False advertising claims abound in the cosmetics industry. Go to any makeup counter and you will be told what a certain product can do for you. It’s as if cosmetics companies are selling self esteem in a bottle or tube to women. British regulatory agency the Advertising Standards Authority is fed up and banned the Christian Dior mascara ad with Natalie Portman. The magazine ad features Portman with incredibly long eyelashes with a headline that reads, “Diorshow New Look.” The text for the ad declares, “Lash-multiplying effect volume and care mascara. … It delivers spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash.” Dior admitted to digitally lengthening Portman’s eyelashes.
The kicker is that L’Oreal is the company that complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the Dior ad. L’Oreal is no stranger to bans by the British regulatory agency. In 2011, the agency banned Lancôme ads featuring Julia Roberts and supermodel Christy Turlington. L’Oreal is the parent company of Lancôme. The reason for the ads being banned? They were “overly airbrushed.” Lancôme admitted to digitally changing the ads. In 2007, the agency expressed disapproval with a Lancôme commercial for mascara because it appeared that Penelope Cruz wore false eyelashes.
Lancôme also came under fire from the Food & Drug Administration recently. Just last month I wrote about the FDA’s review of Lancôme’s website. The FDA wrote a letter to Lancôme stating that the company’s products “appear to be promoted for uses that cause these products to be drugs under section 201(g)(1)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).”
Writing about the 2011 ad ban by the British agency, Akhila Vijayaraghavan points out that “responsible advertising is a key tenet of sustainable practice.” Vijayaraghavan goes on to discuss the “implications for CSR” in regards to the issue of airbrushing. One of the implications is that is “creates an unrealistic expectation about the product that the company is advertising.”
Airbrushing sure does create unrealistic expectations, and U.S. women are shelling out money to meet those expectations. A 2009 report by YMCA, Beauty At Any Cost, found that U.S. women spent about $7 billion a year, or an average of about $100 each on cosmetics. The report notes that saving and investing $100 a month for five years would pay for a year of tuition and fees at a public college.
There is more than just a financial cost to women, as YWCA USA CEO, Dr. Lorraine Cole said: “We believe that the obsession with idealized beauty and body image is a lifelong burden that takes a terrible toll on all young girls and women in this country.”
Jo Swinson is the woman who brought the Julia Roberts/Christy Turlington Lancôme ad to the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority. She is also a member of the British parliament. In an opinion piece for CNN, Swinson wrote about what airbrushed ads do to the self esteem of younger people. “These images don’t reflect reality, yet from a younger and younger age, people are aspiring to these biologically impossible ideals,” Swinson stated.
Swinson is right that airbrushed ads create impossible ideals, and it is time for cosmetic companies to stop using airbrushed ads to sell their products. It would be good CSR.
Photo: New York Daily News