Barenaked Ladies Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears

Do unairbrushed or nude celeb pics make you feel better about yourself...or worse?

Remember when unfortunate, unintentionally revealing pictures of Britney Spears made headlines

My, how times have changed. Now, it’s Britney spreading the news herself, releasing the unretouched photos from her recent Candie’s photoshoot alongside the digitally enhanced images.

In the pics, Spears rocks a pink cutout swimsuit and black backless heels. And I have to give it to her: If I looked like that in a bathing suit – let alone after giving birth twice – I’d post them on Facebook, Twitter, blog about in on NeverSayDiet and mail a few shots to CNN for good measure. As always, the retouched images have her slimmed down, most significantly through her legs. They also erased her back tattoo and smoothed the skin on the back of her thighs. But you know, overall she looks fantastic and didn’t need any help.

Spears isn’t the only bare celeb making headlines this week. On the cover of Marie Claire, a simple, clean photo of Jessica Simpson – which editors claim hasn’t been helped by a smidge of makeup or even a whisper of airbrushing – stares out at readers. The stunt is no doubt part of her new endeavor to explore what beauty means to women all over the world, as evidenced by her new VH1 show, The Price of Beauty.

And in Allure’s annual nude issue, in-the-buff shots of American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, Entourage’s Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jessica Capshaw from Grey's Anatomy, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat and Scary Movies vet Regina Hall are printed for everyone to see.  

Along with the pics, each woman discusses how she cultivated the requisite body confidence to drop trou. DioGuardi , who battled binge eating disorder and depression in her early 20s, says, "Back then I was a size 6 or 8; now I'm more like a size 2. Food is not what I use to anesthetize myself anymore." Chriqui posed on day four of a 10-day “organic food cleanse." It is pointed out that Hall wolfed down a candy bar on the way to her shoot….but she does yoga five days a week to make up for dietary indiscretions.

What do we think about all of this celeb skin…and does our opinion change depending on whether the images were or were not airbrushed? Britney’s shots have a positive effect (at least they did on me), because they show she’s human, that she actually has a real, attainable body with skin that’s not stretched taut like canvas on a painting. The J. Simps photos also show her looking fresh and clean, and while my husband and I did have a conversation debating whether she was truly makeup-free (I was doubting, he bought in), you can’t fault her for being naturally gorgeous.

The Allure spread, I believe, was intended to make women feel good, because the stars themselves highlight certain so-called flaws (Capshaw discusses her curves; Chriqui mentions her small chest.) But they have clearly been retouched and, even with their warts, the women still look like pin-ups. One thing in particular that jumped out at me was DioGuardi’s visible ribcage.  This may very well be her body, and she’s stunning, but it did trigger a teeny surge of bizarro jealousy deep inside me, one which I’m not proud of but which nonetheless exists. I used to have that when I was super-thin; as I’ve become healthier (read: climbed out of my eating disorder), my ribs softened from the outside…but when I had them, I wore them like a badge of success.

The naked but “unairbrushed” thing has backfired before, too. In February, Marie Claire Australia pulled a similar stunt with 2004 Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins.  But a backlash ensued, with criticism coming from scads of bloggers and commentators who claimed a naturally svelte and stunning specimen like Hawkins doesn’t represent real women, and that even sans Photoshopping efforts, her insane bod STILL made women feel like chunky crap.

Cried one MC reader: "If anything is going to have me running to the toilet with my finger down my throat it's a picture of Jennifer Hawkins naked." Another said, "She wants to make [women] feel more comfortable about how they look, gee thanks, I now feel worse! I'm a size 10 and I still have more rolls than her!"

When the Today Show polled more than 4,000 online readers about Jessica Simpson’s makeup-free cover, a whopping 91.5 percent were in favor, saying, "Good for her! She looks gorgeous. More celebrities should be willing to reveal their real selves." About 75 percent claimed, "I don’t buy it. I just can’t believe that these photos – or Jessica herself – haven’t been touched up at all." Just 2 percent clicked, "I don’t like this look on her at all. Somebody, please, call in the makeup artists!"

So what’s the bottom line? Is this Girls Gone Unairbushed trend a good thing? In the end, does it make you feel better about yourselves? Or, when you see how smoking hot they STILL look without the bells and whistles, does it just make you feel worse? Chime in below.

Plus:
-From iVillage Entertainment: More Stars That Go Unretouched and Without Makeup

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