My 40 Year Old Face, Uber-Photoshopped

An Uber-Photoshopped 40 Year Old Face

Something I’ve always wanted to do was to Photoshop the hell out of my 40-year-old face, just for fun.

But before I start I’ll tell you something: what I’m writing here is not at all what I intended to write before the images were produced. So I’ll do something a little odd with this post and tell you the ending first:

…I now actually like my real, ageing, 40-year-old face, with all its crinkles, creases and uneven skin tone. I never in a million years thought I’d end up happier with the way my face is ageing than before I went onto Photoshop and picked up that over-used, over-hyped tool we know as Airbrush.

I’d planned to do this post for a while, and I was completely unprepared for the results and my conclusions. I feel really weirded out and quite repulsed by the image I thought I would love, and feel as if I’ve discovered something about myself I never, ever knew. So I’ll try and explain those feelings as best I can…!

The concept with quite simple: taking inspiration from the (mostly) heavily photoshopped pictures in advertising campaigns featuring models and celebrities, I’d always wondered what my face would look like if I gave it the same treatment. No wrinkles, a smooth, even skin tone, no dents or creases or jowly loose bits around my jawline. Beautifully clear, bright eyes and flush cheeks, perfectly arched eyebrows and a sculpted nose. The results in my head looked amazing, just the way I wanted to look in real life. I’d been really looking forward to seeing how I would appear and just how “perfect” I could make myself look (especially as I have, like most people, an extremely asymmetrical face). So of course I had to start with an untouched, close-up photo of myself – this would be the scary bit, to put such a close-up of my face on the web, but here I am in all my crinkly glory:

A 40 Year Old Face
I wouldn’t do it without make-up of course (I’m not a masochist), and although it wasn’t terrible, I still looked at the photo and just saw wrinkles and creases everywhere. In other words, this was the best I could possibly look in real-life, in natural daylight, but without any help from that cosmetics industry’s favourite, Photoshop.

Now don’t get me wrong – I do think I’ve aged kind of okay for a 40 year old. There are things I do like about my face: I strangely quite like the crows’ feet round my eyes; I also love my freckles, and my cheekbones have become more pronounced since getting older. I’ve never smoked, I wear sunscreen and have a reasonably healthy diet and lifestyle, so it’s all aided a reasonable level of satisfaction with my ageing face.

So I sat at the computer with the untouched photo, and started perfecting my face toward what I thought would be that gorgeous, smooth look I’d been thinking about for so long.

But what I ended up with was more fascinatingly repulsive than I could possibly have ever imagined:

An Uber-Photoshopped 40 Year Old Face
This face – and I do not exaggerate – totally gives me the heebie-jeebies. While I don’t think the art direction department at L’Oreal are going to call me anytime soon asking me to airbrush their latest wrinkle cream campaign (I have gone overboard with the smoothing out but that was the point), it is still the creepiest, scariest-looking picture I have ever seen of myself.

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Nothing about the shape of my face or my features has been changed except the tiniest “lift” to my jawline on the right and some tweaking to make my hair a little more perfect. I simply cloned the wrinkles away, lightened the shadow areas, and airbrushed to oblivion. Then I whitened my eyes, perfected my eyebrows and smoothed the lipstick a little. And with each stage, I got more and more creeped out, all the time looking back at the original and starting to like her a little more, and this new person a little less. I didn’t expect that to happen at all.

So my conclusion about the airbrushed adverts? Not for me. I’ve proved to myself it is too easy to make yourself look like a totally different person, one that’s not even real – a plastic, waxy version of oneself. Although I always knew deep down of course the makeup adverts were touched up (and then some!), I still looked longingly at the beautiful, smooth skin and sparkling eyes and wondered if that particular brand of foundation/mascara/lipstick would make me look just as gorgeous.

So in contrast to my original expectations, I now actually like my real, ageing, 40-year-old face, with all its crinkles, creases and uneven skin tone. I never in a million years thought I’d end up happier with the way my face is ageing than before I went onto Photoshop and picked up that over-used, over-hyped tool we know as Airbrush.
Catherine x

Like this post? You might also want to read…

My 40 Year Old Face | Is There Beauty In Symmetry?
– Are Today’s 40 Plus Women More Attractive Than They Were in Their 20s?
– Why Do Some Women Lie About Their Age?


  1. 24 January 2015 / 7:12 pm

    I like how you look, and your personality is awesome too!

