“I’m such a catfish,” says Lottie Winter, GLAMOUR Beauty Editor. “I filter and Facetune every photo I post on social media – so much so, that I worry people will be confused when they meet me (if they can even recognise me, of course).
It’s a habit I slipped into it about five years ago when FaceTune first came into my consciousness. I was insecure and dependent on external validation for my self worth. The perfectionist inside me loved transforming a photo into something I felt pleased with and proud to share.
But then, it all started messing with my head. I believed the filtered version of myself was better, I started to wonder if other people were disappointed when they saw the real me. It has a negative impact now too; when I look back at those photos, I think, ‘I was so thin back then’, or ‘my skin was so good’. Actually, I was never that shape and my skin was never that smooth – it was all filters. But photos don’t come with a caveat.”
“The perfectionist inside me loved the process of transforming a photo into something I felt pleased with and proud to share. But then, it all started messing with my head.”
“It’s for this reason that yesterday’s news that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is banning the use of misleading filters’ on beauty adverts grabbed my attention. The ruling came after the #filterdrop campaign led by Sasha Pallari, a 29-year-old influencer, which called for brands and influencers to disclose whether or not they were using filters on the cosmetic products they were advertising, so as not to exaggerate the effects.
In the process of the ruling, the ASA analysed two videos, created by two influencers Elly Norris and Cinzia Baylis-Zullo, promoting self tan brands Skinny Tan and Tanologist Tan respectively, and concluded that the use of filters breached the CAP Code clauses relating to misleading advertising and exaggeration. As a feminist, this should have been a moment of triumph – a liberation from unrealistic standards. Instead, my first thought was, “I’m so screwed.”
Of course, regulation of advertising images is nothing new – television, print and billboard advertising has been subject to strict controls since the establishment of the ASA in 1962, to ensure brands are not misleading the public with untrue claims around their products. But social media and influencer advertising is still in its infancy, and it has taken time for the rulings to catch up.
“Filters may have started out as a quick fix to upgrade pictures, but they’re a fake short-term boost. In the long-run, they can be detrimental to self-confidence. If we start believing the hype, the only person we’re fooling is ourselves.”
“To begin with, photoshopping and face tuning was something we only saw on models in magazines. It felt removed from reality,” says GLAMOUR deputy beauty editor, Elle Turner “But through filters it’s made its way into our everyday lives. We’re all at it. Our friends, our colleagues… I first started using filters to keep up with my peers.
It’s not that I hate my face (it’s neither symmetrical, nor perfect, but it does the job and I’m fine with that), it’s more that I was curious, so I hopped on the bandwagon. For me, the filter on my phone allows me to create something that looks professional and polished – kind of like an at-home tool kit for multi-hyphenate millennials. But the fact we’re so used to filters now makes it difficult to swim against the tide.”
Let’s be honest, as a glossy magazine, GLAMOUR has been part of this narrative. Along with the rest of the industry, we’ve historically used editing and retouching – removing imperfections from fashion and beauty shoots and allowing retouched adverts to be printed in the magazine. By doing so, we’ve contributed to the facade of unrealistic perfection.
In recent years, GLAMOUR has worked hard to show more real imagery across our platforms and our covers, celebrating both body and skin positivity. But like everyone else, retouching still exists and we still have some way to go. Our recent Self Love digital issue showed 10 inspirational women, un-retouched across the front cover. One of those stars, skin positivity campaigner, Lou Northcote, is hugely in favour of the ban.
“I used to use those makeup apps that made your skin look super smooth because I had acne and felt like the only way to ‘fit in’ online was to look ‘perfect,’ but it just made me feel worse and more alone,” she says.
“I now don’t even add coloured filters to my images, they are all completely natural, unedited, unfiltered and a lot of the time very close up using a high res camera. It is important to show people what real skin looks like, so they don’t feel alone or like they have to be ‘perfect.’ Perfect doesn’t exist! It’s false advertising and it can really affect people’s confidence. This new ruling is just amazing! Hopefully it can bring some more reality and positivity.”
However, a wider conversation needs to be had, beyond simply banning influencers posting “misleading” content. For the sake of our mental health and our relationships with our bodies – should filters be banned completely, or, at the very least, disclosed? Beyond photo-editing, one of the biggest problems with images shared today is the lack of transparency. If we’re to avoid setting up unrealistic standards, shouldn’t we be upfront about what we’re doing to our pictures and to our faces? Tweakments feed into this conversation.
If someone has altered their face with Botox and filler, then sells beauty products claiming they create smoother skin, that should be flagged. No cream is going to give you skin as smooth, and no serum will deliver the same anti ageing results as Botox. It misleads others into thinking a certain look is achievable through a product, if we don’t own up to fillers and filters.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, plastic surgeons have seen a rise in women bringing in filtered selfies as a reference point for the work they want done. “I’ve had to turn patients away who have asked to look exactly like over-filtered pictures,” reveals leading cosmetic doctor and founder of the Esho Clinic, Dr Esho. “It’s unrealistic, but more worryingly, it can be a sign of underlying problems. Instead, more support should be provided to establish if there’s an element of body dysmorphia, because that’s not something a needle can fix.”
“Filters may have started out as a quick fix to upgrade pictures, but they’re a fake short-term boost. In the long-run, they can be detrimental to self-confidence. If we start believing their hype and seeking to emulate them in the real world, the only person we’re fooling is ourselves,” says Elle.
“They cause so many issues because they create unrealistic and false expectations. Especially when they are used on pictures without being disclosed,” says skin-positive advocate Nicole, who’s Instagram account, @theblemishqueen seeks to normalise real skin.
“For things to change, we need regulation, starting with ourselves – we’re each responsible for the images we put out into the world,” says Elle. “But, we also need industry-wide standards, particularly for influencers and people in positions of trust. That’s why I’m glad to see these guidelines come into play. It removes the peer pressure and it levels the playing field.”
People want to know how products and people actually look. “I don’t use filters anymore because showcasing my authentic self helps me to deeply connect with others and grow in self-love,” says Nicole. The good news is, people are ready for change. “The acne and skin positivity communities are leading the charge in encouraging brands and influencers to post authentic, genuine content,” Nicole adds. “Consumers are tired of being lied to by brands, media, and fellow users and are fighting for real models producing real content.”
Maybe, after years of living under a filter facade, it’s time to press reset on our Facetuned photos and edited lives. Maybe it’s time to face reality.