Are we living in an age where beauty is ‘filter’ deep? This piece questions whether augmented reality is changing the face of beauty.

We like to speak about the unspoken, and what better way to do this than to enter the pits of a nightmarish (or heaven-like) technology-led universe? Each week, we’ll be approaching a Tech Taboo topic that has caught the attention of our society for its potential to benefit or harm us. From provocative product launches to digital dangers, this series is called Tech Taboo for a reason…

Picture, perfect beautiful – that’s what we get when we look at our angelic-selves on Snapchat. It seems like we’re currently living in an age where beauty is ‘filter’ deep, thanks to platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat integrating augmented reality within its channels. Moreover, its ‘stars’ (if you want to call them that) such as Kylie Jenner are also stimulating this infatuation – but she has definitely put a spanner in the works as she just announced her boredom of Snapchat, wiping £1bn off Snap’s stock market. As such, our obsessive ‘selfie-culture’ has compelled us to capture a reinvention of ourselves, to the point where 65% of young people feel that their selfies boost their confidence. And it’s not just society who have embarked on enhancing their portraits. Beauty brands have tapped into this and now offer products fuelled by technology and ‘special effects’ which satisfy their audience who desire forward-thinking products that give them enhancing features – enhancing features which mirror the AR technology. So will beauty brands continue to infuse technology and customisation features, which fit our vision of ‘perfection?’

“Social media is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the beauty industry.” – Pati Dubroff, celebrity makeup artist.

Behind the Fabulous Filter

The Rose Crown, the Butterfly Crown – you name it, these beloved Snapchat filters are fun and flawless. For a feature that’s a bit of a gimmick, the technology that goes behind filtering our faces, goes far beyond than just facial recognition. It all began when Snapchat purchased ‘computer vision’ startup, Looksery, for $150 million back in 2015. They were the brains behind building applications that would recognise a face, model it in 3D space whilst taking into account rotation and even obstruction so that overlaid props and effects can animate seamlessly. It’s all very techy, but essentially this technology can now be rolled out in a number of lenses and filters. And thanks to its popularity with its users, L’Oréal Paris saw its potential and became the first beauty brand to work with the platform, by creating their own Snapchat lens to help users get their eyeliner on fleek. Ever since that collaboration, the beauty industry has embarked on augmented reality through social media which has influenced their product launches – it’s worked wonders, but it’s also raised a few eyebrows.

“There’s a big desire today to create something that results in an Instagram moment. Those moments lead to word of mouth and are huge advertising opportunities.” – Natasha Jen, Pentagram agency.

Lights, Contour, Application

A study found that photos with human faces are 38% more likely to receive likes than a photo without. I can’t help but wonder that the beauty industry can’t be the only field to realise how profitable the ‘selfie / sharing’ industry is! It’s come to my attention that the beauty pioneers such as Glossier and MAC are emphasising on a huge aesthetic trend of launching products that mirror a filters’ offerings – texture, viscosity, light and colour. But before even trying these sensory products, there’s a step before that gives a whole new meaning to ‘try before you buy.’ Beauty shoppers know the drill now – we don’t bother applying the gross testers of lipstick from the shelf. We put our phone in front of our face, click on our app and virtually try-on a shade of coral lippy from Rimmel. This blend of customisation and experimentation without lifting a finger, is something that’s become key for ModiFace, the leading technology provider for beauty apps. Where this becomes interesting is when you connect the dots between technology and the data it can collect. If a user regularly uses an AR beauty app, overtime the app will learn what they like and want, with the opportunity to infuse this data into future product launches. But with many desiring the ‘Instagram Face’ will this data actually be of significance for beauty brands, if all are after the same look?

Pretty Hurts

Beyoncé is right. Whilst beauty brands are catering to our demands to look like an Instagram angel, it’s generally quite damaging to the way we see ourselves without a filter. As such, brands are trying to market their products as tools for the perfect ‘selfie’ as well as helping you to express your individuality. Whilst I can semi-believe the latter, my attention still goes back to the fact that we are in the digital age and our high-maintenance attitude towards capturing ‘perfect beauty’ is increasingly demanding – even more so, now that we have the technology to help us do so. Even though this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I can see why beauty brands are launching products with the technology that’s #instaready. Brands receive more customers, technology providers can optimise their innovations and you receive more likes.

It’s never been easier to use digital to craft our identity, but if we all become #filterised like a kardashian clone, will we have an identity at all?