A British online doctor and pharmacy service, Superdrug, set out to see how “ideals of perfection” differ across the globe with the hope of better understanding “potentially unrealistic standards of beauty” and the associated pressures to live up to them. So they asked 18 freelance designers, almost all women, “to Photoshop a female form by making her, in their opinion, more attractive to other citizens of their country.” The results make you see that, sadly, the manufactured “beauty ideal” knows no boundaries; it just varies from country to country.
For their Perceptions of Perfection study, Superdrug focused on working with female designers because they “wanted a woman’s view of what her culture finds attractive and to understand more about the pressures they face.” While they attempted to get as wide a spread as possible across the world, they explained that “many countries are poorly represented on these job boards, particularly when it comes to female designers.” They added, “We also had issues finding interested artists in some countries due to the amount of skin shown on the model.” So, in order to get entries from more countries, they “accepted contributions from four men with the caveat that they first seek input from women and base their design changes on this feedback.”
In the end, the participating designers represented 18 nations spanning five continents, including North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and these were the instructions they each were given:
Photoshop her form. The idea is to Photoshop and retouch this woman to make her more attractive to the citizens of your country. We are looking to explore how perceptions of beauty change across the world. Multiple designers are involved. You can modify clothing, but her form must be visible. No nudity. All other changes, including those to her shape and form, are up to you.
The vasty different submissions prove the notion, according to Superdrug, that “beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another.”