Does Snapchat’s Beauty Filter Want You To Look More White?

March 7, 2016  |  

beauty filter

I have a great appreciation for makeup. I don’t wear much of it myself but I can appreciate the artistry behind enhancing one’s natural beauty. I’ve long been suspicious about the practice of contouring one’s face. It seemed like everyone was trying to make their noses appear smaller. It always left me feeling unsettled. For the most part, smaller noses are associated with Europeans and their standard of beauty. I’ve never seen anyone, in any makeup tutorial, contour their face to make the bridge of their nose appear wider.

Always more narrow.

But again, I don’t know how to do anything even remotely close to that, so it never really concerned me. What does concern me though? Snapchat. I vowed that I was too old for Snapchat, convinced that it was merely a way for high school kids to sext each other without lasting proof. But this past Christmas after watching my sister fall in love with the app and hanging out with my younger cousins, I decided to download it too. Peer pressure. And as my family members predicted, I actually do like the app. It’s a nice way to communicate quickly with video. It’s good for moments you want to capture but not necessarily have associated with your profile forever.

And the filters are really fun to play with. I morphed myself into a panda and talked to my sister on my commute home. I transformed into an alien and sang a lyric from a Nicki Minaj song. My little cousin chatted me and said she didn’t recognize me. Perhaps most impressively, my sister and I swapped faces and spoke with each other’s lips. Crazy, fun stuff.

Late last year, the app introduced a new filter. “Beauty.”

When I applied the filter to one of my pictures (above) my face came out looking at tad weird. My sister’s before and after photos are better representations of what it’s supposed to do.

beauty filter

Like the name suggests, it’s supposed to make your pictures appear more beautiful. Even though it’s been out for “a while” in pop culture terms, having just downloaded the app after New Year’s Day, it’s new to me. The beauty filter does a few things. It clears your skin. (Thanks.), elongates your face, makes your eyes appear wider (Sometimes a bit too wide.), pushes your lips together, and, you guessed it, contours both the bridge of your nose and the nostrils.

So as you might assume the same concerns I have about contouring with makeup, I have with this beauty filter. Expect a bit more heightened as young, very impressionable children and young adults are using the application. It’s not very healthy for any child but especially not Black children whose features are often dismissed or degraded when it comes to mainstream beauty standards. I wonder will something as seemingly innocent as a filter be yet another way young girls find faults and flaws in their natural appearances. Will it make them want to chop and screw their nose temporarily (like Porsha Stewart) or permanently like so many other artists, actors and entertainers out here? There used to be a huge push for magazines to stop doing so much retouching to photos because young girls were comparing themselves to those false, unattainable images. What type of damage will looking at your own altered image do to your psyche and self esteem?

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  • Patriot Pat

    Didn’t think of it that way, maybe because I’m white. I noticed that it made my skin more pale than it already is, but it softens features like freckles, wrinkles and blemishes. So I think it’s more about softening skin than anything to do with color.

  • Sophie Wang

    !!! I was beginning to think I was the only one who cares about this and finds it problematic. The same narrowing face/nose and widening eyes tactic has been used in multiple snapchat filters since. I was using the one that puts stars on the sides of your head, not expecting any other changed to be made. However, my face was morphed–but so subtley that I didn’t realize until someone told me that it didn’t look like me, which upset me because I thought I looked way better than I normally do. I don’t think the people at snapchat are trying to hurt people and their body image but that is what they’re achieving by perpetuating Eurocentric beauty standards. The fact that I didn’t notice much of a difference in my facial structure when I applied the filter yet I thought I looked more beautiful shows how snapchat capitalized on my internalized hatred for my non white nose and eyes. This isn’t “reaching,” this is simply calling out snapchat for inhibiting self love.

  • Old School Me

    I would think that there’d be a way to smooth out the few, slight, discolorations and make them blend in with the natural skin tone as opposed to lightening the whole face. And yes, too many of those Youtube make up gurus automatically put that light stripe of concealer on the bridge of the nose to make it look slimmer/less west African. It’s very sketchy that this app does the same.

  • caligirl

    glad i only had sons… lol

    • Free_Is_Me

      Some days I wish I only had sons, lol! Girls can wear you out!

      • caligirl

        haha, so can boys — just in a different way!

        • Free_Is_Me

          I’m sure they can. I have one boy and one girl…and both are enough for me, lol

  • Ce1999

    I never even heard of this.

  • Mama Dee’s Wig Maker


  • LogicalLeopard

    What type of damage will looking at your own altered image do to your psyche and self esteem?
    Sorry, but I think your psyche and self esteem are probably already at risk, if you’re constantly taking selfies and trying to improve them in the first place.

  • Holier than thou

    Both girls (in their pictures with the offending filter) still look completely black to me.
    No rick of being mistaken for a white person.

  • Courtney Banks

    Fun tip: dark skin, not only is it beautiful but can change drastically depending on the lighting. So dark skin in a mirror pic, will look different than being by a window with natural sunlight.

    Or perhaps the white people who make many of these modern inventions don’t make it with black people in mind. I’m only giving you that much. But the makers of these apps aren’t rubbing their hands evily in some boardroom scheming to make black people look white.

    • secret87

      lol in the boardroom

    • ROCKER

      Lol at boardroom the’s comments are hilarious

  • I’m seriously starting to question the judgement of some MN writers. It feels like some of you try to find a problem out of the smallest issue.

