A split screen image stops my index finger from scrolling against the page. A girl with clear skin and no makeup is on the left, and the right has a girl with a full face of makeup. Which one looks better? Are they even the same person? Hmmm… was Adobe Photoshop used to airbrush the picture? What is the point of posting before and after makeup pictures and videos to your social media platforms? What is the underlying message that the content creator is suggesting?

Mathematics teaches us that splitting something in half means that it can be divided and shared with others. Perusing through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and magazines it seems as though this mathematical statement does not apply. After scrolling through comments on Anastasia Beverly Hills Instagram from Sunday, September 20, 2015 you will find 4,129 positive and negative comments on a before and after photo. Some commenters wrote that they needed to buy the ABH concealers to help them achieve the models looks, while others wrote “Jeez you are ugly.” “This is why I have trust issues.” When you post a before and after photo of yourself on social media platforms it opens the cyber bullying floodgates.

Some artists posts before and after photos with the intention of showcasing their skill level, while other artists and brands retouch their photos, in order to gain more followers and increase their sales. Creating images without pores and a smooth finished halo effect quickly gives these brands and artists retouchers away. Although consumers are aware that photos are retouched it does not stop them from buying that particular brand, or hiring that artist for their special occasion. These images create a roller coaster of emotions and challenge the viewer to demand more from the artist’s and brands. When you hold a mirror up to your face, do you want to see your reflection, or a brand’s projected image of what they think you should look like?

A few years ago, while working at Sephora as a makeup artist, I encountered a client who barely made any eye contact with me. She was looking at the foundations for Laura Mercier, and I asked her what kind of foundation coverage she liked. I don’t know, I have this foundation I would like to return, she shrugged her shoulders, and returned her eyes on to the makeup gondola. After asking her a few more questions, she told me that she wanted to cover a scar. I asked her if I could apply some foundation on her. She said, Yes. I cleansed her face, and then her phone started to ring like crazy. She read her texts, and turned to me, and asked if I would be there later. Then she told me that her husband was abusive to her. He would beat her until she was unconscious. The bruises and scars on her face were a result of his violent rage. His texts monitored her every move. She was afraid to stay and have me finish applying her makeup. Sometimes he shows up to my job just to make sure I am there, she said as tears streamed down her face.

I told her about an Oprah episode I saw years ago, where a woman was in a similar situation like hers. In the episode the woman had an abusive husband, and the woman would show up to work with bruises all over her body. Her boss would ask her questions as to what happened. Because the woman trusted her boss, the boss made sure to make a file of all the conversations she had with the woman. Finally when the woman filed for divorce and custody of her son, the boss was able to testify on behalf of her employee. The employee was able to get sole custody of her son. I encouraged her to share her story with her boss, and try her best to find help. She told me she would return later.

Several hours passed before the client returned. I seated her at a table with a mirror. I can’t even bare to look at myself. Look at what he has done to me, she said stroking her neck. I pampered her skin with hydrating moisturizers and a sheer foundation. I spritzed a hydrating mist onto her face, and told her to take a look at herself. She started to cry. I didn’t know I could look like this, she said to me with a big smile on her face. Her husband might have scarred her face, but he could not break her spirit. Her before was equally as good as her after! She could see herself for the first time, in the crevices of her soul that his fist could not touch.

Although brands, artists, and magazines create and project these images onto their followers, it is up to us to decipher what these images truly mean. Instead of holding a mirror up to their standards let’s reflect it back on to them. Let’s take real images that showcase the lives we’re living, instead of these unrealistic photos that tell no story of our past!

What are your thoughts on before and after photos?