Reverse Retouching: Making anorexia look healthy?
As a female plastic surgeon who spends a lot of time thinking about beauty, I was disheartened to see this article in the Huffington Post titled “You’d Be Shocked at What These Fashion Editors are Editing Out of their Photos.” The article was a commentary sourced from a piece written by former Cosmopolitan editor, Leah Hardy, in the Daily Mail. The revelation is that fashion editors have been “reverse retouching” anorexic-thin models to create healthy images for the covers of magazines. But as Leah Hardy points out, only the cringe-worthy protruding bones and sallow skin are airbrushed out, while the petite ankles, tiny waists, and gamine limbs are left in place. The result is an impossibly skinny, but beautifully healthy woman. This kind of woman does not, and never has, existed. Both articles lambast reverse retouching and assign it the same blame as typical retouching for creating impossible standards of beauty.
From my perspective, impossible standards of beauty sometimes translate to unrealistic expectations from plastic surgery. Women come to plastic surgeons for the chance to feel better about themselves, usually armed with a mental image that they hold up as the ideal. But when the ideal image is a reverse retouched stick-figure with perky breasts and a healthy glow, the goal is not attainable. To be fair, most patients are very reasonable about what can be achieved with plastic surgery, but the continuous barrage of digitally perfected images has a negative effect on even the most rational patient’s self-esteem.