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Saying Yes to a ‘No Retouching’ Policy


I recently did a shoot for Darling Magazine, a magazine that amongst many other great things, does not retouch women’s face, hair or body to look better. They might get rid of a weird hair on the sweater or a dirty fingerprint on the wall behind them but they don’t try to “improve” a photo by deleting a part of its subject.

It’s something to applaud, celebrate, and beg others to do. While this shoot, and this post, would typically embarrass the heck out of me (as it is doing right now) I’m so proud to promote a modern media company that is trying to give us a little bit of truth. Beware, there are a lot of photos of me, just staring at you, wrinkles and all.


This is not a fashion or beauty blog, but sometimes I wear clothes, get my makeup/hair done, and take some photos for magazines. Sometimes this is embarrassing because, sometimes, like this time,  it looks like “Emily Von Wanna Model” took over the blog. She has bedroom eyes. She wears unflattering, yet fun art clothes. And she looks like she takes herself seriously . . . and maybe she does at times, especially when she is reminded that most men take themselves seriously all day, every day, so being serious about yourself every now and again is a good thing.

Most magazines, ads, catalogues or any professional photography typically photoshop out all “imperfections.” Any crows feet, under eye wrinkle, ripple of cellulite or even freckle never makes it onto the page, or on the website even, and instead it’s a practically pre-pubescent version of that celebrity or model. This isn’t their fault, the advertising industry started it, to sell us everything in the most “perfect” way possible. Then the entire photo industry followed suit because hey, youth sells. So now, there is nary a smile line in sight. As a society we are used to not seeing wrinkles on women anymore, especially women in the media, so when you do see these “imperfections” our collective response is woah, girlfriends looking OLD,  when the truth is she simply wasn’t photoshopped as thoroughly as we are used to, and she’s actually looking her age. Women are airbrushed, even in films – frame by frame to delete any real normal “flaws” they have.


If it just stopped there it could be fine, but it’s done a bad thing. The photoshop generation (us) and every generation from here on out lacks a realistic perception of beauty (because we rarely see it), and because of that we are driven more and more to do desperate things to help prevent the natural aging process – surgeries, injections or just wasting $1500 a year on eye creams. It’s one big spiral that perpetuates itself and makes us obsessed. Despite said creams, we age (BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HUMANS DO) and as we look at ourselves in the mirror we are increasingly bummed that we look so old, when really we just look our age or even a younger version of it.

At least I am bummed. This is not a personal indictment on anyone who gets things “done” – I am a victim/culprit of this, too. It’s not like I don’t want the girls lifted after I’m done nursing this baby. On a scale of 1 to vain, I’m probably a 7. I’m not sitting here touting 100% natural beauty. I like to get spray tans and wear fake lashes, too. It enhances me and makes me feel better, and I think it’s different than removing normal signs of aging and deleting my imperfections.

This is an indictment on the photography and advertising industry for retouching reality away – otherwise known as selling a lie. They do it so well and we eat it up. A lie that, sadly, we are forced to internalize, and a lie that silently judges and punishes each of us.

Sweater: Pari Desai | Top: Equipment


Top: alice McCALL | Sweater: Pari Desai | Jeans: J Brand | Shoes: Miu Miu


I’m hoping to see a backlash soon because retouching is reaching it’s saturation point as everybody and their chihauhua can do it on their stupid iPhone. I’m hoping that at some point soon everyone will be so sick of seeing airbrushed people that celebrities/women in the media will start to release photos of themselves un-retouched and, once they do, it will become cool for companies to not retouch their models and instead it will be considered really cheesy when they do. Then it will trickle down to us and the next generation of women.


I’m hoping it will go the way of tanning booths or fake boobs. For a while people, everyone, was sooooo overly tan that one day fair skin came back into fashion, and now it’s all balanced out. Maybe it’s more of a lesson in moderation of the retouching, not complete annihilation of photoshop. Again, I’m not a big chia smothering, kale drinking, coconut oil eating hippie. I’m just as vain as the next chick. I just want more moderation. Photoshop out the bruise, put up really flattering lights, pin the shirt in the right way, and shoot from an angle that is universally flattering, but don’t hire someone to delete parts of a woman’s face and pretend it’s natural.


Again, I’m not saying that I’m free of vanity and that I won’t (or you shouldn’t) take outside measures to make myself feel better (although hopefully I won’t) because ultimately I think how you look is trumped strongly by how you feel – and if doing some things makes you feel better than that is your prerogative.

