Google comes out against "beauty mode" in smartphone camera apps

Pixel 4a Alex Back Leather
Pixel 4a Alex Back Leather (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has come out against beauty mode for selfies and other image altering features on smartphone cameras.
  • The company will be updating its own Pixel camera app with value-neutral iconography and clear text descriptions to reflect these values.
  • Features like beauty mode contribute to body dysmorphia in young people and Google us making this change as part of its commitment to digital wellbeing.

Digital Wellbeing isn't just monitoring how long you use your phone or whether you get to bed on time. It's also examining other ways you interact with your smartphone too. Take selfies, Google is making a change to a popular feature you'll see on many Android phones — face retouching. On some Android phones, you may find it dubbed beauty mode or something similar. In essence, it's a feature that takes your face and smooths it out, lightens it up, changes your eye shape, and spits out a "beautified" photo.

Google notes that these features affect mental health in ways that may not be immediately obvious at first, especially in younger people or those who don't fall within conventional beauty standards. Google's Vinit Modi, Product Manager. explained on Thursday:

We set out to better understand the effect filtered selfies might have on people's wellbeing—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.

The company is not just giving lip-service to this idea, it's also changing the camera app on Pixels to reflect this. Currently, Pixels have a "face-retouching" of that alters your selfies to adjust skin texture, eye tone and eye-brightness. It'll be updated with clearer labelling and value-free iconography. The sparkles that you'll currently see on the feature will be replaced with something a little brush icon. The text will also swap out terms like "Natural" for "Subtle" ("Smooth" remains the same).

Pixel Changes

Source: Techcrunch (Image credit: Source: Techcrunch)

These updates will roll out at some unspecified point in the future.

Michael Allison