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News & Insight

Victoria Secret Models With and Without Makeup: An Unfair Comparison

By Hanssie on July 22nd 2013

Our society is used to perfection. The ubiquitous covers of glossy magazines with rail thin models and poreless, flawless faces distort our perceptions and expectations of beauty. Photographers joke about not being a plastic surgeon with Photoshop as their magic tool and yet we yield it like a scalpel ready to perform facelifts, liposuction and Botox on to our clients’ images in one fell swoop (or click rather).

These models are branded as beautiful, sexy and glamorous. But what do they look like without the make-up magic? The hours of hairstyling, the lighting setup, the professional poses, the flattering angles? Before we take a look, let’s go over why these comparisons are unfair to being with.

Reasons Why Comparing a Snapshot to a Final Image is Unfair

It is unrealistic to compare a quick unflattering snapshot of an already gorgeous supermodel to the perfect final image of the same glammed up supermodel. To compare these “before and after” images discounts the talent of the photographer in bringing out expressions, choosing flattering angles, utilizing the best lighting, and of course, finishing the image in Photoshop. In short, it’s simply not comparing apples to apples.

Most of these women look pretty good to me with or without makeup. But of course, we’re used to seeing the images on the right – the final product, the hours of labor, the glitz and the glamour.

If you want a true comparison, take the same model, same lighting condition and poses, wipe off all the war paint and untease the hair. Then we can begin to see if beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and not spoon fed by to us by society’s measures.


The media is constantly criticized for over-Photoshopping images of models and perpetuating the myth of the “perfect” woman. Logically, we know that the models in the magazines are modified by Photoshop and whether your opinion is that they are overly Photoshopped or not, the reality is that it sells magazines as well as the related products.

In fact, it’s pretty unfair for society to judge me and my looks to those of a constructed model in a magazine. If I had a makeup artist, a hairstylist and a Photoshop master come in everyday and I only walked around in perfect light with flattering poses, I’d look pretty darn good, too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go liquify my arms and retouch my new profile picture.


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. carolina vargas

    all of these women are beautiful with and without makeup, and not just that, but they are all beautiful inside as well. so I don’t know what your point is for this article

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  2. The Perfect Eyebrow Tutorial

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe
    you could a little more in the way of content so people
    could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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  3. derpahdiaouhd

    Holy shit whoever put this together is one dense mother fucker. The 4th picture down is clearly not the same people. Christ. Oh and Chanel Iman was always uggo.

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  4. Gregory Byerline

    Covered this a bit back in early 2012 at the following post.

    Thanks for sharing your post as well.

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  5. Alex Green

    Not to be a total nitpicky jackass, but one “wields” a blade, not “yields.” I also assume that these comparisons are unfair to “begin with,” rather than to “being with.” Who’s editing the copy these days?

    An article– particularly one with an already weak premise– is going to lose me every time if the people putting it out there don’t take the time to catch their mistakes.

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  6. Jimmy

    Ummm the 4th pictures are not the same girl (Constance Jablonski). And these pictures are ridiculous comparisons because it’s like comparing iphone photos to medium format quality photos. Of course everyone would look less flattering.

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  7. Chuck

    For the most part they looked great without makeup and retouch, that one gals mouth was funny but that’s just because the camera got an awkward pic and hey, nobody had their eyes closed. I prefer women who wear less makeup and would love it if pop culture was a bit more real.

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  8. Rain

    I don’t think it’s unfair at all. Take a photo of a model without the expert make up and hair, under the conditions that the average person has her photo taken by a friend with a cell phone. The average woman can then think “Hey, I don’t look much different from that supermodel when I wake up in the morning”. Not only does it perhaps help that person reconsider whether she measures up to the ideal of beauty presented by magazines, but she might also decide to call that photo studio that offers glamour photo sessions and sign up for a shoot. “You really CAN make me look like a Victoria’s Secret model? Here’s my credit card…”

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  9. KP

    It appears the fourth one down has brown eyes in one picture and blue in the other… are you sure that is the same girl?