    I hope I'm as awesome as you when I'm 40. 😀

    • 25 January 2015 / 9:11 pm

      Aleksandra thank you – that's such a lovely compliment!! You made my day :))

  2. 20 March 2014 / 11:54 am

    I agree with you totally!! What a fabulous experiment, I have been slightly obsessed with my growing wrinkles and constantly pulling my face back to see what it would look like without them, but seeing your beautiful face, crinkles and all, against the scary, plastic, expressionless face made my heart leap. You have aged beautifully as have most of us who look after ourselves and perhaps if this was reflected more in beauty and fashion magazines we wouldn't feel so bad about the ageing process. We'll done you!

  3. 8 February 2014 / 4:40 pm

    You are still looking sweet and soft face in age of 40. I can share my make up tips, apply these to care your face and keep your skin soft. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. 5 February 2014 / 10:32 am

    I found your post while looking for examples of portrait retouching. As someone who does this sort of thing professionally I think you just went too far in your retouching. As you've found out it is very easy to 'just keep going' in the hope that the edits you make are going to be for the better. The trick is to know when to stop and retain some of that original beauty and charm that makes the original image so special.

  5. 31 October 2013 / 8:28 pm

    this is such a great post, you look beautiful without the air brushing.noone looks airbrushed in real life, and the second photo has no character or depth (if you get me) lolx

  6. 13 June 2013 / 6:04 pm

    I love, love each and every one of your wrinkles. No to dolly land, ahhhhhhhhh
    Brilliant post, and brilliant always you.

  7. 17 March 2013 / 12:44 pm

    I don"t find your photoshopped picture creepy, but it just does not look natural. It looks like a cartoon. Your natural face is so much livelier.


  8. Anonymous
    7 December 2012 / 3:21 pm

    I'm 25 and I would take your amazing blemish-free skin (wrinkles and all!) over my blemished & acne-scarred any day!

  9. 5 December 2012 / 7:50 pm

    Oh, you're gorgeous! You remind me of Caitlin from the Game of Thrones series.

  10. 3 December 2012 / 6:15 pm

    This is a great post, and your before photo is beautiful…but I think perhaps the creepiness of the Photoshop image is mostly because it's over-photoshopped. I like to de-emphasize blemishes (wrinkles, etc) by using a clone stamp tool at 50% opacity. It keeps the blemish there, but sort of de-emphasizes it. Fades it a little bit. This way, you still look like you, but the focus is on your larger features.

  11. 1 December 2012 / 3:28 am

    I love this post! You look far more beautiful in the un-retouched photo! I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog 🙂

    xx Ellie 

  12. 30 November 2012 / 12:40 am

    The original photo is beautiful. It's real, it's you, it speaks volumes. It's a real face that has lived and loved. The touched up face is unrelatable and distant. I LOVE the real you it's absolutely beautiful!


  13. 29 November 2012 / 10:46 pm

    Love your natural look 🙂

  14. 29 November 2012 / 6:34 pm

    you are beautiful in the before picture.

  15. 28 November 2012 / 12:44 pm

    I have to confess that I followed your blog for about 3 months before I tagged onto the fact that you're 40 (I have NO idea how I didn't pick upon it!).

    But anyway, I genuinely thought you were about 32, you always look great and I LOVE your hair! x

  16. 27 November 2012 / 7:34 am

    Catherine I just thought I would let you know I'm linking up this post to my Wardrobe Weds post tomorrow – I think it is wonderful!

  17. 26 November 2012 / 2:57 pm

    Awesome post Catherine! Many of us are feeling the same thing right now, which is appreciation and acceptance for who we really are. You are so Beautiful!!!

  18. 25 November 2012 / 6:52 am

    Oh Catherine this is such an inspiring post! It really is. How amazing you are! Thanks always for the beautiful inspiration 🙂 I prefer your normal face. If we were all perfect life wouldn't be fun!

  19. 25 November 2012 / 1:53 am

    Catherine I much prefer the un-photoshopped version!
    We are a product of our lives & experiences – who want's to look plastic & fake?

  20. 24 November 2012 / 6:19 am

    Beautiful post Catherine. I think your photoshopped picture highlights how perfect your face really is. Perfect shape and perfect features. But I agree with you that your 'real' photo is just so much more beautiful. You can see the person in that, and the character!

  21. 21 November 2012 / 10:27 am

    Amazing post – and from the sounds of it, an amazing experience –
    I think it'd be an interesting exercise for most women to do – to see what they would really look like if they gave in to all their insecurities and had them scrubbed away.

