Anonymous Retoucher Says '100 percent' of Fashion Images Have Been Altered, Calls Beauty Ads the 'Biggest Lie of All'

In a world where models are getting their limbs cut off left-right-and-center, and magazines are using photoshop to frankenstein their celeb covers, i
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Hayley Phelan
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In a world where models are getting their limbs cut off left-right-and-center, and magazines are using photoshop to frankenstein their celeb covers, i
Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

In a world where models are getting their limbs cut off left-right-and-center, and magazines are using photoshop to frankenstein their celeb covers, it's no secret that a lot of retouching goes on these days. All you need to do is open any magazine--or look at any beauty ad--for proof.

But how much retouching actually gets done, on any given photo? And what is a retoucher's most-requested touch up? BuzzFeed Shift spoke to an actual retoucher--who wished to remain anonymous--to get the answers. Here's what we learned.

Beauty ads are, as we suspected, basically all fake:

"I do work on a lot of cosmetics images, too, and the mascara ads are just ridiculous. They wear false eyelashes, of course, in the photoshoot, and we completely draw the lashes in one by one so it's just like a forest of eyelashes. That's like the biggest lie of all — you can't achieve that."

Putting a disclaimer on all retouched images is probably not going to work...because every image has been fiddled with:

There's just no way an image would be released without any retouching at all so every single ad would have that disclaimer on it. And absolutely 100 percent of what's in fashion magazines is retouched... You can never have no retouching across the board, because some of it you just have to do if something's really distracting in a picture.

Models' bodies don't get retouched as much as you might think:

With fashion work, I don't do a lot of distortion of women's bodies, which I think is terrible. I have been asked to slim down a waist or make the legs a little skinnier, but not anything too crazy...Sometimes people don't realize that models choose that career and they succeed for a reason. They have been genetically blessed with a fantastic physique and beauty.

Sometimes it's the clothes--not the models--that need the most help.

With fashion itself, sometimes the clothes are not fitting the way they're supposed to. They're always pinned in the back, for example, and then the wrinkles are taken out with retouching. So the clothes are kind of a lie, too. Nothing is going to fit that perfectly when you try it on.

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Models look slim--and yet somehow not sickly or boney--with the help of photoshop.

I have smoothed boniness before — like when models have bones sticking out of their chest, they want that subdued. That's somewhat common.

It's skin that gets the biggest overhaul.

We completely remove veins and freckles and moles and bags under the eyes all the time. We often remove body hair, subdue wrinkles, whiten teeth, pop the eyes. We also smooth kneecaps and veins in the hands and things like that — anything that's distracting that takes away from the product being featured.

Frankensteining, as we like to call it, is pretty run of the mill.

But retouchers do things like cut out a head from one photo and put it on the body from another. I do that kind of stuff all the time. Let's say they do a photoshoot with a model and the body comes out well, but she's got a wonky look on her face. They might want to put this head on that body. Or they want to put an arm from one photo on the body of another — that's common.