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.

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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.

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. January 24, 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. 😀

    • January 25, 2015 / 9:11 pm

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

  2. March 20, 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. February 8, 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. February 5, 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. October 31, 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. June 13, 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. March 17, 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
    December 7, 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. December 5, 2012 / 7:50 pm

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

  10. December 3, 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. December 1, 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. November 30, 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. November 29, 2012 / 6:34 pm

    you are beautiful in the before picture.

  14. November 28, 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

  15. November 27, 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!

  16. November 26, 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!!!

  17. November 25, 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!

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