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In February, a national survey commissioned by Dove revealed that 75 percent of Australian girls are using filters and retouching apps by the age of 13.

Whether they’re subtly changing their complexion or completely altering their facial structure and features, countless girls are using beauty filters when they post online.

Are they doing more harm than good?

The study, conducted as part of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, suggests they are. It found that digital distortion is having a negative impact on young girls’ confidence, with more than three-quarters of teen and pre-teen girls admitting they would delete a selfie if they don’t look perfect – 30 percent more than the global average.

The study also found that three in four girls had used a beauty filter to change the way they look by the time they turned 13.

“The rise of social media and the filters and editing apps that come with it has enabled creativity and self-expression,” says Nicky Sparshott, Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO. “But we’ve also seen how these can be harmful when used to conform to narrow beauty standards.

“After two years of increased screen time and heightened exposure to unrealistic beauty ideals and a world of likes/dislikes, there’s never been a more important time to make change.”

To provide parents and teachers of teens with practical solutions to help boost body confidence and navigate social media in a healthier way, Dove has partnered with the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of West England – the world’s largest research group focusing on the role of appearance and body image in people’s lives. 

Together, they have created the Dove Self-Esteem Project Confidence Kit. It’s a free online tool which empowers parents and carers to understand the challenges that young people face online, learn about how to curate a positive, diverse social feed and start conversations like the #SelfieTalk which provides tips on how to make social media a healthy place. 

“Dozens of scientific studies have shown that social media can negatively influence body confidence, mood, and self-esteem,” says Professor Phillippa Diedrichs, body image expert and Research Psychologist at the Centre of Appearance Research. “This happens when users spend significant amounts of time posting selfies, using editing apps and filters to alter their appearance, comparing themselves to others, and seeking validation through comments and likes.”

Beauty filters are almost impossible to get away from – they’re so normalised (and celebrated) that some smart phones even have them built into their front-facing camera.

Whether they’re sending photos directly to friends on Snapchat, posting Instagram Stories to their followers or making TikToks for the world to see, it’s evident that girls as young as 10 feel the pressure to look ‘perfect’ – the omnipresence of beauty filters only validates that concern.

To find out the impact this is having on our girls, we asked five teens to share their thoughts on beauty filters. Here’s what they had to say*…

Jennifer, 17

  • Do you typically use a facial/beauty filter when posting photos or videos on social media? Do you feel confident posting without a filter?
    I almost always use a filter when posting photos of myself, and will only not use a filter when posting pictures of my friends and other people.
  • Do many of your friends or the people you follow use filters?
    All my friends use filters as well when posting online.
  • How do you feel when you see other people using filters?
    I usually think that they look gorgeous with or without a filter, but filters are fun and enhance your looks!
  • Is it easy for you to tell when someone is using a filter?
    It depends on the kind of filter since some are super exaggerated, but there are some subtle ones that make you look gorgeous and natural.
  • Has using a filter made you want to change something about your appearance in real life?
    Yes, I have thought about it since my eyelashes are so short, so I want to change them.

 

Addison, 14

  • Do you typically use a facial/beauty filter when posting photos or videos on social media? Do you feel confident posting without a filter?
    I typically post with a filter, but I feel confident posting without a filter but sometimes it can just make you or your post look better.
  • Do many of your friends or the people you follow use filters?
    Most people my age (14) use filters.
  • How do you feel when you see other people using filters?
    If it is over the top filters like fake lashes or lips then it looks fake but natural filters do look very pretty.
  • Is it easy for you to tell when someone is using a filter?
    It is normal in this day and age that people do use filters but I would be fine if someone asked me if I used a filter because they would of used one before as well.
  • Has using a filter made you want to change something about your appearance in real life?
    Yes, it has I know for some people that they see themselves in a picture with a filter and they say ‘I wish I was as tanned’ or ‘those fake eyelashes make my eyes look so much better’. And they would sit there and pick things that are wrong about them and say I wish I could change that and I think everyone does that.

Sienna, 17

  • Do you typically use a facial/beauty filter when posting photos or videos on social media? Do you feel confident posting without a filter?
    No, not typically. I don’t generally post on social media at all, though when I do I enhance the photo to change the lighting, contrast, etc, but don’t use specific beauty filters.
  • Do many of your friends or the people you follow use filters?
    Quite a few of my friends use filters on social media, and although the influencers that I follow don’t seem to use filters, I am sure that they typically use less noticeable filters.
  • How do you feel when you see other people using filters?
    I typically think that the people using the filters are beautiful, and I make sure that I tell myself that they are using a filter, so there is not need to feel jealous of their beauty because it has been enhanced.
  • Is it easy for you to tell when someone is using a filter?
    Most of the time, yes. In some cases, like influencers, the filters are less noticeable, or they have done digital editing to discretely alter their looks.
  • Has using a filter made you want to change something about your appearance in real life?
    Not regarding my physical appearance, although a lot of the time it makes me want to get better at using makeup.

Ava, 15

  • Do you typically use a facial/beauty filter when posting photos or videos on social media? Do you feel confident posting without a filter?
    Yes I do feel confident posting without a filter however, I dont usually post and when I do there’s certain angles I like.
  • Do many of your friends or the people you follow use filters?
    More so the famous people and not as much my friends is what I have noticed.
  • How do you feel when you see other people using filters?
    It doesn’t bother me seeing others use filters because usually that just means they’re a little bit insecure.
  • Is it easy for you to tell when someone is using a filter?
    Yes to a point, majority of the time I can tell because of the small differences but to someone who doesn’t know the person you wouldn’t be able to tell. 
  • Has using a filter made you want to change something about your appearance in real life?
    Yes I’ve tried some of the ones on TikTok and they made me want eyelash extensions, they also made me want to learn how to do the nose contour trick.

Grace, 13

  • Do you typically use a facial/beauty filter when posting photos or videos on social media? Do you feel confident posting without a filter?
    No.
  • Do many of your friends or the people you follow use filters?
    Some of my friends and many people in my grade use filters
  • How do you feel when you see other people using filters?
    Depending how visible or obvious the filter is, it can be a little bit (in my words) icky. and i know other people i know think this to about filters too.
  • Is it easy for you to tell when someone is using a filter?
    It can be obvious when they are using a filter as some of there facial features are dramatically changed. sometimes it can be not as obvious but is still clear too see.
  • Has using a filter made you want to change something about your appearance in real life?
    Sometimes, i have purposely used a filter to see what i would look like with different features (eg, lashes, etc)

* Just like our photos should be, we’ve kept the girls’ answers unfiltered and unedited.

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haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.