    I imagine that in the end, most of us would find that we preferred the friendly, familiar, experienced face we already live with each day to a new and improved one –

    Thanks so much for sharing with us!


  22. 21 November 2012 / 6:44 am

    I'm glad you're happy with age. I also loved your not-photoshopped look way better.
    your wrinkles show who you are

    Inside and Outside Blog

  23. 21 November 2012 / 4:47 am

    I think you look amazing in your before pic and the photoshopped look is indeed a bit creepy. Very mannequin or doll like. 🙂 What a great post. Thank you so much.

  24. 21 November 2012 / 4:14 am

    “I see someone’s face, someone’s body who’d had children and I think they’re the song lines of your experience, and why would you want to eradicate that?“ ~Cate Blanchette (And I think you're beautiful! ~Me)

  25. 20 November 2012 / 9:19 pm

    When I look at your natural 40 year old face, I see a beautiful person whom I would love to meet. It shows your character and your personality – I don't see the wrinkles at all! The retouched photo looks like something out of Madam Tussauds. I always enjoy reading your blog and this particular post was particularly enlightening to read. One of my role models is Meryl Streep, who isn't afraid to show her age, who refuses to have surgery as it will take away her expression lines and says that as an actress she needs to be able to move her face!

  26. 20 November 2012 / 8:15 pm

    I've always thought you are incredibly beautiful, even in your "worst bring-it-on daylight" photo here, but whoa, the retouched photo is incredibly skeevy. You look exactly like the Sims characters my teens love to manipulate. If you know anything about Sims characters, they routinely forget where they left their babies, burn down their houses microwaving bacon, and lose their jobs because they cannot catch the carpool on time for one single morning 😛

    Having never been a classically beautiful woman, I actually discovered I don't mind my face at all as it approaches 50 very, very soon. I am a bit fascinated by the start of cheekbones I never had 😛

    It bothers me that the advertising and print media can't just show real people. I'd be so much more drawn to online shopping if clothes were shown on all kinds of women instead of 20-something models. I laugh at wrinkle cream commercials because it's so ridiculous to think that moisturizer modeled on a barely 30 year old model is going to make a 50 year old look as young.

  27. 20 November 2012 / 8:06 pm

    i agree with you. your 40 year old face says to me that you have lived and learned and enjoyed some things…i like that…

    ps. i found you in the budget fashionistas 15 awesome 40+ bloggers list that we both are featured in!

  28. Anonymous
    20 November 2012 / 7:12 pm

    Yep agree with everyone else, the original one has so much depth and character to it, a real person full of interesting life, bursting with beauty and colour, dislike the other one because it just makes you look 'normal' and 'boring' a copy just like all the magazines tell us is 'beauty'. We really need to stop this practice in the magazines, it's so far removed from reality, it really is scary.

  29. 20 November 2012 / 4:19 pm

    Sweetie, now you see yourself as we see you!! Absolutely blimmin gorgeous. You look so much better in your normal photo and glad you agree. Well written piece and highlights how the likes of L'Oreal, etc try to dupe us. There should be a ban on airbrushing in adverts, etc. x

  30. 20 November 2012 / 4:53 am

    I like your real face much better than the photoshopped one. It doesn't look natural.

  31. 20 November 2012 / 4:06 am

    Looking at the photos side by side makes the photo shopped photo insanely fake and creepy. When the photo is by itself, it doesn't look as bad, but you can tell it still looks quite plastic-y and creepy. How interesting that the airbrush tool can change a face so much like that. I've only done minor minor air brushing like removing a huge pimple, but that's it. I think I'd be just as scared to see my whole face airbrushed! <3


  32. 20 November 2012 / 2:17 am

    You are beautiful , I agree the photoshop photo isn't natural, but it's cool to see how they do it. I always learn a lot from you .


  33. 20 November 2012 / 12:48 am

    I like the Real You better, too!

  34. 19 November 2012 / 11:30 pm

    Fantastic article – this was a fascinating experiment and loved reading your thoughts and conclusions. I'm not perfectly satisfied with how I'm ageing (healthy lifestyle, but genes working against me), but this has helped to give me some fresh perspective. Thank you 🙂

  35. Gray Skies
    19 November 2012 / 11:02 pm

    I think the Photoshopped picture is kind of scary! Your real face is so beautiful, and I think the wrinkles and freckles add a lot of character and interest. I've never liked looking at magazine covers with 40-year-old actresses on them, because I know they don't look like that in real life. I want to see the laugh lines around their mouth and eyes, or their freckles and moles – without those things, they just look like very pretty dolls.

