgery and we've seen eating disorders more than double in the last 15 years.

"There's a problem out there with body image and confidence. The way excessive retouching has become pervasive in our society is contributing to that problem."

Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, told the BBC that airbrushing was a "question of degree" and that advertisements could only be banned if they were misleading, harmful or offensive.

"If advertisers go too far in using airbrushing and other post-production techniques to alter the appearance of models and it's likely to mislead people, then that's wrong and we'll stop the ads," he said.

Start Quote

If advertisers go too far in using airbrushing and other post-production techniques to alter the appearance of models and it's likely to mislead people, then that's wrong and we'll stop the ads”

End Quote Guy Parker Advertising Standards Authority chief executive

The L'Oreal images were banned, said Mr Parker, because the company was unable to show exactly how much retouching had been done to the advert - a requirement for cosmetics adverts.

"Advertisers must be able to provide appropriate material to us to demonstrate what retouching they've done in the event we question them, and they mustn't mislead," said Mr Parker.

"In this event L'Oreal didn't provide us with that evidence so we were left with no choice but to uphold the complaint."

The French cosmetics firm admitted the image of Ms Turlington - promoting an "anti-ageing" foundation - had been altered to "lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows".

However, it argued it still accurately reflected the results the product could achieve.

The advert featuring Julia Roberts - also for foundation - was down to her "naturally healthy and glowing skin", said the cosmetics firm, who added that the product had taken 10 years to develop.

It added that consumer tests had been positive, showing it helped make the skin "more radiant and luminous".

The ASA last year rejected a complaint over a L'Oreal hair advert featuring Cheryl Cole, ruling the product's benefits in that case had not been exaggerated.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Although many of us are aware that the photos in adverts are airbrushed, it still doesn't stop them from affecting our standard of expectation. We are bombarded of images of exceptionally attractive people each day and many people will recognise a celebrity they've never ever met over their neighbours!! Of course this will effect can try to resist but you'll never beat it entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    This is something I have felt strongly about for many years now, great news! As a 40 yrd old woman who is noticing the natural changes in her face,I have become increasingly irritated by the "flawless" images of woman with not a single expression line on their face. These images encourage us to be dissatisfied with the reality and to question what is a normal part of the ageing process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I think whilst this is a step in the right direction, a whole industry is built on selling something that isn't real. In the same way as 90% of people buying make up won't be supermodels, 90% of people buying adidas won't be sports stars, 90% of men buying Lynx won't be chased along a beach by a mob of semi naked women and 90% of people who wear prada won't be rubbing shoulders with upper society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I just wish people, women(especially) would refrain from following the cosmetic industry's ideal images. The amount of makeup 'tat' my wife has around the place is crazy, she doesn't need it.
    To me, all she has to do to look beautiful is smile..

    Makeup is highly over rated, it's all a big £billions a year scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Very important to insist on truth in advertising. Believe it or not, many young people become depressed to the point of disability & mental illness by their inability to ever achieve the "good looks" advertising and in film or TV. At least print media should change the policy. There is no need to make people feel like they have to look literally as if they come from some other planet of perfection


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