For weeks, TikTok’s Bold Glamour filter has dominated the social media platform’s content feeds with more than 22 million videos showing users embracing dramatic, digitally enhanced beauty transformations of their faces.
In addition to adding makeup and glowing skin, some users have observed that it augments the eyebrows, cheekbones, jawline, nose and lips. Unlike some other airbrushing filters that have altered facial appearances to nearly cartoonish levels, the Bold Glamour filter offers what some TikTokers have considered to be a credible — and aspirational — look.
But Gabrielle Union and Dove are cautioning that its use can set unrealistic standards of beauty and negatively impact emotional well-being. Their message was amplified on Sunday in Los Angeles during one of Hollywood’s most glamorous events, Vanity Fair’s Oscars party.
“I totally tried it and I felt really good, except I didn’t. It left me feeling anxious, sad, old and blah — I liked it too much,” Union said in a TikTok video ahead of her arrival. “Part of why we all liked it so much is because it blurs the lines of reality.”
Alongside her husband Dwyane Wade, Union turned her back to the camera while posing on the red carpet as part of Dove’s #TurnYourBack campaign to raise concerns about the viral filter’s effect on young women.
“The Bold Glamour filter dramatically distorts reality and reinforces narrow and unattainable beauty standards,” Union said in a statement, adding that she wants to lead by example for her daughter Kaavia Wade, 4, and stepdaughter Zaya Wade, 15.
It’s an apt partnership between the actress and the Unilever brand.
Dove launched its Self-Esteem Project in 2004, which has become one of the biggest worldwide facilitators of helping young people gain access to self-esteem education, with a goal of reaching 250 million by 2030.
According to research conducted by Dove, for girls who regularly edit their photos, 48 percent have lower body esteem compared to 28 percent of girls who do not. By 13 years old, 80 percent of girls have used a filter or retouching app to change their appearance.
“As a parent and someone who’s felt the pressures from social media to look perfect, it’s important to me that people realize the negative impact this can have, creating appearance pressures and low self-esteem particularly among young girls,” Union added. “They need to know they are enough.”
Celebrities and brands are joining a chorus of mental health professionals who have raised concerns about the exposure of unrealistic standards of beauty on young people. But it’s the algorithm behind TikTok’s Bold Glamour filter that could prove to be the most troubling trend — as the technology that drives it automates augmentation of the user’s face without including their preferences, effectively showing how the person should look, not what the person wants to look like.
Dr. Jennifer Guttman, a psychologist and host of YouTube’s “Sustainable Life Satisfaction” series, shared with WWD that compared to other filters she has seen, she finds the innovation behind TikTok’s Bold Glamour filter “disturbing.”
“[The Bold Glamour filter] is leveraging a person’s self-criticism, and we’re already having this age group engage in more injectables and cosmetic surgery as it is, it’s encouraging them to do more of that by saying, look, you could do an easy tweak here and an easy tweak there, and you’re going to look so much better.”
Research has shown that an increase in exposure to social media has been associated with dissatisfaction of one’s looks and a desire to embrace cosmetic procedures and treatments, according to the “Current Psychology” journal.
Still, correlation isn’t causation. What motivates someone to use beautifying filters isn’t entirely understood. For some, it’s a matter of achieving their own perception of beauty standards, even if that’s influenced by an app filter, advertisement or social group.
“[Bold Glamour] has been programmed with a good sense of aesthetics, and they are often favorable changes that most can benefit from — like strong cheekbones and jawlines,” said Dr. Jacob Sedgh, a Los Angeles-based facial plastic surgeon, who added that some of his patients have referenced the viral filter in consultations for their cosmetic goals.
“In general, any type of filter or simulation can have a positive influence in the communication with patients,” Sedgh explained. “It can be effective because it can present the type of change they are seeking and it’s a communication tool. Sometimes people can say bigger cheeks, but maybe they mean bigger cheekbones.”
Though critics argue that the Bold Glamour filter’s assessment of what makes users appear more attractive sets an artificial standard of beauty, the results are not entirely impossible to achieve in real life, he said.
“They are all achievable and realistic,” Sedgh said. “It might not be exactly what the filter shows, but they can expect solid achievements.”
Treatments can range from surgical operations or injectables for short-term noninvasive solutions for prominent cheekbones and jawline, and fuller lips.
“[Bold Glamour] creates a high arch and elevated eyebrows, which is consistent with a temporal brow lift surgery,” Sedgh said, adding that Botox can create a “slight lifting effect” as a non-invasive alternative.
“Another feature I noticed is that it makes the skin tighter and it takes away pigments and wrinkles are rejuvenated,” Sedgh said. “That can be achieved with lasers and micro needling with radio frequency. People can expect improvements, but not always get what you see in the filter.”