Skip to main content

CVS Adopts Show It Like It Is Approach

As part of its efforts to promote health, CVS will no longer remove flaws from beauty imagery.

CVS Pharmacy consumers no longer have to feel less than adequate in the beauty aisles. In its quest to lead positive change around transparency in beauty, starting in April, CVS won’t alter images on its collateral materials in the beauty category. And the company is making a clarion call for its brand partners to do the same.

The push to keep it real is part of CVS’ efforts to promote wellness. The link between imagery in its stores, on its web site and marketing materials and health is critical to CVS, where 80 percent of its customers are women. “We are a very large health-care company and we are also a big beauty retailer. We’ve been thinking a lot about the responsibility that we have [to our customers] and our messages to women,” Helena B. Foulkes, executive vice president, CVS Health and president CVS Pharmacy, told WWD. “It really is a health-care issue and part of what we want to stand for in beauty.” The American Medical Association has identified the propagation of unrealistic body images as a significant driver of health issues, particularly among young women, Foulkes shared. “When you think about all the media that all of us consume every day, the concern is that young girls in particular have unrealistic images of what they should look like,” Foulkes elaborated.

Related Galleries

CVS Adopts Tell (and Show) It
CVS Beauty Mark

You May Also Like

As of April, photography in beauty produced by CVS will not be tampered with, meaning nothing has been done to change the size, shape portion, skin or eye color as well as no enhancements made to alter lines, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics in post-production. The specially-created CVS Beauty Mark will alert consumers to the untouched imagery. The CVS Beauty Mark will start to appear on CVS Pharmacy-produced beauty imagery this year with the goal of all images in the beauty sections of CVS Pharmacy stores reflecting transparency by the end of 2020. CVS will be working with brand partners to ensure transparency across all beauty images. Brands who do photoshop their images will have a notation they are digitally modified so consumers know what’s real and what’s not.

This announcement is the latest in a string of purpose-driven decisions that kicked off with the elimination of tobacco in 2014, followed by the influx of health food and last year’s decision to eliminate harmful chemicals in its private-label beauty products by 2019. On the pharmacy side, CVS limits opioid prescriptions to seven days (for certain conditions).

Beauty brand reaction to the overhaul has been positive, Foulkes said, especially as the industry scrambles for ways to boost mass-market sales. “People see the need. They are questioning how does the mass beauty market regain its strength and growth. Transparency in beauty is a bigger issue and reflects the voice of consumers,” she said. Many beauty companies have already started the conversation about their messages to consumers. “This is a journey we want to start together.”

Linda Wells, Revlon’s chief creative officer, is among those engaged in the conversation. “Revlon, Almay and its brands support and share CVS’ mission to present positive images of women and their individual characteristics and personal distinction,” stated Wells. “Revlon’s new Live Boldly campaign, and Almay’s Reveal the True You positioning, are evidence of this new expression, one that embraces and celebrates real humanity in beauty.”

Foulkes added that companies are using more plus-size and diverse models. “Women are more empowered and are saying it isn’t OK to only see skinny women in ads.” She is quick to point out efforts don’t diminish the aspirational goals of the cosmetics industry. “We love that beauty makes people feel better about themselves. But we don’t want them looking at imagery and saying, I don’t feel good enough.”

Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization with the central goal of empowering and inspiring girls and young women, applauded CVS’ actions. “Girls Inc. is honored to be a partner in CVS Pharmacy’s movement to counter limiting stereotypes too often faced by girls and women. Allowing diversity and natural beauty to shine will have an immensely positive impact on girls and women everywhere,” said Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Inc. president and chief executive officer.

CVS is putting a big push on beauty, adding hot spots to show innovation, implementing more than 2,000 naturally positioned items in select doors and going full-throttle on South Korean beauty. Although pharmacy is the leading driver of sales, CVS is ramping up efforts to get more production out of its front end, especially beauty/personal care, which industry experts estimate produces half of the non-Rx volume. CVS did not comment on the estimates.

Foulkes did however, give thumbs up to fourth-quarter sales at the chain. “And the beginning of the year [in beauty] is already off to a strong start.”