Why users are calling TikTok’s ‘Bold Glamour’ filter problematic

Why users are calling TikTok’s ‘Bold Glamour’ filter problematic

It seems the days of Snapchat’s ‘dog filter’ are well and truly behind us. We’re hanging up our animal ears and anime heart eyes, and staring down a new era of hyperreality. Where filters used to be wacky and low-stakes, a new filter on TikTok is presenting a more sinister and serious dystopian reality. The ‘Bold Glamour’ filter has been causing discussion as of late – because it looks so good (well, real), which means, it’s very, very bad.

‘Bold Glamour’ is a sophisticated AI technology, doing some unrealistic manipulation of a user’s features to provide a digital ‘fix’ – once applied, users are fitted with hollowed cheekbones, narrower noses, and poreless, airbrushed skin. Eyebrows are sharp, bronzer is placed high, and there’s a hint of metallic eyeshadow. It’s so realistic, some users are saying it should be banned.

At time of writing, there’s 10.6 million videos on TikTok using the Bold Glamour filter. Variations of the hashtag amount to over 385 million views.

It’s incredibly innovative technology that sets it apart from some of the other popular beauty filters on the app – like Blue Eyes, Tanned Cute, Pretty Baby x Lashes. Unlike some filters that glitch or slip as you move, this is created using AI, so you can yank your cheeks as much as you like, it sticks around.

The weariness around the effect is echoed across the app; “so glad these filters existed only after my prefrontal cortex fully developed,” says user @alexandriamorgz. “New confidence reducer just dropped” @yemaya captioned the filter.

It gives you some faith that the TikTok comment sections are being filled with proclamations of self-love and encouragement. At the same time, there’s also a worrying subsection forming of people internalising the results.

When I looked at the comments on just one video, they were pretty unsettling:

“It gives everyone the rhinoplasty of their dreams”.

“I’m sad wishing I looked like that”.

“I tried this one and it’s made me so insecure about the texture of my skin”.

“Facial dysmorphia gang”

“I want to take this filter to a plastic surgeon and order everything on the menu”

“The full crisis I’d have, God bless the little children that see these filters”.

Others are using it as makeup inspo, creating “Bold Glamour makeup tutorials”, like influencer Mikayla Nogueira. She overhauls her usual everyday makeup look to do higher contour and a more bronzed tone. However, she does preface the tutorial to say she “prefers herself without the filter, totally”.

A study by the University of London’s Gender and Sexualities Research Centre found that 90% of young women used filters or editing software on their photos. The main goals were to “reshape their nose, appear to weigh less, and whiten teeth”.

Considering two out of every five TikTok users are between the ages of 18-25, with 27.37% aged just 12-17, it seems this issue is only going to get bigger, and younger. With female users making up a hefty 27.94% of the TikTok audience, it’s hard to feel like these kinds of filters being created aren't targeted at women.

Comestic surgeon Dr Monica Kieu, broke down in clinical terms what the AI filter was doing to her face; “overall, it gave me smoother-looking skin. My nose has been contoured to look slimmer and more refined and both the upper and lower lips are plumper”. Even though tweakments can provide both these changes, Dr Kieu concluded; “it makes me feel better to know this can be done with makeup and good lighting”.

It would be naive to think that filters aren’t going to be, more and more, a part of our future, but the way in which they’re developing rapidly into mirroring a deceiving, high gloss version of reality is looking more problematic as they grow. And when we’re all about busting societal beauty standards and expanding the idea of what beauty is, a homogenous, one size fits all ‘Bold Glam’ filter or otherwise feels all the more grim. How will we know what’s real and what’s not?

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