Older woman's image, which is also used in NZ, is too misleading, say Brits

An advertisement for a moisturising cream used in New Zealand has been banned in Britain after authorities ruled lines and age spots on a model's face had been airbrushed.

The controversial image has been widely used here in ads for the Nivea Vital anti-age cream. The ad claims the cream "reduces all major signs of mature skin ageing".

The only real pointer to the older model's maturity is her grey hair - the unlined face is at odds with her 60-plus years.

Yesterday the image featured prominently on Nivea NZ's website.

But British officials have banned the same ad, ruling the woman portrayed was significantly different to the real-life 62-year-old model.

The country's Advertising Standards Authority said it misleadingly exaggerated the cream's effects.

Its investigation, carried out after a complaint from a member of the public, found the model's perfect skin was created on a computer.

"We considered that the image of the older model, who was in the centre of the shot, had undergone extensive retouching resulting in substantial changes to the model's appearance," the authority said.

"Lines and wrinkles on her face, particularly around the eye and mouth area, had been dramatically reduced, and several age spots had been removed."

Nivea's Germany-based parent company, Beiresdorf, told the Herald last night that it regretted the image had been considered misleading, as this was "never our intention".

A spokeswoman said the withdrawn image was used at only a very low level internationally and mostly on television. The complaint was specifically about the particular image used in a press ad.

"For TV there are only some necessary and normal minor effects due to lighting, film and photographic needs at the time of shooting."

The company told the ASA the image had been retouched, but stated that wrinkles had been deliberately left around the model's eyes.

The company took care not to overly retouch images, and said the ad merely showed an attractive woman in her 50s or 60s, and did not reflect an unrealistic ideal of beauty.

There have been no complaints about the ad laid with NZ's Advertising Standards Authority, which cannot act unless one is received.

But YWCA of Aotearoa New Zealand president Sina Wendt-Moore said such photos could lead women to have a negative body image.

The YWCA recently launched Love Notes, a social media campaign, in a bid to get young women to view their bodies for what they can do rather than what they look like.

"For me it's not just a young woman's issue. It happens right throughout our lifecycle, at whatever age - we are constantly bombarded with, 'this will fix you, this will change you, this will make you younger'.

"For us there's an education aspect with younger women to create an awareness that the images they are seeing are not real. And I think there is a growing awareness about that."

Ms Wendt-Moore said it was too early to say whether the YWCA would lay a complaint over the ad.

The model used in the Nivea Vital ad is 62-year-old Cindy Joseph, who did not start modelling until she was 49 and has said in interviews: "What you see is what you get."

Too smooth

• Ad for Nivea Vital anti-age cream banned in Britain.
• 62-year-old model's face retouched, with wrinkles and age spots removed.
• Advertising authority rules ad was misleading and exaggerated the effects of the cream.

By Nicholas Jones Email Nicholas