AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UK GOVERNMENT, BEAUTY BRANDS & CONTENT CREATORS
Re: CAN’T (RE)TOUCH THIS
For too long beauty has been synonymous with a narrow set of, let’s be honest, unattainable ideals. As a society, we’ve celebrated thinness, youth and flawlessness —elevating certain attributes while vilifying everything beyond the strict parameters of ‘perfect’.
Spots, wrinkles, cellulite, body hair — these are just examples of normal things that have been airbrushed out of ads and model images for decades— meaningto be 'beautiful’ we have had to reject the reality of our bodies and adapt to a mould that wasn’t made for us.
A recent Mental Health Foundation report found that 35% of adults and 31% of teenagers in the UK surveyed felt ashamed or depressed because of their body image — so not only is the search for perfection skewing our perception of ourselves, but it’s also collectively damaging our self-esteem.
Comparison culture, stoked by social media’s endless stream of aspirational but mostly unrelatable imagery, is only fueling the problem. With so many filters and apps that can instantly blur, tweak and ‘beautify', image enhancement has never been more accessible or more acceptable. It is shocking that 80% of girls have said they had already applied a filter or used a retouching app to change the way they look in their photos by age 13.
Not only is it frighteningly easy to manipulate an image, butit's also near impossible to know when it’s been done, and this lack of transparency can contribute to growing instances of disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. The number of children being treated for eating disorders on paediatric wards in the UK has more than doubled in the last three years and according to a recent study carried out by Dove, 77% of girls have tried to change or hide at least one body part or feature before posting a photo of themselves online. 
Persistently striving to look like an image that does not show what is really there is taking a toll on our minds and bodies – something that Dr. Luke Evans, a GP-turned-MP — is campaigning to change with his Body Image Pledge and the Digitally Altered Body Images Bill; a bill which will make it mandatory for brands, advertisers and influencers to state when an image is digitally tweaked to ‘enhance’ its proportions.
“As a GP, I saw first-hand the effects that social media and digitally altered images can have on a person’s relationship with their body image and mental wellbeing.”, says Dr. Luke Evans. “With an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffering from anorexia or bulimia; over one million people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and anywhere between 500,000 and one million people using anabolic steroids, it’s a growing problem that needs our attention.”
Which is why Cult Beauty are proudly supporting Dr. Evans’ initiative by signing the Body Image Pledge— a voluntary commitment that brands, companies, organisations, influencers and celebrities can take to say that they will not digitally alter a person’s body proportions in any of their direct imagery. It’s a promise to not, for example, make a person’s waist slimmer, biceps bigger or to widen a ‘thigh gap’.
In addition to signing the Body Image Pledge:
We are vowing not to retouch models in imagery shot by Cult Beauty creatives, full stop. This means you can trust the image you see is reality — not just in relation to a person's size and shape, but also their skin, hair and other defining characteristics
We are rolling out a watermark for Cult Beauty created images hosted on our social channels, website and in print and digital media to clearly label our images as unretouched
We are scoping out a labelling system for third-party, brand partner, and influencer images hosted on-site and on social channels so it’s clear when an image we have been supplied is unretouched
We remain deeply committed to diversity and inclusivity in our brand imagery, and while we already implement measures to ensure diversity within our casting and communications through our Campaigns Committee, we promise to continue to build on this commitment to make sure the people you see represent the full, beautiful breadth of society
We will be undertaking a comprehensive review of our language guidelines for copy created by our Cult Beauty writers, to reframe the 'flaws’ that the industry has historically vilified and to celebrate our bodies
To all those reading this: we urge you to support us in our quest to challenge the[standardised beauty] narrative by signing this petition to call for image transparency. We hope this petition will motivate the Government to review its policy surrounding body imagery and make it mandatory for brands, advertisers and influencers to state when an image is digitally tweaked, as well as encourage all content creators to pause before publishing digitally manipulated photographs.
And to our beauty industry friends, you can already commit to signing the voluntary Body Image Pledge and taking the first, proactive steps towards fostering greater acceptance. We know there’s a long way to go but it’s imperative that we act now to dismantle the industry’s unrealistic ideals and protect those we care about.
We all have beauty bugbears — things that we wish were a little more this or a little less that — but we feel these are yours to define, not for the industry to dictate.
If this affects you or someone you love, our charity partner —Mental Health UK — has resources to help those who’re struggling with body image issues and the mental repercussions of these pressures.
Community: Sign This Petiton
Brands: Sign The Pledge
Signed by Cult Beauty
2& 4.Based on results conducted by Edelman Intelligence in the U.S.