Melissa Juried Kriebel
An ultra-realistic TikTok beauty filter is coming under fire—for being too good. The filter, which convincingly alters facial features to look more conventionally attractive and simulates a soft glam makeup look, has some users freaking out that it conveys unrealistic beauty standards without viewers realizing that the look comes from software.
The “Bold Glamour” effect has been used over 6 million times and is garnering mixed reviews by those simultaneously mortified and in awe of the “FaceApp in a filter,” referring to a popular editing app that alters users’ selfies using AI filters. Several people said that they were “humbled” by the effect. Others were creeped out by the filter’s ability to evade glitches and remain realistic and natural-looking even when obstructed.
“Please the fact that this filter didn’t glitch even the tiniest bit when I’ve covered half of my face with a mug???!” TikTok user @katthesheperd wrote. “This is a whole new ballgame. I’m actually a wee bit scared now.”
Some users put the filter to the test by rubbing their faces in an attempt to elicit a glitch, but with little success. “This is a problem,” user @rosaura_alvrz said in another video, tapping her face. “You can’t even tell it’s a filter anymore.”
“As someone who experienced body [dysmorphia] growing up this makes me sick to my stomach; tik tok u can’t be enabling this… it’s sickening for our youth,” they wrote in the video’s caption.
People are also spooked by the filter’s ability to adapt based on gender (albeit inaccurately at times) forgoing makeup when it seems to detect masculine features. Las Vegas Raiders player Isaac Rochell observed that the filter “actually helps men too,” adding, “you can’t tell me that I don’t have a little sauce with this filter on.” In the video, Rochell says, “Let me take it off and show you what i really look like,” then exclaims, “I’m down bad!” when it’s turned off.
While some users have had fun toying with the effect, others have become distressed by the filter’s promotion of unrealistic beauty standards.
“This filter would’ve emotionally destroyed me if I was just a few years younger,” TikTok user chars0far wrote in a video showing off the filter. The video is captioned, “my heart breaks for younger girls on this app that think everyone just looks like this naturally.”
There is some research that backs up the panic over the filter. Studies show that while the impact of filters varies depending on baseline levels of self-esteem, and even users who were generally satisfied with their looks felt less certain about their natural appearance after using a filter.
This isn’t the first time face filters have caused a panic due to their impact on how people perceive reality. TikTok filters have also been criticized for imposing eurocentric beauty standards and promoting unrealistic expectations, like the “Glow Look” effect, which gives users blue eyes and a thinner nose. Recently, the “Teenage Look” filter has garnered criticism for being “creepy,” and the “inverted” filter has faced backlash for destroying users’ self-esteem— which makes sense considering filters are linked to anxiety and body dysmorphia.
Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon Dr. Monica Kieu posted a video breaking down “why everyone looks so damn good” in the filter.
Using a side-by-side comparison of a selfie with and without the filter, Dr. Kieu observed that the filter gave her “smoother, glowy” skin, thicker and darker eyebrows and more prominent eyelashes.
“Filters are fun, but they are NOT reality and we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to them,” Dr. Kieu captioned her video. “But wow. This one is good.”
She said that it makes her feel better knowing the look can be achieved with makeup and good lighting—something many are already attempting.
A slew of makeup tutorials has emerged promising to help users emulate the “Bold Glamour” look. But some users have joked that the filter, which narrows the nose bridge and plumps the lips, has made them want to go under the knife.
High investment in social media is associated with increased consideration of cosmetic surgery, and people who use face filters have an increased acceptance of cosmetic surgery, one study found.
Regardless, as fascination ensues, “Bold Glamour” and other realistic face filters show no sign of slowing down.