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It seems like every other day there's another article discussing what Photoshop means as it relates to beauty standards. Whether it's publications offering ransoms for unretouched photos, people decrying the unrealistic ideals altered photos perpetuate, or just some poor model losing an arm in a classic #photoshopfail, this is one conversation that isn't losing steam. With so many voices already in the mix, journalist Esther Honig decided to take things a step further, offering up her own face to test whether or not there was a beauty standard on a global scale, according to Elle.
"In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society's unobtainable standards for beauty," she writes on her website. "My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level." Honig sent the same photo of herself — a basic, straight-on headshot with her hair pulled into a bun — to designers on the site Fiverr from more than 25 different countries. She asked the designers to "make [her] beautiful."
What she got back was a series of photos that highlight what being "beautiful" means around the world. In Morocco, she wears bright eye shadow and a traditional hijab. In Germany, her face is painted almost completely a pure white. For the American photographs, her face is manipulated to look shorter and rounder in one (pictured ahead) and longer and more heavily made up in the other.
"[All of the photos] are intriguing and insightful in their own right; each one is a reflection of both the personal and cultural concepts of beauty that pertain to their creator," she writes. "Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more illusive."
We have to agree with her. These "unattainable beauty standards" are prevalent throughout the world — they just mean different things. While the American version may read along the lines of stick-thin body, long hair, and clear skin, you can see how this differs from other countries. So, who's to say one standard is more "correct" than another? Is what, say, Sri Lanka finds beautiful better than the way citizens of the U.K. feel?
Ultimately, Honig's project makes it clear that no one person can possibly adhere to every single beauty ideal across the globe. So, how to combat this? As difficult as this may be, the best way to rise above these standards is to ignore them and try to be comfortable with how you feel about yourself. Because, that's beauty, no matter what country you're in.
Obviously, this isn't official scientific methodology — Honig is just presenting exactly what the designers from each country returned to her. But, Before & After does bring up the interesting discussion of how beauty is more learned than inherent. What we find attractive is directly linked to what we're exposed to — and that varies so drastically from country to country. This is just further proof that there is no "right" type of beauty — it's all subjective.
Click through to see more photos from Esther's series, and be sure to check out her website to see all of Before & After. (Elle)