Beauty Standards in an Instagram World

I previously discussed fat phobia and beauty standards as they pertained to women’s bodies over on the regular Tales from Sick and Twisted blog. But I think it’s a topic that’s worth discussing again, particularly from the angle of skin and hair care.

While I’ve been making a conscious effort to unlearn a lifetime of diet mentality and the idea that bodies are things that need to be controlled, I still find myself incredibly susceptible to unrealistic standards of flawless and eternally youthful looking skin. Even my feminist credentials don’t make me immune to the siren call of perfect skin. In all honesty, I know better. I know that I look good for my age, and I often receive compliments on my skin or my hair. And yet my boyfriend still makes fun of the lengths to which I will gladly go to make my skin or hair look even better (admittedly, my skin definitely bears the brunt of this). Whether I’m “burning off the top layer of skin” with an acid peel, or slathering my face with snail mucin and bee venom(!),  there are few lengths I wouldn’t consider in the name of defying the aging process.

At the same time, I recognize that my best possible skin might be entirely different from someone else’s, and as as over-the-top as I might get, I can usually stay mostly grounded in reality.   I’m almost 40 years old. I can honestly say that I have no expectations that some magical product will make me look 20 again, and yet I am constantly experimenting with new products to see if I can find the most perfect possible combination.

I just recently figured out how to use Snapchat, and that’s kind of what prompted this post. I had heard that Snapchat filters were capable of incredible magic, but I wasn’t prepared for seeing it with my own eyes. My skin looked so amazing that I truly felt like I was cheating.

Here it is, my very first Snapchat filtered picture

I had mixed feelings as I gazed upon the smooth skin in the picture. On the one hand, why stress about skincare if perfect skin is this easy to fake? But on the other hand, how many times have I felt like I fell short because I was comparing myself to an edited image? Then I thought of times when I saw people post obviously edited pictures in the context of being confident in their appearance (yeah, that caused a few raised eyebrows). What does it say about us if we feel a compulsive need to edit our true selves before we face the world?

The truth is that filters have infiltrated everyday life. I no longer need to be a Photoshop expert or spend hours cleaning up a picture one pixel at a time. I’ve become pretty adept at spotting filtered and edited pictures, but I’ll bet that many people don’t realize when they’re not looking at a true portrayal.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot an edited image. Two of the below images were taken directly with my iPhone camera (front-facing). The other two were taken through Snapchat.

Before and after Hylamide Pore Delete, with and without Snapchat filter

Because I wanted to see how much of a difference a good blurring product could make, I did these pics as before and after (this also demonstrates exactly why I love Hylamide Pore Delete- if you look from the top left to the bottom left pics, you can see a slight blurring effect- this was accomplished strictly by using a single product).

But I think it’s more often the case that we don’t even realize how many edited images we see day in and day out. Between Facetune and Instagram, it’s easy to believe in a reality that doesn’t actually exist, which wouldn’t be a problem except for how many people turn around and judge themselves as less than in comparison.

One of these is not like the others- can you spot the original?


In this second block, I used the same image and subtly altered the image in different ways. Simple things such as lighting or blurring vs. sharpening an image can make a huge impact- and that doesn’t even include more advanced tricks such as reshaping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we all need to disavow all of these really amazing tools at our disposal. But I am saying that we need to keep all of these tricks in mind the next time we mentally compare ourselves to a random picture somewhere. It’s hard enough when insecurity causes us to compare ourselves against others, but it’s a recipe for failure when you’re judging yourself again a fictitious version of someone else.

***I just wanted to close by explaining my philosophy on filters and editing for this a blog. You, my readers, have my word that any skin or face pics in this blog will be unfiltered and unedited. If, for some reason, I do use an edited picture, I will fully document it as such. I have and will continue to apply lighting filters to hair pictures, for the sole purpose of making individual curl clumps as visible as possible.


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