What I am saying that I won’t be retouched on the blog. Other magazines will probably retouch me and those photos might be on the blog, but I won’t be doing that to our photos. Promise. We take out chords, stains on carpets, and lighten a photo, etc., but we don’t soften wrinkles. This is what we’ve done for two years (since my last headshots, which yes are retouched . . . I’m due for new ones).


Am I proud of my wrinkles? Not really. They generally bum me out because I feel way younger than I look (I’m 27 on the inside, and always will be). But I’m working on caring about it less, just being healthy, and trying to be a better role model for my kids. They are just wrinkles, they are mine, and they help me look as happy as I am.


I have a daughter now and I’m terrified that she is going to grow up judging herself much earlier and more extremely that I have (and yes, I realize that LA is certainly not the place to raise kids unless we are willing to fight this battle daily). So anything we can do to stop is a very good thing. We need better role models. Sure, we’ve got Meryl Streep, but very few others. We need more smart, funny, talented women in the public eye to show their natural beauty. They might get facials on a daily basis and put on lashes, but to me that’s different from trying to appear younger than you look by erasing away what is actually there.


So thanks, Darling for being one strong and simple voice in the world of perfectly airbrushed lies. More and more women are controlling the world and our voices can be heard on social media, even if our wrinkles are removed.

If you guys support this idea spread the word. #noretouching

Shawl: Pari Desai | Top: alice McCALL | Pants: 3.1 Phillip Lim



For those of you who are bored of “the advertising world is lying to us” conversation and are just wondering where to get some cool silver shoes, then here you go :). Don’t forget to read the article I wrote about how to find your own style.


1. Button Down | 2. Loafer | 3. Cardigan | 4. Blouse | 5. Jeans | 6. Sweater | 7. Oxfords | 8. Culottes | 9. Metallic Oxfords | 10. Top | 11. Blouse | 12. Pants | 13. Poncho

*Photos by Mike Carriero for Darling Magazine, Hair & Make-up by Danielle Walch.

Fin Mark


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Honestly, I don’t think you’ve ever looked more beautiful than you do in this photo shoot! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and thank you for not erasing parts of yourself.


Agreed — and I LOVE this makeup scheme & hairdo; it’s perfection on you.


Agreed! You look absolutely beautiful in these pictures (and happy)…this combo of hair/make-up colors looks awesome on you.

Exactly what I was going to comment too.


Me too !


Me too. You look gorgeous in these photos.


Perfect. You look amazing. So much better. A real person. Thank you.


Totally agree. I think it’s the best look we’ve seen on you, Emily.
The style and the colours are very flattering. Amazing!


I agree! Usually I think you’re quite pretty, but this set is stunning. I can’t put my finger on just what it is–maybe we can see your story through your face? Which is more interesting than a blah airbrushing.


I appreciate this post and really appreciate your efforts in qualifying your perspective. What women choose to do fpr themselves is one thing, but an industry that perpuates a made up idea of beauty is another. There is so much beauty in looking real!


My thoughts exactly: never looked better!


Agree 100%. You look beautiful!

Second that.


Yes!!! And Em, (can I call you that?) You don’t look your age. Was at the AOM event and you looked stunning. As for Darling, I wrote for them numerous times…they are amazing and I hope all three of my girls are able to read their words someday.


I am reading this with tears in my eyes. I am 36 now and ageing is a thing that I really find difficult. I hate those wrinkles, I hate the ‘imperfections’ that start growing by the week. I find it difficult to look back at photographs of sometimes just a few months old, as I see the subtle difference. Apart from being your fan, I am a huge fan of the British website The Pool. Set up by Lauren Laverne and so incredibly smart about everything you need and want to know as a woman. One thing she and her team are slowly teaching me, is ageing and accepting my face as it distances itself from the age I feel inside. Somehow between the lines of their wonderful stories, funny how to’s, interesting columns, savvy shopping lists, delicious recipes… they are also telling me ‘Hey, we hate the wrinkles too! We also hate being several generation behing the ‘young ones’. But we are in this together and we can do it, you can do it!”. Maybe you will love too. In the meantime: thank you for this post, Emily.


PS I also think you look extremely beautiful in this shoot


Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Thank you Emily! I’m a body image activist (and decor enthusiast) who just realized one more reason I read this blog. Thank you.

As an all time proponent of realism in photography, I’ve to wholeheartedly agree. Wrinkles are the integral part of one’s life experience and character. There are lighting techniques and poses that minimize their appearance without altering the reality, but most photographers nowadays are just too lazy to do it right on set. They prefer spending time in Photoshop, and as a result totally overdo it. That “Plastic Fantastic” look of magazine cover shots and wedding photography alike should be taught in art schools as a variation of kitsch. It’s just tacky, in my opinion. Scary thing is, this look seems to be making its way into child photography as well. Imagine a toddler portrait with no skin texture at all. Yikes!

