CVS, the largest chain of pharmacies in the United States, has just announced earlier today that they have made “a commitment to create new standards for post-production alterations of beauty imagery it creates for stores, websites, social media and any marketing materials. As part of this initiative, transparency for beauty imagery that has been materially altered will be required by the end of 2020.” The company also announced the introduction of the “CVS Beauty Mark,” a watermark used in order to point out imagery that has not been materially altered.

According to their statement, ‘materially altered’ has been defined as changing or enhancing a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics.

There is, of course, a bit of ambiguity there as to what level of alteration is considered ’materially altered’. After all, those of us who retouch images of people with frequency will know that we can change the appearance of someone or a feature with naught but an exposure adjustment. It would seem that is it this reason why CVS says it will be working with industry experts to develop specific guidelines to ensure consistency and transparency.

While the initial move will be for CVS’s own branded products and packaging, all beauty products to hit shelves by 2020 will have to adhere to these standards.


Make no mistake, this is a big move and likely to have far reaching effect for brands and photographers alike.

Or is it?

If you remember in 2015 France made a similar move that coincided with their ban on excessively skinny models and requiring a doctor’s certificate indicating they are in good overall health, and that their body mass index is appropriate for their vocation.

Essentially, France instated a provision that commercial photographs of models whose physical appearance has been digitally altered either thinner or larger must be accompanied by the disclaimer of ‘retouched photograph,’ and a violation of this carries with it a fine of 37,500 Euros, or even 30 percent of the ad’s budget. It’s been hard to measure, however, if it’s worked.

The problem with all of this is that in reality it requires an amount of case-by-case subjectivity that most won’t afford it, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think we’ll see some sweeping generalizations. And when we are talking about shape are we speaking about overall body? Who is to say what is healthy? Each body is different and it’s hard to judge what’s natural and what’s not.

Coming from a family of docs I know that we aren’t all made the same and what can be normal for one isn’t for another, so what’s healthy for one isn’t for another. People of different genetics simply cannot be measured against all the same indices. So, where does the line get drawn, and who is to say it gets drawn there?

I also find it interesting that whereas in almost any other profession we elevate and praise (r at least not tear down) those who are excelling, but within fashion and modeling there’s always a bone to be picked (pun intended). Rarely do we hear about the physical trauma that must be endured by top athletes much less anyone speaking out against it, but those in the fashion industry are always hit by the same stick over and over again.

[REWIND: Terry Richardson Under Investigation by NYPD SVS]

Quite literally, a male model who chooses to be top of his craft and happy to live that way works hard to be in top shape and will often be taunted by those who think they’re unhealthy for not living and eating what they deem to be moderate. Somehow, top athletes who do the same aren’t told the same routine. I’m all for models being healthy, but I’m not sure who can say what that is in a blanket statement for everyone.

All those thoughts aside, however, I do think it’s good to get away from the over airbrushed look, and if CVS will require that to be banished it means major brands like Maybelline and so on will probably be forced to adhere. What that means for photographers though, is that maybe your work should include those kinds of looks if you are looking to to be hired over the next few years.

Source: CVS