It's no secret that the images of women in fashion magazines and advertisements usually aren't real. One anonymous retoucher told BuzzFeed in 2012 that "absolutely 100% of what's in fashion magazines is retouched." But just how much is altered in these photos isn't always clear.
Elizabeth Moss, founder and head retoucher of New York City-based retouching company Rare Digital Art, recently created several videos to capture the hours of work required to transform human models into Photoshopped ideals. Beyond revealing the depth of the deception in altered images, the videos also highlight how unrealistic the beauty standards facing young girls today really are.
The first video, which condensed six hours of retouching work into 90 seconds, features extensive alterations to a model's face: The retoucher erases blemishes, alters the contours of the model's face and even tweaks the color of her lips and nails.
The next video features seemingly subtle fixes — like the enhancement of eye color, removal of stray hairs and alterations to the model's ear — but these add up to an obviously different result.
The third video is arguably the most drastic, as the model's entire bone structure is altered. The final image appears comparatively unrecognizable.
Moss created the videos because she felt others that already exist online "are pretty terrible and not at all representative of what is typically done on high fashion editorials and campaigns," she told the website PetaPixel. "With all the talk about photoshop use or overuse, I thought it would be interesting for people to see how we actually add pores to skin."
By age 12, the average American girl has seen an estimated 77,546 commercials, according to a 2007 Nielsen study, many of which feature idealized images of women. Studies show that such beauty standards in the media can impact viewers' self-conception and self-esteem. This likely contributes to the fact that 3 out of 4 American teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine, and 80% of 10-year-old American girls have already been on a diet.
While Moss may have created these videos to educate the world about retouchers' work and skills, they ultimately reveal much more: They prove just how unrealistic the images considered representative of idealized beauty are.