Cosmetics giant L’Oréal has had two ads banned by the advertising watchdog after it was accused of misleading the public with excessive airbrushing.
Airbrushing creates a false impression of beauty said Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who brought the complaints.
And there are concerns that it puts pressure on women and young girls who compare themselves unfavourably to the unrealistic images.
Airbrushing involves electronically enhancing images on a computer to accentuate certain features and make skin look flawless.
One of the banned ads featured Julia Roberts for Lancôme and the other, Christy Turlington for Maybelline, both L’Oréal cosmetics brands.
Commenting on the Julia Roberts ad, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: “On the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques.”
The ASA said that the airbrushing on the Christy Turlington ad was also likely to mislead.
Jo Swinson and the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone have set up the Campaign for Body Confidence and have called on advertisers to be honest about their use of airbrushing.
Miss Swinson welcomed the ban, saying: “This ruling demonstrates that the advertising regulator is acknowledging the dishonest and misleading nature of excessive retouching.
“Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don’t reflect reality.
“With one in four people feeling depressed about their body, it’s time to consider how these idealised images are distorting our idea of beauty.
Last week alarming figures revealed that almost 100 children aged between five and seven have had hospital treatment over the past three years for anorexia, bulimia or similar problems.
Responding to the figures, Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders charity Beat, warned: “The ideal figure promoted for women these days is that of a girl, not an adult woman.
“Girls see the pictures in magazines of extremely thin women and think that is how they should be.
Last February the author of a Home Office commissioned report into child sexualisation said exposure to an increasing amount of “hyper-sexualised” images by the media was selling young people the idea that they have to look “sexy” and “hot”.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos said this “drip drip” effect was causing many young people to grow up with “poor self-esteem, depression and eating disorders”.