Trends / Realness
Jessica Keaveny
Reya Sehgal
Dec 17, 2021
The body positivity movement has been taking the worlds of advertising and fashion by storm, building space for people who don’t fit the normative, Eurocentric ideals of beauty—but it’s just scratched the surface. As more and more brands introduce inclusive sizing, and feature plus‑size models and models with disabilities in their campaigns and runways, consumers are hungry to see themselves represented more authentically, flaws and all. Critics and influencers have said that the body positivity movement has been focused on weight and body type—certainly important, given that most models or celebrities don’t reflect the average size for an American woman, which is close to 16‑18—but have failed to fully embrace our largest organ: skin.1
The growing beauty and skincare industry is starting to embrace the diversity of skin tones and types in their products and ads, and even in digital avatars.2  This is in part to make up for the fact that the beauty industry has often elided people with darker skin tones, and the enduring racism of the dermatological field, in which scientists have been trained to look for skin conditions almost exclusively on white skin, resulting in significant diagnostic gaps.3

We’ve written elsewhere about the issue of colorism, which creates hierarchies within communities of color, and often shows up in our popular visuals which continue to highlight lighter‑skinned people leading happy, successful lives. This remains important, as our Visual GPS data shows that skin color is one of the top reasons why people experience racial discrimination—true for more than half of Americans, Latin Americans, and Brazilians. We’ve also discussed how degendering skincare has led to a rise in makeup products designed specifically for men, or for people of all genders. And while the call to include people of all skin types may have been sounded in previous years, biases around representation still persist. Less than 1% of top visuals in the US, Latin America, and Brazil feature people with any kind of skin imperfection.
Each person’s skin microbiome is different, so it stands to reason that the visuals we see should celebrate all kinds of skin—because it is so tied to who we are, and how we are perceived.4 Skin contains records of our history, identifying marks, quirks, sensitivities, and totally different arrangements of microorganisms at play. Visual GPS data for the Americas shows that skin imperfections such as stretch marks, scars, acne, or birthmarks are among the top reasons for body image‑related discrimination; of the people who experience biases against their body type, more than a quarter of Americans, Latin Americans, and Brazilians cite their skin conditions as the primary cause of discrimination. This is true across gender lines, reminding us that beauty standards apply to men and gender non‑conforming people, as well.

Getty Images' customers are starting to embrace the call for more inclusive representations of skin, with searches for acne, vitiligo, alopecia, urticaria, and male skincare all growing year over year. However, images featuring skin conditions tend to focus on the imperfection, rather than on the person. Including more expansive visions of people’s skin in images of everyday life is an important element in authentic, body positive storytelling.
Real People = Real Bodies