©Mario Testino--Photoshop shocker: UK authorities consider this image of Julia Roberts misleading.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered cosmetic maker L’Oréal to pull two heavily retouched ads–one of actress Julia Roberts and the other of model Christy Turlington–on the grounds that the ads are misleading, according to press reports.

Of an ad for L’Oréal’s Lancôme brand featuring Roberts, the ASA said, “we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques.”

L’Oréal defended itself by describing the ad to the ASA as an “aspirational picture of what could be achieved by using the product.”

The ad featuring Turlington promoted a cosmetic foundation from L’Oréal’s Maybelline line. The ASA concluded that the ad “was likely to mislead” because some wrinkles in Turlington’s faced had been removed digitally after the product had been applied.

Both ads were challenged by Member of Parliament Jo Swinson, who has spearheaded a campaign to halt unrealistic advertising images of models for several years.

Truth-in-advertising laws also apply in the US under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Advertising “must be truthful and non-deceptive,” the FTC says, and advertisers “must have evidence to back up their claims.”

That raises a question: Should US regulators be more vigilant about the use of digital manipulation in beauty ads?

According to the FTC web site, the agency focuses its enforcement attention on ads that make claims about health and safety. “Ads that make subjective claims or claims that consumers can judge for themselves receive less attention from the FTC,” the agency explains. So it’s a question of scarce resource allocation. But it’s also a question of politics. So far, nobody in Congress has taken up arms against the depiction of impossibly young, thin and beautiful models in fashion and beauty ads.

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