Beauty: The Illusion of Perfection

Today on the morning news, I heard that a complaint against two advertisements which depicted retouched images of famous models has been upheld by the watchdog body responsible for fair advertising. It seems that the company in question had used excessively airbrushed images of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington to ‘not accurately represent’ the benefits of the client’s cosmetic products.

This seemed like quite a coincidence to me. Just a few days ago after watching another cosmetic advert, I remember commenting that one thing that annoyed me was companies getting very young and beautiful models to depict the benefits of products that were primarily targeted a much older audience. The advertisement I saw was for a cream that was supposed to do miracles for facial wrinkles and it was being used by a very young girl who clearly did not need such a product.

What is wrong with using a young and beautiful model for such cosmetic adverts? Well, partly because of the unstated implication that she looks that way, i.e. wrinkleless, because she uses the product depicted. You might say the use of tactics such as this is at least questionable, but I believe there is something else fundamentally wrong with our modern society constantly surrounding itself with images of perfection.

We all know that retouching does go on, all of the time, in the advertising world. Even the most beautiful images are retouched to conform to our ideas of, not just beauty, but perfection. However, perfection doesn’t actually exist, just as the people represented by the images that adorn our magazines also don’t really exist. It’s important that we remember that otherwise people can get into the impossible business of trying to get their own bodies to conform, chasing a dream that will never materialise

Our modern desire for perfection in everything is reflected in many other ways. You cannot get bruised or blemished fruit any more for example. Not that I want to buy it, of course, but the supermarkets ensure that our fruit and vegetables are perfect in every way: colour, shape, size and ripeness. This has made the process of squeeze-testing completely redundant, though it is a habit that has been passed to the current generation of shoppers by parents who needed to do it and therefore, quite unnecessarily, persists.

They say that beauty is skin deep, but personally, I don’t believe it. When I saw Kate Piper interviewed on TV, after she started her foundation dedicated to helping people to recover from facial scarring, like any normal person, I was absolutely horrified to think that someone had deliberately thrown acid in her face. Although it is unquestionably true that the years of reconstruction work that she has endured will never completely restore her face to its former symmetry, there is another beauty that this person radiates and it is much deeper than skin deep.

Kate is an inspiration to many and her message that you don’t need to go through a trauma to discover what is really important is a message we all need to hear. Isn’t it time we began to see real beauty, the beauty that resides within normal, everyday, imperfect individuals all around us?

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