FaceTune And The Photo Retouching Arms Race

Those Instagram photos. They're all edited.

Ok. So you probably knew that already. But did you know that photoediting is not just reserved for Instagram models?

Many of your friends edit their photos. 50% of your tinder matches have touched up their photos.

Ever wondered: "How the hell does everybody look so goddamn perfect on their social media?"

Introducing: Facetune

Facetune is an image editor.

Ok so what? Everybody knows that images of models are Photoshopped. The difference is that Facetune isn't only deserved for skilled Photoshop users. It's an app that a 12 year old could use.

Simply tap your finger on the screen and make your face perfect.

Here's a shortlist of what Facetune allows you to down to the finest detail:


  •  Smoothing over skin flaws
  •  Whitening teeth
  •  Whitening eyes
  •  Brighten or darken skin tones
  •  Removing bags under eyes
  •  Changing face shape
  •  Changing nose shape
  •  Brighten backgrounds and remove people from backgrounds
  •  Make a smile wider
  •  Make eyes bigger or smaller
  •  Make hips narrower
  •  Make breasts bigger
  •  Make ass bigger


All of this can be done subtly and so that it's not noticeable. (Or you can push it so far you look like a fucking alien)

And loads of people are doing it.

Now the majority of people using Facetune are female, but of course there will be plenty of guys using this shit too.

What makes Facetune different is it's accessibility. Professionals have been editing photos in the ways listed above for years on Photoshop. But image editing has come to the point now where it's been made simple enough for anybody with a smartphone to use.

And Facetune isn't some small gimmick. It's powerful. It's comparable to professional image retouching used on major magazines. The difference between a professional on Photoshop and a teenage girl on her smartphone is not that big anymore.

Of course there are plenty of similar image-touching apps (EG. Perfect365) and these apps are only going to get better and better.




So where are you likely to find photos that have been manipulated by Facetune? Well photo re-touching is more or less accepted in the Instagram community. All those Instagram models you're following? They don't really look like that. Don't get me wrong, if you met them in-person they would look good. But not fucking flawless like they seem in their photos.

Instagram is seriously big business. Instagram model Sommer Ray earns $26,275 per post. That's $5.2 MIllion per year. And there are plenty of others earning an annual income in the millions, as well as thousands of others earning upwards of $100,000 a year. This a marketplace with real money to be made. And when there's a marketplace, people will do everything they possibly can to get ahead of the competition.

The last few years have seen a photo re-touching arms race. The arms being photo re-touching technology

It started with filters and gradually progressed to Facetune. If the top Instagram models want to stay at the top they have to adopt these technologies or their competition will take their place. The more flawless the photo looks, the more money it makes. Using Facetune to make the eyes shine and narrow the hips will make the model (And her team) hundreds of thousands of dollers.

Like all markets, it's not just those at the top of the pyramid trying to get ahead. Facetune is used by everybody.

Even when real money isn't involved.

Facetune helps the everyday person collect "social currency" on social media. People are competing for likes and comments on social media and Facetune can help them win this social currency.

Stacy used Facetune and got 100 likes on her photo and 24 comments consisting of "You so cute bae" and "Omg Sexy (Loveheartface). How can you compete with Stacy just using an old fashioned filter. No, you need to step up your game! Edit all the flaws off of your face and you can get all the attention that Stacy received.

When you know what to look for, you will come to a strange, strange realisation.


Scroll through Tinder to see endless photos of faces with impossibly bright eyes and seemingly flawless skin. Occasionally you can catch a background bending out of shape where Facetune has been used to narrow a girls hips.

It's an open secret.




But it's not really obvious unless you know what to look for. Facetune can make incredibly subtle unnoticeable improvements. Subtle enough that the majority people would have no idea the image was edited.


What effect are apps like Facetune going to have on people I wonder..?





The creepiest aspect of all of this is the fact that it fucking works. Whether you're aware of the image re-touching or not, it makes people look great. Even if the pre-frontal cortex of your brain understands that the images have been edited, the older reptilian part of your brain can't tell the difference. All your subconscious brain see's is an attractive person.


Lets go even further.


Is it possible that somebody's Facetuned photos could actually have an influence on how attractive you perceive them to be in real life?


If you keep seeing images of a certain person pop up on your social media with this person looking flawlessly attractive again and again. What happens next time you see that person in real life? Are you disgusted by the fact their offline appearance doesn't match up to their appearance in real life? Or has your subconscious brain been manipulated to the point that you can't help but find them attractive in real life too?


And to make things even more insane.


Facetune is completely available for children and teenagers.


There are no age restrictions on Facetune. A 12 year old, with a developing brain going through the important process of trying to understand their self-image, can download the app and start manipulating their face.

The app costs $4.00, easily affordable for a 12 year old with some pocket money.

I mean come on. The is a fucking recipe for disaster.

Facetune made $18million in profit in the first 2 years of release.

Apparently Facetune making a tidy profit is more important than the low self-esteem, body dismorphia, anxiety, depression and eating disorders it will instill in teenagers.

And these disorders are going to effect people on both sides of the coin, the ones editing their own photos and the ones surrounded by other people's edited photos.

You can put a fake image on your social media and get praise from across the world. But you will always know it's not really you. The gap between your fake image and real image is going to eat away at you. For a minority this gap will be torturous. For a minority it will become an unhealthy obsession.