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Aging and anatomy in retouching

Facial aging is a dynamic process involving the aging of soft tissue and bony structures.
In image editing or retouching, we influence this bone structure and the fall of light on the human face through Dodge&Burn (painting with light and shadow) and Liquify.
We must therefore be clear whether we are artificially rejuvenating a model and whether this is intentional or undesirable.
We also have to be careful not to mix different signs of age, i.e., to hide some signs of aging while others are preserved. This can lead to an unusual, inharmonious, and unnatural overall impression.
It is particularly essential to maintain the age of so-called “best agers” and only to make them look “fresher”.

The goal of this article will be to know different signs of aging and to use this knowledge (carefully!) accordingly in image editing.

The major forces responsible for facial aging:

    • Gravity,
    • Soft tissue maturation,
    • Skeletal remodeling,
    • Muscular facial activity,
    • Hormonal imbalance
    • Environmental factors: mental stress, diet, work habits, drug abuse, disease
    • and solar changes.
      (Zimbler MS, Kokoska MS & Thomas JR, 2012, p. 1)

The age-related facial shape change is similar in both sexes until around age 50. Afterward, the effects of aging are more drastic in women (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

Signs of Youth:

The youthful face is characterized by a diffuse, balanced distribution of superficial and deep fat, which confers a well-rounded 3-D topography that is delineated by a series of arcs and convexities.

In profile, three primary arcs are the most definitive features of youth:

    • The lateral cheek projection (the “ogee” curve), extending as an unbroken convex line from the lower eyelid to the cheek,
    • The arc of the jawline, extending from the lateral lower jaw to the chin
    • and the arc of the forehead.
      (Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p.5).


Figure 1 – Woman aging from left to right. Arrows illustrating the loss of facial fullness that occurs with age. (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)


Signs of Aging:

The face loses volume as the soft tissue structures age. Epidermal thinning and the decrease in collagen cause skin to lose its elasticity. Loss of fat, coupled with gravity and muscle pull, leads to wrinkling and the formation of dynamic lines. Facial bones are also effected (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

This is shown, for example, in:

    • Global:
      • Textural skin changes,
      • Skin thickness decrease
      • A flatter face,
      • Reduction in facial height,
      • The defining arcs and convexities of youth are disrupted in higher age.
    • Upper third (forehead and brows):
      • Loss of fullness underneath the skin in the forehead, brow, temple, and upper eyelid areas,
      • The bony outline of the skull and supraorbital rims become more evident, as do the muscles of the brow,
      • The temporal blood vessels assume an increasingly tortuous appearance,
      • Loss of fullness in the upper eyelid,
      • The eyebrow seemingly descending to a position at or below the superior orbital rim,
      • Fixed wrinkles or folds
    • Middle third (midface): 
      • Smaller visible areas of the eyes;
      • Deeper and broader orbit and double convex deformity of the lower eyelid;
      • Darker coloration to the thin infraorbital skin, resulting in a tired eye appearance;
      • Lid-cheek junction lengthening,
      • Deeper nasolabial folds,
      • Tip of the nose dropping
      • Ear lobe lengthening
      • The upper jaw decreases in size,
      • In profile, the primary arc of the cheek is broken.
    • The lower third (chin, jawline, and neck):
      • Lips are straight, thinner, drier and angular,
      • Sagged soft tissue (“broken” jawline)/ bone resorption in the lower jaw, the height and length of the lower jaw decrease, the lower jaw angle increases, so the shape of the chin changes,
      • A relative excess of the skin occurs in the aging lower face, leading to loss of definition of the jawline,
      • Development of the characteristic jowled “turkey neck” deformity,
      • The hyoid bone and larynx gradually descend.

(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1)(Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p. 4 ff.)(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.678)


Figure 2: Aging of the female face, as represented by models representing an individual at ~20 years of age (left), ~50 years (center), and ~75 years (right). The first event of aging is the loss of facial volume. All the aspects mentioned above can be recognized (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)



Figure 3: Aging of the female face based on facial scans in different stages of age. (Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2019)

Have a closer look at those images and compare them. Use those references at the beginning, when retouching middle age or older models, to do a proper natural style of retouching.
50-year-old women don’t have to look like 20-year-old ones!
A little tip for better image editing at the end of this article: If the intention to reduce wrinkles, you should only reduce the small ones; the large ones are very important for facial expressions and anatomy.

Now we have dealt a lot with the topic of aging to be able to edit model images better. If you want: Here you will find books on how you can do something good for yourself:

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
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Magazine page with Photographie retouchée including model with clothing, handbag (Hermes)

Advertising with and for women?

Presence of advertising

Media are everywhere: They reinforce values, offer models of behavior, shape role models — they make us think about different topics, they evoke emotions, we learn from them, we identify with them. They become co-designers and orientation aids at the same time (Jäckel et al., 2009, pp. 7-8, Gläßel, 2010, p. 13). That does not sound problematic at first. But what if this leads to unconscious processes and influence that we can not escape, that we can not control?

