Cult Beauty, one of the UK’s biggest pure-play beauty retailers and part of THG is banning retouched photos of all its products and launching a campaign to tackle the damaging effects of enhanced beauty images on young people’s mental health.
The ‘Can’t (Re)Touch This’ campaign is calling on the beauty industry to follow its lead in banning airbrushed beauty images to minimise online harm and promote healthier attitudes towards beauty standards.
The move is in response to what it calls an “epidemic of anxiety and eating disorders among women and men alike” from the promotion of exaggerated body shape and altered skin tones. It reveals that the number of children being treated for eating disorders on paediatric wards in the UK has more than doubled in the last three years, while a recent Mental Health Foundation report found that 35 percent of adults and 31 percent of teenagers in the UK surveyed felt ashamed or depressed because of their body image.
Cult Beauty launches ‘Can’t (Re)Touch This’ campaign to reduce airbrushed model images
In a statement, Cult Beauty said it would begin restrictions on retouching imagery shot by its creatives, as well as launch a new labelling system on its digital media and social channels marking its images as ‘un(re)touched’.
It is also planning an additional labelling system for third-party, brand partner, and influencer images hosted on its site and on social channels to make it clear when an image Cult Beauty has supplied is un(re)touched.
It will also be working on a comprehensive review of Cult Beauty’s language guidelines for copy to reframe the ‘flaws’ that the industry has historically vilified and will be ensuring that evolved guidelines “to ensure diversity and inclusivity sits at the forefront of its branding”.
Cult Beauty’s added that its campaign will display visuals which represent people of all shapes, sizes and colours without the need for digital changes.
Lucy Gorman, chief executive of THG Beauty, said: “Young people are more vulnerable than ever before to the dangers presented by enhanced body images and unrealistic beauty standards. The damaging impact this can have on a teenager’s self-esteem and mental health are well documented, and as an industry leader we believe we owe it to the beauty industry to have a platform where they can make a difference. The measures announced today are only just the beginning.”
Cult Beauty calls on the industry to get behind a parliamentary bill to declare when an image has been digitally tweaked to enhance body proportions
The company is also supporting the ‘Digitally Altered Body Images’ parliamentary bill proposed by MP Dr Luke Evans which would make it mandatory to declare when an image has been digitally tweaked to enhance body proportions.
In an open letter to the government co-signed by Mental Health UK, Cult Beauty’s managing director, Francesca Elliott, urges ministers to back the proposed new laws, writing: “For too long beauty has been synonymous with a narrow set of, let’s be honest, unattainable ideals. As a society, we’ve celebrated thinness, youth and flawlessness — elevating certain attributes while vilifying everything beyond the strict parameters of ‘perfect’.
“Spots, wrinkles, cellulite, body hair — these are just examples of normal things that have been airbrushed out of ads and model images for decades — meaning to be ‘beautiful’ we have had to reject the reality of our bodies and adapt to a mould that wasn’t made for us.”
Commented on the campaign, Dr Luke Evans MP, said: “Research on the impact of social media and distorted images is substantial and alarming. We believe change needs to be made from the top down, which is why I’m delighted Cult Beauty have signed the Body Image Pledge and are helping to lead the way on this issue.”