Saturday, 30 July 2011

My quest for perfection: how Photoshop has distorted my perception of normal

Like most women, I am well aware that the images I see in the media are Photoshopped. However, I was not aware of this fact in my formative years when I first started reading magazines. In fact, I don't think that I had even heard of Photoshop until I was well into my 20's. I believe that all of this Photoshopping in the media has really distorted what I see as normal, and what I believe is flawed.

For years, people have been telling me that I have a gorgeous peaches and cream complexion, but I have never really believed them. I have just assumed that they were being polite. I have blackheads on my nose and bumpy skin under my eyes. There is some faint pigmentation on my forehead and the odd blotch on my cheeks. Plus I still get pimples. Obviously the flaws are evident to everyone, so clearly my complexion isn't gorgeous, is it?

I also have a real phobia about wearing foundation. I hate it and only wear it for very special occasions. Why? Because you can always see that I am wearing foundation. According to the pictures in magazines, that shouldn't be the case. It should be completely flawless and virtually invisible to the naked eye. I have searched high and low for this elusive foundation that is undetectable on my skin, without any luck. There are just no invisible foundations on the market. Even though I know that the images I see are Photoshopped, they have completely distorted what I believe looks good. So, even though I know it is not possible for foundation to be invisible, I am never happy with how it looks on my skin as it doesn't look anything like how it does in the magazines.

It has taken me years to come to the following realisations - that the hideous flaws in my skin that irritate me so much are in reality only flaws to me. To sell products, the beauty industry has to convince us that we are flawed so that we will then either treat or cover our flaws. They then show us impossible images of Photoshopped perfection to aspire to. Naturally we fail, so we try a new product with better claims, and the cycle continues. So, I thought that I'd share the realisations I have come to in the hope that it might help someone else see their skin in a better light.
  • Blackheads are not nearly as noticeable or as hideous as you think. They were probably my biggest beauty worry until one day I came to the realisation that I literally have never noticed any blackheads on another person. When I examine my skin in the mirror it is usually from a distance of 10cm away. When are you ever that close to another person? Whenever I am talking to someone my eyes a drawn to either the other persons eyes or lips so I never even register what their nose looks like. I guess, ask yourself whether you can list, off the top of your head, 5 people who have obvious blackheads. I bet you can't. Therefore, I bet there are less than 5 people in the world who have noticed that you have them.
  • Pigmentation is another bugbear of mine yet it is also another 'condition' that I rarely notice on other people. To be perfectly honest, I don't think that I was even concerned about uneven skin tone until beauty companies told me that I should be. It was probably the ads for SKII promoting clearer skin that got me worrying that I also had that flaw which needed treating. Do the challenge above and try to name 5 people who have pigmentation issues on their skin. If you can't name 5 then stop being concerned about your 'flaw'!
  • Freckles - this is not a 'flaw' that concerns me personally but I but I have recently been reading in forums about people asking whether you can bleach them off with lemon or have them removed by laser. I personally think freckles look gorgeous so can't understand why someone would hate them, but then the media is forever promoting clear skin or even skin tone so it is understandable that people would think that their skin was flawed. The media would never dare claim that black skin or Asian skin was flawed and that it should be bleached, yet it is OK to convince someone with freckled skin, whom they have no more control over than skin of any other ethnicity, that their skin is flawed. Let me tell you, it isn't.
Recently, in the UK, the picture below of Julia Roberts was banned for being too Photoshopped. I think that it is about time such action is taken. I personally don't mind the idea of images in ads being Photoshopped, as you expect them to be all glossy and touched up. Though, it would be nice if they did come with a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad saying that the image had been Photoshopped. Where I would like to see the change is in the actual magazine articles. If they are going a tutorial on a makeup look, it would be so much more beneficial for the reader if they did not Photoshop the image so that we can see what foundation should really look like; that it is normal to have some crepiness around the eye when eyeshadow is applied; that lipstick still looks beautiful on lips that aren't quite as full as Angelina's.
Image courtesy of Gawker

The points above are some of the major reasons why I have ditched the printed media in favour of blogs. I love that I can see a Face of the Day, that has visible foundation yet still looks amazing. Or an Eye of the Day that has the crepinessPhotoshop the image so that if we ever try to recreate the look then we are guaranteed to fail.

Are you able to look at an image and dismiss it as being Photoshopped or has Photoshopping also distorted your perception of normality?

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