Seeing Is Believing: Deceptive Acne Photos
If you've ever searched the Internet for some new acne products to try in a desperate attempt to clear your skin, odds are you've come across products that make very bold claims like curing your acne in 3 days.
These claims may not be enough to convince you that you should try their product, but then they also throw in these tempting before and after photos of people with a face full of acne, and then with beautifully clear skin.
These people really do look like their skin has improved. The results are maybe even realistic enough to be believable.
Now you're lured in.
These types of photos are huge for companies. They draw people in and convince them to buy their products. Many companies use these types of photos honestly, with links to the blogger's page and social media, with stories and realistic results. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a more sinister motive.
The simple fact is that photos are not always good evidence of how well a product works, and this is for various reasons.
1. First and foremost, acne treatments that really work usually work over a period of weeks or months. Anything that claims to work in a few minutes, hours, uses, or days, likely is too good to be true. Nothing works that fast, and although you may begin to see improvements in your skin in just a few uses or days, nothing substantial will change that quickly. If something claims to work that fast, don't waste your time on it.
2. Before and after photos can be doctored. For an example, I used an old photo of me with acne and using a cheap app on my phone I was able to edit out a lot of my acne in just a few minutes. While a more realistic before and after would have used two different photos, I wanted to get the point across with how this could be my "after" photo once I altered it. If I had been more precise, or used a better app or program, I could have edited it even better and made it even more believable (although, if you weren't looking for the edits, I think the photo would still be pretty convincing). I edited the photo just enough for it to be convincing enough to sell a product - my skin doesn't look flawless, but it looks improved, and quite a bit, right? Had I not showed you the before photo, and used a different photo beside it, perhaps you would have thought - wow, what an improvement! This photo, for example.
Maybe now it's easier to see how these photos can be doctored to look as if there's actually progress when there isn't, at least not much.
3. Before and after photos may reflect some improvements, but they may also be in different lighting, with a different camera, with makeup, etc. All of these can affect how someone's skin looks. It’s not at all unusual for unscrupulous practitioners and companies to take before and after photos at the same time, just with different lighting and angles. I can't count how many times I've tried to take a photo of my acne and my camera's flash or angle or the lighting wiped a lot of it out. Good for lying, not great for trying to show you guys how bad my acne actually is/was.
4. Before and after photos can sometimes be stolen. While reputable companies seek out real people and real before and after photos, some companies will steal other people's photos and use them for their products. I know this because I once had my photos used for a product I had never used nor heard of. I had someone contact me to ask me if I knew about it. To my dismay, they were using my photo progress of my acne scars as evidence that their product really works. I felt so backhanded; my photos were being used to lie and sell a product to people. Likely a product that doesn't even work, since they couldn't find real before and after progress photos and had to steal mine. I wasn't so much mad that my name and face were being associated with this product and essentially aligning my name with selling out, as I was mad that they would dare lie to people about something like this. Our skin troubles can seriously hurt and affect us, and when we search out products we want truth and honesty from companies, not lies like this. So, keep in mind that the photos you see may not be a reflection of that product.
This, however, is not to suggest that before and after photos are useless and deceptive. I use my before and after photos because I am a real person, someone who has thousands of followers who have followed me from the beginning and witnessed the changes in my skin. I have all of my old photos up on my account still, I've run into my followers in person, and I don't pretend to have perfect skin. I am transparent about my skin issues, and this makes me "real", and my progress real.
If you're looking at before and after photos, just make sure you keep these things in mind. Just because you see progress doesn't mean it's really there, and it certainly doesn't mean that product caused the progress. Dig a little deeper. Does the company share the person's story, a link to their blog or social media site? Is this a real, tangible person, or someone who you can't track down? Is it possible these photos came from a medical study, a Google image search, someone's page, without their permission? Are there any real reviews on third-party sites that you can read and use as a barometer against these photos? Does the company have a good track record? Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
Using this knowledge I hope that it's easy to spot a fake. Photos that have drastically different lighting, angles, etc; photos that look exactly the same but one is edited; photos that aren't linked to actual people for you to confirm, etc.