  36. 19 November 2012 / 10:12 pm

    Your natural face is beautiful. The photoshopping removed all the character from your face. It is a tad frightening how all the images we are exposed to these days are photoshopped. Are we afraid to be real? Is real not good enough any longer?
    Great post!!

  37. 19 November 2012 / 9:12 pm

    Your unshopped photo is stunning. The photoshopped one is terrifying. I have issues with putting any pictures full on of my face as I am in my 40's and I had a friend who took a photo of me and photoshopped me to the point where I was aghast. I thought my face must have been really bad for him to do that and that thought has stayed with me since and plagues me now as I peruse my wrinkles each day. I know they are there and that they will increase with time but age is still sometimes a hard thing to deal with. I have to also say – you are blessed with natural beauty.

  38. 19 November 2012 / 7:40 pm

    i agree…you look way more beautiful and real in the original picture. and you have barely any wrinkles, spots, etc., anyways!! you are beautiful…for 40, 30 and 20!

  39. 19 November 2012 / 7:22 pm

    I saw the photos before anything else, and i thought GAH! what has she done. Your re-touched photo is sooo creepy. It's not interesting or beautiful, it is the mannequin of you. As i get older (i'm at the tail end of 36) and the lines start to appear, i look and you and think..well here is a woman! Stylish, gorgeous and confidant in her looks and life. And this is what i want for myself, not the over produced, completely re-touched store mannequins that we see in Magazines. But real, beautiful, strong women! So Thanks.

  40. 19 November 2012 / 7:05 pm

    I love this post! You are beautiful, and I agree with you in that the photoshopped version is creepy, it's not natural. xo

  41. 19 November 2012 / 6:54 pm

    fantastic post Catherine. You actually have terrific skin normally. You are right, I think we need to challenge ourselves sometimes and hold up what we see all the time realising it is neither normal nor true. Love your work (the writing work not the photoshopping!!) :o)

  42. Laisi27
    19 November 2012 / 5:48 pm

    Totally agree with you!! Look much much much better in the original. Natural ones are the best!

  43. 19 November 2012 / 5:27 pm

    I love my wrinkles and "imperfections" too! I figure I've earned 'em. 😉

    Seriously, though, I do think the overabundance of photoshopped images is getting to the point of being ridiculous now. Some are so obviously freakish and overdone. The good news is, I think we're all a bit more media-savvy than a few years ago, and *know* those images don't reflect reality. According to my hair stylist (who also does makeup and works on celebrities and professional "shoots") there isn't a celebrity out there who is photographed without a) hair extensions and b) a lot of after-the-fact photoshopping.

  44. 19 November 2012 / 5:08 pm

    Love the blog – not sure what took me so long to find you! You look stunning!

  45. 19 November 2012 / 5:05 pm

    Inspiring! I prefer your natural photo too 🙂

  46. Laurie Reisch
    19 November 2012 / 4:35 pm

    Your Beautiful!! show your young age and when your 50 as i am you will look back on your pics of 40 and think,,,, wow i looked so young!!! lol,, by the way i LOVE your style and blog!!!

  47. 19 November 2012 / 4:25 pm

    I really liked this post.

    And you're absolutely beautiful. Photoshop just makes people look like weird mutants from the future.

  48. 19 November 2012 / 4:12 pm

    UN-airbrushed faces are SO much more beautiful!! What is more gorgeous than being you?? Looking fabulous, Catherine!

  49. 19 November 2012 / 4:11 pm

    Of course you look so much better in real life.
    Have you ever seen the photoshop film of the brand Dove? What they do with the model and afterwards with the photos? The 1 minute film is at least 6 years old, but as it is a Dutch brand, chances are you have not seen it. It is gobsmacking.
    It takes a while to download on YouTube and is called Dove Evolution. Here is the link:

  50. 19 November 2012 / 4:09 pm

    I am in total agreement. You look fab at 40. I turned 40 too this year, feel not too freaked out by my face but wondered also about a smoother looking skin. I think I will also like growing old gracefully!

  51. 19 November 2012 / 4:08 pm

    The photo of you Photoshopped looks plastic. Like a doll. You Photoshopped the photo excessively.

    The non-PS version is natural and beautiful.