Increase in advertising through competition

The situation is even more difficult when one considers that the already saturated markets lead to exhausted sales potential and the quantitative increase in advertising is used to compensate that (Gläßel, 2010, p. 14).

Distorted reality

A direct influence into a certain direction is made clear by the fact that advertising does not reflect all facets (Gläßel, 2010, p. 17) and also not every part of society. In order to fulfill its own goals, it simplifies and emphasizes socially valid norms and embeds them in their extremely selective and positive advertising messages (Schmidt, 2002, quoted from Gläßel, 2010, p. 17). The positive messages create needs. The product should easily cover those needs. Often, the comparison with the advertising beauty models also contributes to these needs or deficiencies (Harrison, Taylor & Marske, 2006, quoted from Gläßel, 2010, p. 9). This should contribute to the approval and hope of the recipient and prevent a critical examination of the product (Gläßel, 2010, p. 15). Through glossed and reality-distorted advertising images, recipients are inspired to reflect and adapt their own system of relevance and their attitudes (Gläßel, 2010, p. 17). In terms of the ideal of beauty, this means that advertising not only depicts, reinforces or spreads it, but also strengthens the need to buy all the products that pave the way to achieving the ideal. The message of the advertisement is therefore that every woman could look like the depicted model, if she possesses willpower and buys the right products (Weinbub, 2012, p. 27).

Psychology for economic success

However, in the discussion of the ideals of beauty through advertising, it should not be forgotten that every advertising is commercial advertising and its main interests are economic ones (Jäckel et al., 2009, p. 48). Advertising, uses psychology for economic success (Deibl, 1997, quoted in Weinbub, 2012, p. 28). In addition, advertising is not meant to reduce body problems of female recipients: it is not the job of an advertiser to strengthen the self-esteem or body image of young women by presenting less attractive models (Gläßel, 2010, p. 177).

Social byproducts of advertising

A less favorable perception and evaluation of one’s own body and possibly resulting eating disorders or the maintenance of eating disorders are unintended consequences, so-called “social byproducts of advertising” (Pollay, 1986, cited by Gartmann, 2008, p. 5).


According to their impact, advertisers and media managers would have to live up to their enormous responsibility and well consider what they reflect in the outside world, since advertising and society influence each other. However, at least both sides are involved: Demanding and those who fulfill the demands. Viewers and viewed, Perceiving and Perceived (Posch, 1999, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 177). After all, advertising also depends on what your target group demands and would not work for ideals that are unaccepted (Gläßel, 2010, p. 177).

Cury models in advertising

Is the switch to advertising with curvy models or models that do not correspond to the ideal of beauty therefore lucrative for advertisers and therefore makes sense in case of the “social byproducts”?
Switching to curvy models, according to Gartmann (2008), has a negative impact on classic advertising success (p. 128). Therefore, it is unrealistic for the advertising industry to find a way that deviates from the audience conception. Even less attractive models are not an alternative to the current situation: Beautiful people trigger biologically preprogrammed reactions that are hardly influenceable. (Gläßel, 2010, p. 178) These reactions are desired in advertising. This gives the Art Directors/ advertisers the right to rely on the slim and attractive model bodies (Gartmann, 2008, p. 190).

Protection against media influences

But which methods can we use to protect yourselves against advertising influences? The retouching lable of France is one approach whose effectiveness still needs to be investigated. Nevertheless, what options does science currently pursue? There are two types of approaches to protect against advertising influences: on the one hand the self-driven ones and on the other society based approaches. These are explained below.

Personal approach

On the basis of social learning theory and the theory of social comparison processes, personality characteristics are responsible for the extent of how predisposed a woman is (Schemer, 2003, p. 523). Gartmann (2008) describes that a healthy self-confidence and a good relationship to one’s own body is the best way to protect oneself from negative media effects of ideal body images (Gartmann, 2008, p. 199). But to build this self-confidence and body love in a society that is heavily influenced by advertising and the media, becomes a challenge.

Social approach

Accordingly, the society as a whole is often criticized and people try to find solution approaches based on society. Although the topic is discussed on the surface, the awareness is lacking about photographic staging and image optimization (Schemer, 2003, p. 535). The communicated ideals should be discussed critically: A public discussion of which images are unhealthy, unreachable and unrealistic. To wait for a change in the advertising industry is quite sobering instead it’s better to learn how to deal with advertising images (Gläßel, 2010, p. 178).



Journal Articles:

  • Schemer, C. (2003). Schlank und krank durch Medienschönheiten? Zur Wirkung attraktiver weiblicher Medienakteure auf das Körperbild von Frauen. Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 51, (3-4), 523–540.


  • Gartmann, K. (2008). Der Einfluss der werbemedialen Kommunikation weiblicher Schlankheitsideale auf körperbildrelevante Größen der Frau: Eine experimentelle Studie (Dissertation). Universität zu Osnabrück, Osnabrück.
  • Weinbub, A. (2012). Die Macht der Schönheit. Psychologische Auswirkungen von weiblicher Attraktivität in der Anzeigenwerbung auf jugendliche Rezipientinnen (Magisterarbeit). Universität Wien, Wien.

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