PS: You look great, by the way.


You continue to be an inspiration!

I love the shot of you sitting on your new campaign sideboard table. Its beautiful and sturdy! #RIPoldwhitewobblytable

Thanks for that truth! And those shots are so great!


Thank you for writing this, I think Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep are far more beautiful than all the frozen faces. I love fashion and beauty and I am definitely not crunchy granola but I find myself craving real beauty like we see around us everyday. I promise this is something you will think about more and more as your daughter grows, mine is almost 11 and It is really in my face. Glad to see someone else is thinking about it too. By the way I would love to see you continue the fashion posts.


Thanks for this post! Also, I was born and raised in LA…and (I think?) I turned out just fine, with a healthy, if complicated, attitude about getting older!

Truthfully before you even mentioned that these photos/magazine didn’t retouch I, hands down, thought these are the most beautiful photographs of you I have ever seen. Absolutely stunning.

…And now that I know the message + what’s behind them, I love them even more.

Also? Charlie’s budda belly. MAN O’MAN. Want to smother that nugget in kisses!


Great post, you look amazing. It would be so refreshing to live in a world where our daughters are exposed to real faces and real bodies! Hopefully, your voice, which has a much larger reach than many, can start paving the way!!! Thank you!

You look so beautiful in these photos. I’m so glad Darling is helping change the “standard of beauty” in media. xx Annette

Loved this post–I agree with everything. And echoing others…you look stunning in these photos.


One of my favorite posts to date! BTW- you look gorgeous in these photos!




Yes, Yes and Yes! Thank You Emily and Darling Magazine.

With the new aps out, I don’t recognize half my friends on FB anymore. Maybe you can start a instagram where all of us can
post our untouched faces in support/unity!

Oh and the the tummy shot!


This is brave. I really appreciate it. I was lucky to have really healthy and positive feelings about my image through my teens. But it’s been weird now as I’ve hit 30 to come to terms with wrinkles and lots and lots of smile lines. I see flawless Drew Barrymore staring at me in line at the grocery store and think–wait! She was an adult when I was a teen! How come I suddenly look older than her?! Is something wrong with me?–I am excited for your new head shots. Break the cycle!!


Thank you Emily for writing this! But honestly you look way better in these photos for sure! You are beautiful and it certainly shines through in these photos! Thanks for being real.


I love this strong feminist perspective. I have a 10 month old, and with that plus a random health problem I had this year, I look in the mirror and I’m like ARGH where did those undereye dark circles come from! However, it would be nice if we didn’t have to hold ourselves up to such a high standard based upon what we see on TV and in magazines, and we could instead realize that we look A-OK in comparison to everyone else.


Thanks for keeping it real!


You look gorgeous in these pictures! I think that happiness and self-confidence are so much more beautiful than photoshopped, plastic-looking faces.


You are so in love with yourself!!!!!!!!




What’s not to love?

Retouched or not, you always look stunning, Emily. I especially love how beautiful you look in these photos. Thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts. (And thanks for all the Get-the-Look links! I love them all! :o)


This is just the freaking best.


You have never looked better or more beautiful! Thanks for the post and thanks for the REAL! Stunning. Thank YOU! Not only gorgeous, but a face that I TRUST.

i love everything about this post so much! you look more beautiful than ever, love the “art clothes”, and love this idea!


I’d rather look at real faces, real people with wrinkles, gray hair, no hair, life experienced, than the botoxed, waxy faces with wax lips, you see more & more of..I mean, c’mon those celebrity & news people faces are damn scary, and they have to spit their words. People just need to face get older, you’re eventually gonna buy the’s natural..that’s life..accept it & instead of spending all that money on vanity stuff donate to a charity.


I so identify with this! I used to be tiny and three children later I don’t look the same. But even as I try to come to grips with my new body, I talk confidently and positively about it with my daughter. I never want her to hear me talk about being fat. Realistically I’m not fat, I just don’t like some added weight and the post pregnancy pooch. It is amazing how hard it is to tell my daughter that I am beautiful. But when she asks why I am putting on makeup, I tell her that I am beautiful already but I like to wear makeup for fun. Why is it so hard to say out loud, “I am beautiful”? And by the way, Emily, you look amazingly in these pictures!


Looking great Emily! I am pretty vain but luckily a good blowdry and a new shirt usually does the trick!

