What's Wrong with My Face?

young white girl looking in a mirror

"I want to prevent a bunch of wrinkles".  I stopped and read the line again, wanting to make sure I had understood the email I received.  We've heard this sentence a LOT from women but this was the first time I was hearing it from a 12 year old girl.  Yep, 12.  I swallowed. 

I wrote back the practical piece of advice which was to start wearing a sunscreen daily, but also wrote "that said, wrinkles are often also caused by smiling and laughing and telling stories, and living long enough to get to have wrinkles – so they’re a part of our story as a human and nothing to be ashamed of.  So I’m a fan of wearing sunscreen and then embracing whatever comes as it comes, if that makes sense."

young black girl looking in a mirror

As I've said, this was a first and it filled me with a fair amount of panic.  Why is a 12 year old worried about wrinkles???  Acne, sure, body image, sure - both are bummers but many of us navigated those waters in middle school - but aging??  

I talked with her mom, who I happen to know quite well, who has a very healthy and balanced self-image.  She shared "she's on TikTok and YouTube a lot."

Rarely are we seeing real skin literally anywhere online.  And on social media?  Forget about it.  Makeup and lighting can do a lot but filters - filters can change everything - literally.  So much so that when you see a "normal" face you can have a lot of judgement about it.  Having done our Middle School Makeup shoot earlier this month I'm feeling extra protective of these young ladies and their self-image.

About six years ago I posted an Instagram Story and used a filter in it.  It was so obvious to me that it filtered because everything was highly exaggerated but immediately I started getting DMs saying "oh my gosh, you look amazing here!", "wow, so pretty!" and the like.  I hopped right back onto Stories, sans filter, and clarified what I actually looked like and that the previous Stories had been filtered (this was before IG told you there was a filter).  I haven't used a beauty filter since (until this post!).  

Additionally, I once was hired to do makeup for a shoot that had an influencer who I had chatted with on IG with - she was beautiful in her photos and super nice in her DMs.  She walked into the shoot and you could have knocked me over with a feather.  It was the same person but with a completely different jawline.  Still beautiful, but totally different.  I knew that the photographer wouldn't be altering her bone structure when they shared the photos so I wondered if she  would stop retouching her face in her posts once the shoot came out.  She didn't.  

GIF: Erin with no makeup followed by a picture of her looking like she has foundation on followed by a picture of her with a full face of makeup - the second two looks created by filters

I went onto TikTok and took some pics with a couple of their filters:

  • 1: no filter
  • 2: "lite foundation" filter
  • 3: "bold glamour" filter that is trending in a major way 

 If you think "oh you look good in #3 - that's just what you look like with makeup on" - it isn't.  They made my lips bigger, thinned our my nose and cheeks, made my eyes more blue, and lightened my skin tone in addition to other things.  

 african american woman with no makeup and then with makeup and smoothed, lightened skin because of a filter

Our social media manager, Tiffany, with and without the Glamor filter.   

Pictures are easy to filter but now it happens in videos* and even television shows and movies and we have no idea that we're seeing it.  A Vulture article from 2016 talks about how it started, literally, with the movie Benjamin Button where Brad Pitt aged backwards.  The company that did it was called Lola Visual Effects.  "At first Lola struggled to get faces right but then achieved an industry breakthrough by hiring an actual plastic surgeon and adapting his techniques. Today, Lola might begin with a “digital dermabrasion, removing any age spots or imperfects,” then reduce “eye bags,” use a “mesh warp” technique to tighten sagging skin or bulging flab, and perform a “digital face-lift” to trim jowls and areas like earlobes and noses that grow larger with age, while meticulously relighting every pixel. Throughout the industry, such work is “completely routine,” says veteran visual-effects supervisor Jim Rider (Vinyl, Focus, Foxcatcher). "I’ve done beauty retouching on women who are practically supermodels, but because they’ve got an extra few ounces …'"  Y'all 😳.

Real people don't look like this.  OR they get plastic surgery to make them look like this.  

The Harvard Business Review ran a series of studies in which they compared people’s self-perception before and after using an AR makeup app.  "Studies have shown that virtually modifying appearance can provoke anxiety, body dysmorphia, and sometimes even motivate people to seek cosmetic surgery."

So what do we do?  Kids are not going to stop getting on the internet.  Here are some things that I'm opting for - feel free to add what you're doing in the comments!

  • skipping filters altogether
  • showing up on social media without makeup (example 1 and example 2)
  • working to not criticize my appearance in front of others, especially young girls who are soaking in every word
  • stopping my apologies when I see people and I'm not wearing makeup 
  • stopping commenting on women's bodies in general
  • promoting our Life Lessons campaign, where women talk about what they love about their appearance, on social and our website
  • cutting the phrase "she looks good for her age" from my vocabulary
  • cutting "anti-aging" from our verbiage in Erin's Faces communications (we did this a few years ago but I need to make it absolute)

A handful of the awesome people to follow on social who lean into all of this too that Tiffany and I like:


*to be clear - it's your life and you can filter away.  I just think filtering is happening in a majority of posts/reels/images and it is affecting young people, regardless of gender, in a negative way and what we do matters.


  • Brushes Scissors Combs

    After read blog topic’s related post now I feel my research is almost completed. happy to see that. Thanks to share this brilliant matter.

  • Kari Roehr

    Thank you for wrapping that up in such a beautiful message for us as adults and girls.

  • Erin's Faces

    Thank you so much Nancy! I think the challenge is people believe that they’re real and feel lousy about themselves so it’s this circle of challenges. Hoping we can make a dent somehow!

  • Nancy Stober

    What a great and empowering email. Filters look so fake and unnatural.

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