In 2019, unedited beauty campaigns aren't enough

Believe me, no one revels in the ability to purchase a flu shot, light bulbs and $1 hot dog-shaped squeaky dog toys all in one location more than me. CVS, with its omnipresence on the street corners of New York is my trusty go-to. I know New Yorkers would probably debate me on which mega pharmacy is better, but good ol’ CVS has been there for me throughout my days in Massachusetts and Maryland, taking over entire street corners in every town or city I’ve lived in. I hate to admit it, but its fluorescent-lit aisles of Chef Boyardee and extension cords just feel like home.

I don’t really think much about CVS and its competitors. Who does? But this morning when I checked my inbox, there wasn’t the usual SALE! or COUPON! promotion email from the pharma giant - but the announcement of their new stand on “unaltered” beauty. Cue the eye roll.

CVS declared a promise to promote unaltered photos in both their marketing and in-store images. They’ve also asked their brand partners to do the same, and some big ones like Aveeno, L’Oreal and Maybelline have complied. Watch a short clip about the campaign here.

A Reuters press release announced that by 2020, all images in-store will be marked as unaltered, and all images in CVS.com already are.

A Reuters press release announced that by 2020, all images in-store will be marked as unaltered, and all images in CVS.com already are.

At first it was a little difficult to put my finger on the main reason this email frustrated me. But the more I think about it, it’s because this marketing campaign feels so LATE and a little out of touch. Haven’t we been talking about the issue of unreachable beauty standards we place on women and girls for years now? With the recent sweep of brands broadening their ideals of the perfect body to promote their products (my favorite being Aerie’s REAL campaign), this marketing campaign by America’s largest pharmacy chain is lackluster and overdue. I could have sworn we stopped changing the literal bone structure on photographs of models already…but maybe I’m the out of touch one…

The beauty industry is slowly evolving, with old societal standards of female perfection being deconstructed. We as women aren’t asking just skin deep (haha) questions anymore. A lot of us want a better understanding of the types of chemicals that are in our products, who is making them and if their workers are paid fairly, the price and quality of the products and their packaging and how these products can be integrated into a healthier lifestyle that promotes physical wellness and body positivity for the common customer.

But enough complaining! I’d like to think that overall, we’re headed in the right direction of bringing more power into the hands of consumers, and that more platforms and brands are starting to think about products from a well-rounded and diverse perspective. Showing us unaltered photos of models really doesn’t cut it anymore. Women are the main consumer demographic in this industry. We are asking for and deserve so much more.

So here’s my quick roundup of a few of my current favorite brands and companies doing the good work:

Marketplaces:

The Detox Market, BLK + GRN, Credo Beauty

Individual Beauty Brands (that are available at big box retailers like Target and Sephora):

RMS Beauty, W3LL PEOPLE, Pacifica, Tata Harper and Ursa Major

*One awesome aspect of CVS’s #BeautyUnaltered campaign is that 100% of the profits from the purchase of their “Sans Retouching” t-shirt is going to Girls, Inc. - a non-profit I suggest ya check out.