Thank you for this, Emily! You look gorgeous, wrinkles and all. It’s so refreshing to see a real face. I’ve been comparing myself to my celebrity peers lately, and I’ve been feeling like a walking Troll Doll. But it’s so refreshing to see that real faces have wrinkles, and can still look great!


Once you have a daughter, the whole game changes. It is scary how young the body image stuff starts. Plus tween girls are the meanest people on the planet


The untouched photos are refreshing and beautiful! You look gorgeous, and happy! (Often the two go hand in hand!)
And it is scary how early young girls start worrying about flaws with their bodies – elementary school! Thanks for talking about it, and choosing not to airbrush on your blog.


You are gorgeous!! I am glad to hear that some publications are taking this policy! I seriously don’t see what you mean–you look like a gorgeous natural woman.

I hit 42 this year, and the wrinkles are real. But I make a personal policy to not “Photoshop” myself, and I am also very careful to discuss my looks in a positive way when around, well, everyone. We all have own own inner dialogue. I don’t need my daughter growing up thinking it’s wrong to get older, have grey hair or a few wrinkles!

Kudos to you Emily, you are gorgeous in more ways than one!


“Perfectionism is self abuse of the highest order” – Anne Wilson Schaef

These pictures are fantastic, the lighting is great and your smiles look real. You can’t have wrinkles or crows feet around your eyes if you haven’t smiled often! I love mine because they show how happy I’ve been. All that happiness etched forever on our faces, better than a scrapbook.

love love love.


I love this message. Thanks for letting me know this philosophy is out there in the media!

Now I’ll look forward to the day when no one would spend $425 on a poncho.


Emily, you are gorgeous. No retouching necessary.

Your skin looks beautiful (tiny wrinkles and all) and the hair and eye makeup are very glamorous! I am only 28 and find it depressing that I already have a fine line on my forehead. I find myself looking at photographs of beautiful/famous women desperately searching for their wrinkles and wondering if I will need to get Botox to feel attractive. Youth is such a short part of our lives and it is time that we stop acting like no one is naturally beautiful over 30.


These are gorgeous photos and a refreshingly beautiful concept. As always, you are stunning and real. Thank you for sharing all your positivity!

Also, I LOVE your book and my house is looking better and better everyday! Thank you!

You look absolutely STUNNING in these pictures! I love everything about this post.


you look unbelievably pretty. i am so in love with everything about this.


Want to know the secret to not caring about your wrinkles?? Crap eyesight! I have MS and have had to have cataract surgeries in both eyes (talk about old lady town) so I can’t see a damn thing up close without my glasses. (Or the most ridiculously high-powered mirror ever invented.) Day in and day out though, in regular normal-people mirrors, I see my 27 year-old self sans the actual 37 year-old details! Wheeee!

Truly though, I have a crazy mid-brow wrinkle that I’d love to erase, but otherwise? Life’s too short. I have friends who are VERY young, with flawless faces, getting injections to prevent aging. As someone who gets injections in her eyeballs to prevent inflammation, all I’m thinking is – ain’t nobody got time for more needles!

So refreshing to see untouched imaged, agreed! these are all beautiful without the unnecessary airbrushing. thanks for inspiring us to be truly and uniquely ourselves. It’s a lost message these days! Your doing it right, appreciate the perspective.

Your beautiful smile and Charlie’s adorable belly are priceless!


Thank you for this! You look exquisite and it’s so inspiring to embrace who we are, where and when we are.


Love the photos and the message.

Chris du var

this only shows you don’t need any editing, you are gorgeous

this was actually my favorite shoot of you ever. the styling is awesome and i think you look sexier than you ever have. frozen faces may be “beautiful,” but they rarely give off a vibe of sensual, sexy, LIVING, breathing entities to me.

as for your L.A. comment, you may be pleased to know that at my natural childbirth prep class (i had both my kids in planned home births), the 29(ish) girl in class with me was SHOCKED to hear i had never done botox. “oh my god! you have to! i started when i was, like, 25.” was the exact sentiment. so even in a stereotypical hippie environment, the LA-ness is there 😉


These are amazing photographs. You look like you’re genuinely having fun! But in all seriousness, I want to see your cords! Sometimes I feel worse about my cords when I’m trying to put a room in my house together than I do about my wrinkles!

Emily K

Agreed. The retouching on the house photos bugs me way more than photoshopping people.

You look so natural and beautiful on these shots. Nice post and cloths!

Bravo! I agree with all of this–including the part about growing up as a girl in L.A…I did, and it’s definitely more of a battle than other regions of the country. But it can be done! I love the idea of Photoshop jumping the shark…can Facebook do that too, please? 😉

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