Proof Of Unrealistic Beauty Goals, A Study By Dartmouth College

by Daily Curve on November 30, 2011

in Daily Curve

For years, the media has been accused of partially contributing to the esteem issues plaguing adolescents and adults. A recent study published in October 2011 by Dartmouth College’s Department of Computer Science in which retouched photos were mathematically evaluated on a scale of degree to which the photos were altered, provides a clear before/after look at the extent to which publishers present the “ideal.”

The authors of the study seek to provide a method for which publishers and advertisers reveal the degree to which a photo was altered. They present before retouching and after retouching photos as examples of their methodology.

In recent years, advertisers and magazine editors have been widely criticized for taking digital photo retouching to an extreme. Impossibly thin, tall, and wrinkle- and blemish-free models are routinely splashed onto billboards, advertisements, and magazine covers. The ubiquity of these unrealistic and highly idealized images has been linked to eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction in men, women, and children. In response, several countries have considered legislating the labeling of retouched photos. We describe a quantitative and perceptually meaningful metric of photo retouching. Photographs are rated on the degree to which they have been digitally altered by explicitly modeling and estimating geometric and photometric changes. This metric correlates well with perceptual judgments of photo retouching and can be used to objectively judge by how much a retouched photo has strayed from reality. Abstract, A perceptual metric for photo retouching

To see the photo’s before and after examples used in the study is shocking to us. Retouching features as minor as a scar to completely changing a plus-sized model’s shape and moving Angelina Jolie’s eye are exemplified in the study’s research.

For examples of the before and after samples used in the study such as the ones below, click over to Dartmouth’s website.



And people still don’t understand the pressure put on women, men, and children to be “beautiful.”

Just think if we DIDN’T do this.

images via Department of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH


Rachel November 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Am I wrong for thinking she looked great in the original?

Megan November 30, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Not at all. That picture DEFINES why all this retouching crap is so stupid. I think she looks better in the original than the retouch. The “fixed” version makes her face look weird. And the tiny bit of “back boob” (everyone has it) makes me like her even more because she’s an actual person.

Kelly November 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Right? Can I please look like her in the BEFORE?!

Kristy November 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm

The original picture shows a real beautiful woman! sigh, silly retouchers. The ONLY thing I could see that might have been a necessary one was how they added her arm back in. lol

erin December 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm

And they only had to do that because they took like 5″ off her waist! :o

Kelly November 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Laughlines and eye crinkles give character and personality and really add to a person’s appeal…*I* think.

As for the Dartmouth toggle site– I like so many more of the Befores better than the Afters.

LindsayDianne November 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Somewhere in between the obesity epidemic and photoshopping, lies the truth.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah November 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm

This makes me so mad. They ALL look good before. Infuriating.

Jen November 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

And the retouching of kids… that must mess with their psyche.

I always wondered how everyone famous was without undereye bags.

Rachael November 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm

WTF. This makes me week for humanity.

Jeniece November 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

We’ve been had! No wonder every 13 year old hates themselves.

Jayme (The Random Blogette) November 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Holy crap! After looking at the Dartmouth site I have to wonder why. Why in the world can’t we just show celebs how they really look?! We all wouldn’t hate how we looked when we saw how celebs really looked. This makes me so sad.

Audrey November 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm

No wonder our children have no idea what “realistic” is when it comes to our outer images, and they think that what is on the inside is genuinely reflected by what’s on the outside.

As someone who has struggled with body image for years, this both disgusts and saddens me.

Erin @ Miss Lifesaver December 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

We consider it a sign of maturity when our children are able to distringuish between what is real and what is not. The sad thing, though, is that even we, as adults, have a hard time with this. Sure we *know* the images are retouched, but we don’t know to what extent. And we still fall victim to believing that we have to achieve that perfect look! UGH!

KelR November 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm

For years, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find make-up that would make my face as smooth as the models in magazines, with no pores or lines or anything. I thought it was my skin and that there was something wrong with me. I eventually figured out that there was no way I was going to ever achieve that “ideal” unless I was retouched in real life the way they did in those photos.

I stopped buying women’s magazines years ago, partly because of the unrealistic images they portray. And the other reason was because I was tired of them trying to tell me I need to diet, diet, diet but then putting all sorts of ridiculous recipes in them that were not diet friendly.

Meredith November 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I sometimes touch food off of my kids’ faces. You know, because they always seem to have food on their face.

Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey December 1, 2011 at 12:40 am

I just covered this in an online photo class. I do tend to remove skin blemishes, because in my mind they are transitory – and will adjust things like exposure and such. PERHAPS nudge a really crazy angle or double chin SOMETIMES but NOTHING like they do for magazines. It’s outrageous what they teach people celebrities look like – when they DON’T.

Angie December 1, 2011 at 10:33 am

EXACTLY. I’m a firm believer in removing zits or scratches on pictures because they don’t last forever.

But taking off 1/2 of Faith Hill’s normal-sized arm or moving Angelina Jolie’s eye? Unacceptable.

Crystal December 1, 2011 at 7:30 am

This crap pisses me off. One time I caught myself watching that old “Newlyweds” or whatever it was with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey and criticizing the way she looked without make up. I was like, “Dude she’s ugly” then realized she isn’t ugly, but not completely made up and fake looking. I felt like a giant tool. Still do.

The ONLY positive thing I can see from people being ridiculously touched up and altered is that it gives anyone hope to be a model.

Angi December 1, 2011 at 7:37 am

She’s Faith Hill….she’s undeniably beautiful UNTOUCHED! I don’t mind a little photoshopping to remove blemishes, bad lighting or bad angles. But let’s be real. This site among others has already proven women are beautiful no matter their size

Daisy December 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

Can I “like” your comment?

Angie December 1, 2011 at 10:31 am


And thank you!

Laura December 2, 2011 at 1:24 am

So glad this study was done & the results are available. None of those people, in my opinion, looked better in the after pictures. So many of them looked creepy, like robots.


Bethany December 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I think she looks way more genuinely happy, and therefore more attractive in the real picture. Removing her smile lines only makes her look less happy. They changed a real smile to a fake one,.. and you can tell that.

CB January 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for telling us the truth! It really does help!

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: