In a world where social media constantly reminds us of beauty standards, it’s getting more and difficult to fully embrace ourselves and the way we look. We are constantly bombarded with flawless images of celebrities, models, and influencers. All of them are seemingly blessed with perfect skin and body, and a perfectly symmetrical face.
Sadly, all of this affects people’s self-image, especially the young, leaving them feeling inadequate and unworthy. This is why Within Health performed a little experiment. This digital service helps people combat with eating disorders and they recently used AI technology to detect photoshopped areas in celebrities’ faces in magazine covers.
Detecting photoshopped faces using AI
Within Health analyzed magazine cover photos using an AI-powered called a FAL Detector. Perhaps you remember it: it was developed and introduced by UC Berkeley and Adobe Research back in 2019. Basically, when you give it an input image, it detects if the face has been warped with the Face-Aware Liquify tool from Photoshop. Then it predicts where the face has been warped, creates a heatmap of the edited area, and attempts to undo the warp and recover the original image.
The experiment focused on close-up photos of celebrities’ faces since the model was trained on faces rather than full-body images. They used photos of Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, and Beyoncé. Interestingly enough, Beyoncé’s images turned out to be the least edited – but you should take it with a grain of salt. First of all, that’s because the team found fewer magazine covers of Beyoncé with a focus on her face. There were more often full-body photos. Then, it could be the lack of significant data. “The model was trained on faces from the Flickr image dataset,” Within Health writes. “These photos skew ‘Western’ as noted by the paper authors, which likely means there are fewer black faces in the training data, potentially leading to less accurate results on Beyoncé magazine covers looked at in this experiment.”
As for Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston, the team found that Jolie’s face was most commonly edited in the jaw and lips area, and Anniston’s photos had mainly jawline and chin digitally altered. Add thousands of dollars that celebrities spend on beauty products, cosmetic surgeries, and other ways to look younger, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for unrealistic beauty standards. But is it really the biggest issue?
Beauty standards and how they shaped us
My generation grew up looking at photos of celebrities in paper magazines. We didn’t have phones, social media, or the internet. The beauty standard when I was a girl was “heroin chic” (how messed up is that name, by the way), and girls were only considered beautiful if they were thin. If anyone told the chonky little me back then that my body type would become “a standard” one day, I would have laughed.
Fast forward to the 2010s and 2020s, I’m still working on my self-image and relationship with food, and girls with slim shoulders, thin waist, and big bums are now “a standard.” I am “a standard.” Girls whom I would’ve envied as a kid and who would’ve been considered “perfect” in the 1990s now want to look like me. Wait, what? And how screwed up is that! But to be honest – today, all of this is much worse than when I was a child and a teenager.
Why “beauty standards” are more dangerous in the 21st century
The 21st century brought us fast internet, social media, and the flow of information that’s faster than ever before. Celebrities still use their astronomical earnings to perform cosmetic surgeries, pay private trainers and chefs, and have their photos in magazines and posters photoshopped. But we also have a massive online presence of those same celebrities, plus influencers who are followed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young people. Paired with that, we also have face filters, some of them shockingly realistic – and it’s a recipe for disaster in terms of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
All of us are constantly exposed to unrealistic, photoshopped, filtered-out faces on social media. It’s too much even for those who don’t struggle with self-image, and especially for those who do. Even worse, we often don’t even compare ourselves to others – we compare our real face to the flawless one we see when we slap a filter on it. We compare ourselves with the unrealistic version of ourselves, and I believe that the biggest problem lies there, and not in the photoshopped faces of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. But that’s just my two cents, and I’d love to hear what you think about it.