As I write this, my cheeks are mildly blushing, as I feel a tinge of embarrassment about this realization. That is, despite the fact that I’ve been acutely aware of all of the optical trickeries that go into photography, film, and TV, I somehow never thought much of shampoo commercials. Until I discovered a “vintage” L’Oreal ad from 1990, starring Monica Bellucci.

But let’s take a step back. First, watch this contemporary commercial for Pantene shampoo:

Standard fare, right? Nothing stands out particularly.

Then watch the aforementioned commercial for L’Oreal shampoo, from 1990:

Notice something different?

The first thought that came to mind, for me, was how messy Monica Bellucci’s hair was. I could see actual strands of hair standing out from her head:

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So, thinking about commercials of the mid- and late-2000s, I wonder: how much CGI / digital post-production work goes into the appearance of the models’ hair? Watch again the Pantene commercial above. Doesn’t it look completely fake by comparison? After all, Monica Bellucci’s hair looks thoroughly natural. And yet, we are so conditioned to see idealized, computer-generated hair in contemporary shampoo commercials, that real hair is put to shame.

Commercials for shampoos are no different than commercials for anti-wrinkle creams. They are thoroughly manipulated and idealized. What’s wrong with natural looking hair? Why do we always have to aspire to an ideal that does not exist in nature?