Most smartphones have offered some type of ‘beauty’ filter for years, which smooth out pimples, freckles, wrinkles, and other details in your face. There are a few studies that show such functionality can have a negative effect on mental health, and as a result, Google is now turning them off by default on its own phones and encouraging other OEMs to do the same.
“We set out to better understand the effect filtered selfies might have on people’s wellbeing,” Google said in a blog post, “especially when filters are on by default. We conducted multiple studies and spoke with child and mental health experts from around the world, and found that when you’re not aware that a camera or photo app has applied a filter, the photos can negatively impact mental wellbeing. These default filters can quietly set a beauty standard that some people compare themselves against.”
Google has created documentation for best practices when implementing face filters, recommending that they be off by default. The company also suggests OEMs and camera app developers should stay away from terms like “enhancement,” “beautification,” and “touch up,” since those all imply the unmodified photo needs improvement. “Face retouching” is recommended as one possible neutral term.
Google is also following its own advice, as Pixel phones will soon have face retouching off by default. The option will remain available, but there will be a new UI that explains exactly what it does. Google Camera is also renaming the medium intensity option from “Natural” to “Subtle.”