    I am not against using PS however to correct some obvious flaws, like lighting (especially indoors) or bad shadows (adding to bags under the eyes or emphasizing wrinkles). That airbrush tool seems to make everything look fake. At least when you clone stamp you're taking real pixels from the image.

  52. 19 November 2012 / 3:56 pm

    As you say, maybe a little bit overdone, but still Photoshop makes people look too artificial, kind of like how Jude Law looked in A.I. We are NOT plastic, we don't have to be smooth or even, because we have the freedom of not living under a mask. I personally look forward to getting those similing wrinkles you have when I'm your age.

  53. 19 November 2012 / 3:54 pm

    Catherine, I actually like the not enhanced photoshopped photo. It's the beauty of aging gracefully. The retouch photos looks faked and a bit scary. I love how you show the real you and be confident about it. Cheers… I am pushing 40 myself !


  54. 19 November 2012 / 3:38 pm

    I definitely agree that the Photoshopped face is scary and looks fake. First pic is definitely photoshopped A LOT…the airbush, touch up tools can be used minimally and make thinks look touched up without looking scary.
    that being said you have aged beautifully and you should be very comfortable showing it off!
    Sheree xxx

  55. 19 November 2012 / 3:37 pm

    This is such a great post, and very thought provoking!

    You're very a beautiful girl, Catherine! Your eyes are amazing and your smile is gorgeous. You should never compare yourself to adverts, or to other women. There's no one quite as lovely as you!

    When we compare ourselves to others we always end up on the loosing side, be it our looks, our blogs or our lives that we're comparing! Because what we are comparing ourselves to may very well be an airbrushed reality, like on the make up adverts, the top tier blogs or the rich neighbor across the street!

    Also, we don't need to airbrush our lives or our faces to be good enough, or rather, to be fabulous! It's how we deal with the situation as it is that makes a great blog and inspires others, not just how perfect we look!

  56. Anonymous
    19 November 2012 / 3:25 pm

    You look so beautiful naturally. The photoshopped version makes me sad.

    I'm a photographer and I shoot a lot of actor's head shots. They have to look natural, like what they really look like in real life. What I will do in photoshop is what makeup and hair artists on the set will do anyway. So, that means that I'll even the skin tone (foundation, per say), darken the lipstick (usually by request) and tidy-up the hair. I never ever remove fine lines, take away the skin texture, or transform their face and nose shape.

    I love the character in your face. Your healthy and you glow.

  57. 19 November 2012 / 3:22 pm

    Well you look naturally beautiful so you would have no need to photoshop yourself.
    Personally, I hate that photoshopping was ever invented, it gives women (especially younger women) such a warped idea of how people look.

  58. 19 November 2012 / 3:19 pm

    I'm glad you prefaced with the ending first because I was afraid it would be a post promoting photoshoping your face. The first thing I thought when I saw the images was how much I liked your non-Photoshoped and real face. I love natural beauty.

    Recently I've had the same feeling. A few years back I stopped wearing makeup on a day to day basis. If I went to a play or something of the sort I'd throw a smidgen on. I'll admit, in the beginning I thought I looked better with the makeup and I missed it. I now prefer to be makeup-less and have come to love the natural look and seeing what changes my faces makes as I get older. So thanks for this post!

    Project Lovegood

  59. Adrienne Shubin
    19 November 2012 / 3:18 pm

    I love your natural self…you are so beautiful and you're aging very well. You could easily pass for 30.
    Seeing the photoshopped picture makes me realize how many photos I have seen just like it – in ads and on blogs. I am so glad you are going to let your 'real' beauty shine through.

  60. 19 November 2012 / 2:53 pm

    I think you look gorgeous & much better in the before shot!! If I look as well as you in my 40s I'd be a very happy girl.

    Boo to photoshop!

    Jen xx

  61. 19 November 2012 / 2:46 pm

    The real you is much better than the fake! I am 43 and like you quite like how my face looks at the moment, a few lines around the eyes and some smile lines – that has to be a good sign, you can't do too much smiling.

  62. 19 November 2012 / 2:46 pm

    You look beautiful (in your original photo) you have amazing skin and look no where near 40- you rock! I hope I look half as good as you when I am 40!
    Nic x

  63. 19 November 2012 / 2:43 pm

    I hope I will look like when I turn 40, you look amazing, I wouldn't ever say that you're 40! and that photoshop pic- just like from a wax museum…

  64. 19 November 2012 / 2:35 pm

    I love your face before the photoshop. I think that shows your true beauty. The photoshopped picture has no character, it just seems flat.

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