Beauty Is Within the Instagram Filter

February 9th, 2021 by

Social media: the most reliable source of unfiltered honesty and authenticity… just kidding. However, it is becoming a more honest place thanks to the #FilterDrop campaign, launched by Sasha Pallari. 

An influencer and makeup artist herself, Sasha launched the Instagram campaign Filter Drop in summer 2020, with three main goals: to encourage women to stop depending on filters, for the ASA to demand that influencers and celebrities must state if they have used a filter when promoting a beauty product, and to have face-morphing filters removed permanently from Instagram.


The Advertising Standards Agency have responded to the campaign by ruling that filters “should not be applied to social media adverts if they exaggerate the results,” and this applies to all UK brands, influencers and celebrities. The decision came after the ASA reviewed two examples of video promotions for fake tan brands where filters had been added. The ASA said that applying the filters would have “misleadingly exaggerated the effect the product was capable of achieving” and deceived consumers. Following the ruling, both of these advertisements were banned. 

While we agree that false advertising with filters is wrong, it’s interesting to see how the opinions of filters have changed. In the past, various beauty brands have created their own filters on Instagram and Snapchat to showcase new products, be it lipsticks, blushes or eyeshadows.

The AR Makeover

Even before the pandemic began and shoppers could still go into stores to seek out makeup testers, many beauty brands had begun experimenting with augmented reality technology. L’Oreal purchased ModiFace (a leading tech beauty provider) in 2018, and since then L’Oreal has fully embraced virtual, futuristic makeovers. In November 2020, it launched its most recent line of ‘virtual makeup’. Titled the “Signature Face” filters, social media users can virtually try on eye makeup, lipsticks and even hair products from L’Oreal.

The virtual campaign is supported on Instagram, Snapchat, Snap Camera and Google Duo. Interestingly enough, by supporting Snap Camera specifically, L’Oreal has made this AR makeover available on video chat services such as Zoom and Houseparty. This suggests L’Oreal is positioning this makeup line as a way to change your look on video calls, taking the remote-working-appearance-apathy to the extreme.

Filters have been available on Snapchat since 2015 and on Instagram and TikTok since 2017, so the concept of altering your appearance with a filter on social media isn’t a new advancement. What is new, is attempting to position a beauty filter as a non-gimmicky and useful workplace tool. 

The Filter Drop campaign spreads awareness about the negative effects filters can have on our mental wellbeing. While we agree with the decision that influencers must disclose when they use a filter in a beauty promotion, AR filters and virtual makeovers present customers with a safe and fun way to try on new makeup products from the comfort of their own homes. It is a fun marketing tool that customers can play around with on social media or in real-time on Zoom with friends or colleagues.

The TikTok Effect

In 2020, TikTok developed its “enhance filter” that is easily accessible to all TikTok creators—push a button and your skin is smoothed, teeth whitened, face contoured and lashes darkened. The “enhance” feature isn’t a separate filter, but is integrated into the recording section of the app. It uses toggles (between 0 and 100) where you can increase the smoothness of skin, whiteness of teeth, thinness of your face, contour depth and the intensity of eye makeup and lipstick. TikTok users can easily completely change their appearance to fit societal standards by simply moving their thumbs.

TikTok is currently the “IT” app, and beauty brands have begun making the most of its popularity with their own campaign hashtags and beauty filters. Due to the ruling by the ASA, creators on TikTok will have to disclose even the use of the “enhance” filter, as even using the filter to smooth skin is potentially altering the effect of the promoted product. This is only in the instance of paid sponsorships, though. For everyday posts creators are still able to use the “enhance” filter without disclosing.

The Takeouts

In a reality where communication is mostly restricted to online, screen time has become all the time. With wellbeing and mental health at the forefront of consumer’s minds, the new ruling by the ASA will undoubtedly save consumers from being deceived by fake and filtered promotions. In advocating for the disclosure of filters, the campaign will have helped create a more honest and authentic online experience for influencers, brands and social media users. 

Developing AR technology has allowed beauty brands to create virtual filters to help consumers discover new, fun makeup available from home. It will be interesting to see how the new ruling influences these virtual lines, if at all, and how beauty brands decide to position and promote them. Consumers are beginning to reject the picture-perfect, hence the aims of Filter Drop, but new technology is always exciting, as is a little bit of colour.

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