“Reverse retouching” of models to fatten them up

“There’s another type of digital dishonesty that’s rife in the beauty industry, and it’s one that you may well never have heard of and may even struggle to believe, but which can be just as poisonous an influence on women.

It’s been dubbed ‘reverse retouching’ and involves using models who are cadaverously thin and then adding fake curves so they look bigger and healthier.

This deranged but increasingly common process recently hit the headlines when Jane Druker, the editor of Healthy magazine – which is sold in health food stores – admitted retouching a cover girl who pitched up at a shoot looking ‘really thin and unwell’.

It sounds crazy, but the truth is Druker is not alone. The editor of the top-selling health and fitness magazine in the U.S., Self, has admitted: ‘We retouch to make the models look bigger and healthier’…

I have taken anguished calls from a fashion editor who has put together this finely orchestrated production, only to find that the model they picked six weeks ago for her luscious curves and gleaming skin is now an anorexic waif with jutting bones and acne…

Naturally, thanks to the wonders of digital retouching, not a trace of any of these problems appeared on the pages of the magazine. At the time, when we pored over the raw images, creating the appearance of smooth flesh over protruding ribs, softening the look of collarbones that stuck out like coat hangers, adding curves to flat bottoms and cleavage to pigeon chests, we felt we were doing the right thing.

Our magazine was all about sexiness, glamour and curves. We knew our readers would be repelled by these grotesquely skinny women, and we also felt they were bad role models and it would be irresponsible to show them as they really were.

But now, I wonder. Because for all our retouching, it was still clear to the reader that these women were very, very thin. But, hey, they still looked great!”

Former Cosmo editor Leah Hardy’s column in the Daily Mail

Blog commentary: Reverse airbrushing: Photoshop Jumps the Shark