When Is Bodysnarking Not Really Bodysnarking?S

A reader sent in an exchange from the Sephora blog, and it raises some interesting questions.

The catalyst was a story on Sephora's blog featuring an interview with a dermatologist whose line the company carries, Dr. Fredric Brandt. Brandt is the creator of a high-end line of anti-aging skin products, and he talks enthusiastically about their efficacy. Which is why the accompanying picture apparently...concerned some readers.

While the initial four comments were removed by the administrator, it's fairly clear that people were commenting on the fact that Dr. Brandt appeared to have undergone plastic surgery...and that, as such, they weren't inclined to try his anti-aging products. One of these people went on to write,

we will not buy this man's products because he clearly has no faith in them himself...I do care that the FOUNDER of a BRAND cannot stand behind his own philosophies about natural beauty. A skin care line whose founder turns to plastic surgery is akin to a personal trainer who gets liposuction or a dietician who starves themselves.

Replied an administrator,

Hi commenters,
The negative comments were removed due to their mean nature. We do not support this kind of behavior and have the right to remove any bad-mouthing we feel is unwarranted. Our Sephora.com guidelines hold true here on the blog, which state: We reserve the right not to post your review or to withdraw any posted review for any reason. Your review will be excluded if it violates review guidelines or contains any of the following types of content:
* Obscenities, discriminatory language, or other language not suitable for a public forum
* Critical comments about other comments posted on the page or their authors.
If we see any of the above, we will exercise our right to edit or remove any post that violates these guidelines.

Please keep your comments positive and helpful and help us share the beauty love! Thanks!

Returned the poster,

I didn't write a "mean" comment, I wrote an honest comment. It's not mean to expect that brand founders practice what they preach. I wouldn't come on here and say he's fat/short/skinny/purple-spotted, so I won't buy his products; it's unrelated to their effectiveness. But when the brand founder has had obvious plastic surgery, it's not a very good endorsement for his products, no? A picture was worth 1,000 words in this article.

And a defender adds,

So dont buy it and keep quiet! I for one can say I love his line of pores no more products. it has nothing to do with how he looks. nothing has ever been stated about him haivn plastic surgery. if you don't know what you're talking about, stop talking.

Now, this is a difficult situation. We who work on the Internet know all too well the importance - and challenges - of moderating comments to keep things civil. We certainly don't stand for commentary on peoples' personal appearances. But issues of "voluntary" plastic surgery have raised questions before (usually in the context of various Real Housewives!) and, given that the commenters feel that in this case it impacts on his message, is it more complex still?

Without having read the initial, redacted comments, it's hard to gauge the "meanness" of the tone - the following comments are certainly moderate, and the question remains, is there any way to discuss the issue and keep it within bounds? More to the point, is it even fair to speculate about such things unless someone has stated explicitly in the article that he's gone under the knife - or that his skin's purely the result of his own products? At the end of the day, Sephora can do what it wants, and as the final commenter says, voting with dollars is, for objecters, the best argument. But I'm eager to hear what you, as commenters, readers and shoppers, think?