  • CommonSense

    The only people that say you reaching are the ones doing the same thing to make themselves appear lighter in pictures.

    • guest

      That is also a reach.

      • ROCKER

        This is also so funny as hell. U bust out laughing at work. I soooo needed the laugh.

        • ROCKER

          I meant I bust out laughing at work

  • Reach for the start my girl

  • guest

    All I see from the pictures above is better lighting in the second pictures. Both women in the pictures are beautiful btw.

  • Free_Is_Me

    Some of the “filter apps” I think they go a bit overboard, to the point of not even looking like your self, or too filtered to the point that the pic doesn’t even look in focus. One you need to know what your doing, please do not use a filter to the point you look like a cartoon character….
    Good lighting or flash, concealer, lip gloss and good skin care…you will be just fine!

  • Masterpieced

    I like the filters because I am SO not photogenic. Anything that helps me I will accept but NO I do not think it make anyone look whiter—just clears the discolorations—same as makeup does.

  • Lisa

    Ok, for those old enough to remember, this beauty filter is just the contemporary version of “Glamour Shots”, which was and probably still is widely used by people of all colors. The soft focus and lighting really did “improve” the evenness and texture of both ladies’ skin tone. For real life though, both you and your sister should really consider using a bit of foundation and translucent powder to get the same effect. Lipstick won’t hurt either. The most important points: 1) No one is trying to make you look white. 2)”young, very impressionable children” don’t need to be on Snapchat. They need to be at a library reading or outside playing.

    • Cher

      “”young, very impressionable children” don’t need to be on Snapchat.”…yeah but the problem is these kids arent in the library, or getting an education, thats the society we live in…the reality of the situation is that they are on snapchat. And thats the issue, the fact they are being exposed to this program anyway

      • Lisa

        Maybe that’s the society you live in, but I take my child to the library and see to it that he gets enough physical activity. Excuses, excuses.

        • Free_Is_Me

          Exactly, I have teenagers who now use snapchat, but they also still go to the library, play multiple sports etc. I have always made sure my children were active….that is the parents responsibility!

          • Lisa

            Right on.

  • oriamah

    Look more white? What does that even mean? Elongated features and slimmer faces are very much East african. Stop giving those people that much credit. They aren’t that good looking.Smh

    • Cher

      Actually on the contrary if you do research on what constitutes European features…the writer is correct Elongated face/slimmer face is one of the characteristics associated with Europeans. Thats just facts. East African women has some of these european attributes but they originally are from the europeans. Look at history and art (paintings, drawings etc) from europe. It clearly shows this…

      • oriamah

        That’s just facts? For who? I’ve known more african with slimmer features than europeans will ever be. Originally from europeans? I don’t even know where to start.
        Did you look at history and art paintings from Africa that are at least 10 000 if not 100000 years older than those europeans ones? You do know that the white race is fairly new on earth right?. So many of what you call “europeans” came around long after african features which include slimmer and bigger bones structures. And it’s not me saying but the science and the DNA analysis.
        Do you know that white historians because of the elongated features on African art paintings tried to call them aliens?
        By europeans attributes you mean bigger and distorted noses and non existent lips? Because that’s more accurate than the perfect picture you try to associate to white features.
        I do hope you are white because this blatant display of ignorance would really hurt if it’s from a black person. White can’t see beyond the size of their nose and at this point we all get it. And if you aren’t white please read a book, do some research common you are on the internet.

      • Masterpieced

        The FIRST human is Ethiopian—Lucy. So, the originators cannot be European.

        • Free_Is_Me

          Do people actually believe the mess they post…smh! Cher must have just come from underneath her rock

    • Kory Green

      Apparently minorities give them enough credit, since skin bleaching is done all over the world… even Asians and Hispanics are doing it, along with blacks in Africa and North America. India has a light vs. dark caste system that puts blacks to shame with our colorism.

  • bigdede

    Why even use a beauty filter? Work on your self esteem

  • Rocker

    Lmao!!!! This is going to far. Apps, social media you control, posting sites, and everyone is doing something to victimize blacks? Reaching much? Did the blue filter make you look blue? This is also a feature on there with a dog face. Is that offensive? Its vintage it washed you out. It also whited out shadows in your face. It did not give you a nose job, perm your locs, bleach your hair, call you the N word, say that your features are too black so we fixed it in a text below the pictures… LOL. I was purposely being sarcastic FYI. But this site tries to get too “deep” and often misses the mark entirely.

    • Holier than thou

      Couldnt have put it better myself!

  • Raze

    Not really. If anything, it makes your pics look more “vintage.” I honestly don’t care since I don’t use Snapchat. But, if a child comes to you saying that (s)he wishes to look like that weird photo, just yell them that that photo is nothing more than a fake and that they’re pretty the way they really are.

  • Ram2015

    The entire picture looks “washed out”. Everything even her sweater looks lighter, I don’t think this is aimed at skin color directly.

  • Secret87

    No one is being forced. I have used fliters to look blue or a rainbow of colors. No big deal,but if you do it and have keke palmer skin tone and it can make you have vanessa willams skin tone the only problem would be once meeting someone in person. Buuuut I dont think fliters can do that.

  • Trisha_B

    Reaching way to high lol…Samsung has a beauty filter on their cameras. Just makes you look like cartoon lol. Just don’t use it

  • Myllee

    Reaching much

  • ok