What impact can photo retouching have?


Although people are aware that these images are edited and retouched, they still compare themselves to these people. Why? These people are thought of as having the perfect body, so when one does not look like this they feel as though there is something wrong with their body. This lack of confidence and self-esteem caused by body image issues can lead to serious mental and physical illnesses. The goal of this campaign is to focus on the positives of all body types and build a more realistic view of what ordinary people look like.

Every day people see ads in magazines, commercials, or billboards that show "the perfect body." What message does this give to people who don't have this "perfect" body?

Children and Body Image

Children are more exposed to the media now than in the past, and many are uniformed about what they see in the media. For most children, they perceive what those people look like as normal, and therefore start developing negative attitudes about their own body and appearance. "Predominantly, there is the greater risk a child may focus on their body as one aspect that they dislike, over which they believe they can exert some control and change, or as a focus point of their negative view of themselves due to its tangible and visible nature" (Body Image). Children may feel the need to meet certain expectations about their appearance depending on how their parents and peers promote body image. This is why it is extremely important to create a healthy environment for your children where they feel accepted and don't feel pressured to look a certain way.

Men are pressured just as much as women to obtain this "perfect" body that classifies them as attractive. Men are much less likely than women to discuss their insecurities.

Men and Steroid Use

  • While most women tend to focus on not being "skinny" enough, men tend to focus on not being "muscular" enough, this is where the pressure to use steroids comes from
  • For most men, body image concerns develop around the time of puberty
  • "The vast majority of anabolic steroid users in this country are not athletes..Most young men using these drugs are doing it to improve their appearance" (Steroids and Muscle).
  • Some side effects of taking these drugs include premature death, neurobehavioral effects, and cardio myopathy
  • A major side effect is horror dysfunction which can lead to serious mental issues, and possibly suicide
  • Many men become addicted to these drugs and isolate themselves

Quick Facts

  • 58% of college women feel pressured to be a certain weight
  • About 91% of women are unhappy with their body in some way, although only about 5% of all women have this "perfect body" that is displayed throughout the media
  • People who pay more attention to the media are more likely to place a higher regard on body image than those who do not
  • 95% of people with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25
  • About 40% of people say they would consider plastic surgery to fix something about their body image
  • Only 10% of people with eating disorders will seek help on their own
"Body image is closely linked to self-esteem. Low self-esteem in adolescents can lead to eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance use and suicidal thoughts."

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  • People constantly thinking about their flaws, or the ones that they perceive they have
  • Inability to control negative thoughts surrounding their body image and fail to believe people who complement them
  • Possibly will isolate themselves for fear that others will notice their flaws
  • These thoughts cause extreme emotional distress and can cause a person to lack daily motivation and functioning
  • "A perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent" (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)
  • Affects men and women equally
  • Examples of compulsive behavior and symptoms: comparing one's body to others, camouflaging, seeking surgery, avoiding mirrors, excessive exercise
These photos show a few pictures from companies that have launched campaigns against retouching photos and show real beauty.

Signs of Eating Disorders

  • Low self-esteem due to body image
  • Obsession with weight and fear of weight gain
  • Eating an inadequate amount of food
  • Forcing oneself to vomit after eating
  • Lack of control when eating or failing to eat
  • Feelings of shame when eating

Signs of Depression

  • Feeling sad, helpless, worthless, and hopeless
  • Less interest in activities that you usually enjoy
  • Less energy or sleeping more
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Talk about suicide

Supplementary Resources

Celebrities That Have Spoken Out

  • Lady Gaga- "I felt my skin looked too perfect. I felt my hair looked too soft. I do not look like this when I wake up in the morning."
  • Kate Winslet- "The retouching is excessive. I do not look like that and more importantly I don't desire to look like that."
  • Ashley Benson- "Way too much Photoshop. We all have flaws. No one looks like this. It's not attractive."
  • Brad Pitt- "You can’t be the fair-haired young boy forever." Pitt repeatedly rejects the use of photoshop and actually wishes to show his flaws.
  • Gisele Bündchen- "I love that feeling of, you know, we are women, we are so different, our imperfections are what make us unique and beautiful."
People have more confidence when they see models that are similar to and relate to them, rather than seeing models with unrealistic standards.

What can you do to help?

If you think someone you know may be suffering in any way, reach out to them and offer them support and professional help. Many people struggle with their body image, and working to get rid of this idea of the "perfect body" is the first step to boosting people's confidence and self-esteem. Dove started this campaign in 2004 with their "Real Women" commercials, and many other companies have followed including Aerie with "Aerie Real" and Target with their inclusive swimwear collection. Every body is perfect in its own way and our different shapes and sizes are what make us all unique. Retouching photos has a much bigger impact on people than simply flipping through pages of a magazine.

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