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CVS to Stop Altering Imagery for Beauty Products, Challenges Others to Do Same

In a bid to put people on the path to better health, CVS Health has made significant changes in its retail stores, such as ending the sale of tobacco products, embracing healthier food options and committing to remove certain chemicals of concern from all store brand beauty and personal care items by 2019.

Further building on its efforts to put its purpose into action, CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health, has pledged to stop materially altering the imagery associated with its beauty products. The company will create new standards for post-production alterations of beauty imagery it creates for its stores, website, social media and marketing materials. Beginning in April, customers will start to see photographs for brand-owned beauty products, such as makeup, skincare products or fragrances, that have not been airbrushed or remastered.

“Every decision we make is customer-led,” Helena Foulkes, President of CVS and EVP of CVS Health, told Sustainable Brands. “Our customers are predominantly women and this issue relates to the health and well-being of women and girls. We have an opportunity to start an important conversation about this issue that will lead to meaningful change.”

“This is also a health issue. The American Medical Association has identified the propagation of unrealistic body images as a significant driver of health issues, particularly in young women and girls. We are hopeful that this will start an important conversation with our brand partners, with our customers and within the beauty industry around transparency and authenticity. I think it will give us an opportunity to collaborate and navigate this issue together in order to create new standards with customers in mind,” Foulkes added.

New avenues in brand transparency

Join us as we dig into the growing trend around product transparency (through eco labels, carbon labels, smart packaging and more) and the brands leading the charge, at Brand-Led Culture Change — May 22-24.

CVS is defining “materially altered” as changing or enhancing a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics. To highlight imagery that has not been materially altered, CVS will introduce the “CVS Beauty Mark.” The watermark will start to appear on CVS Pharmacy produced beauty imagery in 2018 with the goal of all images in the beauty sections of its stores reflecting transparency by the end of 2020.

In addition to its commitment to not alter its own imagery, CVS is asking its key brand partners, such as L’Oréal and Maybelline, to do the same to ensure consistency and transparency. So far, the response has been positive.

“We’ve reached out to many of our beauty brand partners, many of whom are already thinking about this important issue, to work together to ensure that the beauty aisle is a place that represents and celebrates the authenticity and diversity of the communities we serve,” Foulkes said. “We’ve been inspired by their willingness to partner with us to redefine industry standards around this important issue for the well-being of all our customers.”

The move serves as proof of the paradigm shift that is underway in the realm of marketing, with more and more brands acknowledging the need for more progressive advertising. The launch of the Unstereotype Alliance last summer, an initiative from UN Women and Unilever, is evidence of this, as is Dove’s #MyBeautyMySay campaign. However, CVS’s initiative takes the movement one step further, thanks to its substantial reach and influence — the company has 7,900 stores spanning across the United States. The message CVS is trying to convey about transparency is likely to end up in front of millions of consumers every day and could prompt other retailers to follow suit.


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