In late 2013, Instagram users started noticing a trend on their friends’ feeds: smoother skin, curvier figures, and brighter teeth. When the Kardashians dropped selfies online of their poreless complexions, it was not long before other social media influencers soon began to follow suit. The trick wasn’t professional photoshop skills or investing in new skincare products; instead, it was Facetune. Apple included the app in the App Store’s Best of 2013 list. Teenagers in over 120 different countries were forking over $3.99 to attain the unattainable: physical perfection. This trend is altogether toxic, from an individual standpoint to a worldwide phenomenon.
The app is incredibly successful. In 2017, the app was number one, and soon its new form, Facetune 2, hit the stores. Facetune 2 offers a free version, where users are able to use a few basic features. These include skin smoothing, teeth whitening, concealing – all aimed at capturing “perfection.” Thus, accessibility became even more widespread, and edited pictures have become the norm. In the industry today, influencers hold a vast sense of power, such that many young adults look to their content as a vision of what they should also appear to be. When a girl is entering her first year of high school, instead of worrying about her classes and trying to find her niche, she is instead fixated on brightening her eyes for her newest post. Taking pictures of one’s body becomes less of self expression and more of competition, to see who can edit themselves in the least noticeable way possible. It becomes detrimental to one’s mental health to think their best version of themselves is one that is fashioned out of an app. Celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen voiced calls to oppose Facetune and the negative messages it propagates. She, like others, feels that it only perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards. Because a successful editing job should be imperceptible, it has become increasingly difficult to determine when an app has been used. In turn, impressionable audiences find themselves more dissatisfied with their actual appearance and attempt to produce edited “perfected” versions of themselves, thus eliminating their own authenticity.
When comparing the app to other social media trends, the beauty industry parallels the rise of Facetune. One major brand on the rise is Glossier. The company produces lightweight makeup meant to enhance rather than cover up. The issue with their marketing, however, is that the models in their campaigns are already flawless according to societal standards. Often times, they have clear skin, slim faces, and straight teeth. This version of “enhancement” (i.e. makeup on already “perfect” faces) can create a sense of exclusion for the majority of the population who don’t look like Glossier models. They feel they cannot take part in the trend that isn’t targeted towards their demographic, and in turn, must resort to other mediums (such as Facetune) to fit the standards.
How do we approach the issue? In theory, the ideal answer seems to be demoting the use of Facetune and unrealistic beauty standards, while emphasizing “natural beauty” as “genuine beauty.” In practice, however, this is not entirely feasible. Societal notions of image have remained a controversy for decades, and are only driving us further into an obsession with perfectionism. Poreless influencers will continue to amass thousands of likes, and teenagers will continue to look up to them. Therefore, the solution can instead begin with the individual. Taking a defiant first step, such as deleting the app off of your phone, shows a rejection of the the notion of manufacturing your appearance for an audience. You demonstrate that you accept your physical self without requiring the acceptance of others.
Above all else, self-validation and approval is what every person needs. So no, we cannot all look like the Kardashians. But we can look like ourselves, raw and unedited. Because we are just as beautiful in all our imperfect perfection.