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  10. Christina

    I look great when I throw on some mascara and lipstick too. Everyone does. Time for a reality check about that. But one truth is these women have great bods. I, however, do not, and it would look utterly bizarre if I photoshopped myself into bikini mode. It’s fun to see that these women look more like me in the morning without their makeup on, and I do believe even their bodies have some of the bumps and scars edited out, but they are hot compared to the norm, and that’s why they are supermodels.

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  11. Fede G

    I have a feeling the snapshots are what model agencies call polaroids, which are a set of photos to show the model as is without much production (make-up and hair). It’s the way for a photographer and client to see the model un-produced before making a decision to hire. They’re usually against a white wall and natural light with simple clothes and then just underwear

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  12. Cory T.

    Beautiful either way, but Victoria Secret models are supposed to be some of the most beautiful in the world for more than just there faces,andght? I’d like to see more of their lovely figures please before and after. Not much make-up around there I expect. ;)

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  13. Cory T.

    Beautiful either way, but Victoria Secret models are supposed to be some of the most beautiful in the world for more than just there faces, right? I’d like to see more of their lovely figures please! Not much make-up around there I expect. ;)

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  14. Michael

    Actually I think this is the most fair thing you can possibly do, share what they look like in reality and then when they’ve been in hair and makeup for hours, posed and lit by an expert photographer and then photoshopped like crazy by a retoucher. It shows women that comparing themselves to the finished product is absolutely ridiculous and not remotely close to reality by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a dramatic difference even though they are beautiful women to begin with and shows how unrealistic the expectation is for women to look like this out in the real world. I do beauty work like this and always show the before and after transformation to give perspective and a little dose of reality.

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  15. JBucks

    I think that this article is missing the point. Getting an amazing photographer, who uses perfect lighting, flattering poses, etc, to take a photo is part of the recipe for making someone look beautiful. Having a photo taken with average lighting, posing, etc, like in the comparisons, IS comparing apples with apples in the sense you can now see the models in the way that most people see themselves when they take a photo. given that all the techniques have been taken away. The comparison isn’t just about ‘oh look how different these models look from their glammed-up shots’ but also ‘these models look a lot more like the kind of people I see out and about day-to-day’, and that’s comforting for people.

    We must remember that actually there are a LOT of people who don’t realise the extent of what goes on behind the scenes to get a fantastic image, leading to unrealistic expectations for *everday* beauty. These types of comparisons expose these beautifying techniques (beyond make-up). The models still look lovely, of course, and no one can disagree with that. But they look a lot more realistic (natural?), and if this serves to dispell myths of beauty (i.e. that it takes no effort, skill, money or time to look that good) then I don’t think there’s much wrong with them.

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  16. Lee

    I have to agree with this post…if you want to compare apples to apples, leave the photographer’s lighting, posing, and talent for getting the shot in-camera, THEN you can see what these girls look like without makeup and hairstyling. A lot of what you see in fashion magazines is NOT just makeup artists + Photoshop…I’d say more than half is about the lighting and the photographer! EVERYONE looks better in a photo studio when in the hands of a good photographer…but tons of people never go to a studio to see the result, but rather just compare their cellphone snapshots to professional photography done with beauty dishes and soft boxes, and women who know how to pose effortlessly from modeling school.

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  17. emily

    I think it’s unfair that Heidi Klum looks like a 15 year old without make-up. Sheesh, does that woman age at all?

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  18. Dirk

    Well – I guess one purpose of these comparisons is to make the average woman feel a bit better. It’s a way so everyone can see that a supermodel without makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, photographer and retoucher does look much more like the woman right next to you.

    It lessens the difference, the gap between glamour magazine covers and the view in your very own bathroom mirror… And I think therefore they are EXCELLENT!

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  19. ithurtswhenipee

    All these women are beautiful without makeup. Not sure what the point of this post is. Anyone can be glammed up and photo shopped. The reason these particular women are Victoria Secret models is good genes, not makeup.

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  20. Catherine Lacey Dodd

    The wide angle on the nose would be tough for anyone’s features. Helena Christiansen is my favourite model and inspired me to become a photographer in the 80s. She still rocks.

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  21. Dylan

    For some of them it has a lot more to do with the unflattering ones being shot with wide angle and hair tied back and the professional images with longer focal lengths, supplemented by the lighting, make up, and hair. The wide angle is distorting the face compared to the more pleasant representation of the longer focal lengths.

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