Realness: The New Beauty Standard

I have to say I engaged in quite the slow clap when I saw CVS’ new initiative to stop altering beauty images in their stores. For images that have not been altered, they will carry a CVS approved watermark and for those that don’t, they will not carry the watermark. Simple, but effective as hell. 

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Unaltered photos are nothing new with brands, American Eagle’s brand Aerie has been a thought leader in this arena for quite some time. We saw stretch marks (gasp!), people who were not a size two (praise be!) and moles, wrinkles and gray hair (oh my!).  According to Business Insider, “since removing altered pictures from its advertising, Aerie has seen a huge payoff. Sales skyrocketed a whopping 26% in the most recent quarter.”  Wow. Imagine that, being real reaps its rewards and then some.

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Back to CVS...I truly applaud this approach. Sure, it may be a PR play (well, we have to applaud that right?) or two, it might be a new sales technique (see Aerie numbers above). To me I don’t care if it’s one or both or is coming from a true place of concern. As they say here: “As a woman, mother and president of a retail business whose customers predominantly are women, I realize we have a responsibility to think about the messages we send to the customers we reach each day,” Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and evp, CVS Health, said in a statement. “The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established. As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”


I care that this sets a standard for realistic beauty with a multi-billion dollar company saying “who’s next?”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE makeup. I love the confidence it gives some or the transformative properties it provides others, but there has to be realistic line of what’s real and what’s so fake it makes you question your sense of self. I don’t want anyone to feel that no matter what you apply, pluck, suck, lift or enhance, you’ll never get there. But guess what? No one can and no one should. I’ll never forget my oldest daughter chopped all of her long hair off last year. As tears streamed down her face I remember telling her, “hair grows back, but being a good person stays with you forever. Don’t get to hung up on your looks, get hung up on how you can help others and be kind.” The more good we spread and the more we accept people for how they truly are, the better off we will be.  

Emily Kealey, President & Founder of CPPR

Emily Kealey