Face Filters: What the Latest Instagram Trend Says about Gen Z

Say goodbye to Snapchat’s dog filter. Digital beauty is the future.

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Ever since Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in the classic Ovidian myth, the obsession of capturing our own image has filtered and expanded throughout the ages.

Selfies are not exactly a new craze – self-portraiture has dominated our cultural sphere for decades, from the political agenda of American social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass to the more artistic ventures of Frida Kahlo. However, as epitomised by Kim K’s Insta empire, the selfie has become the primary mode of historical and social documentation.

This is largely due to vast acceleration in digital technology, with futuristic face filters slowly replacing the more discreet beauty tool – photoshop. From understated to excess, if anything, face filters have taught us less damaging and more performative ways to try and experiment with beauty, much like how we try on our digital body once we shift from the real world to the Instagram dimension.

Whilst the trend was made for the zeitgeist of the digital age (the Insta users of Gen Z), it begs the question: who is responsible for constructing this augmented reality? Not old white men behind a computer, but Gen Z themselves – a large portion of the masks spurring this trend are constructed from young artists truing their hand at programme training and AR mediums. A trend for Gen Z by Gen Z, the success of these face mask filters are largely due to the tapping-in of trends by those who are the most informed, catering to all our iridescent liquid skin bug-eye needs.

Inspired to be creative and start making your own face filters? Luckily, it’s free and super accessible. The Facebook-owned creation software that makes it all happen is Spark AR Studio. Starter tips include: don’t make people unrecognisable, consider support for multiple faces and allow the environment to stay in the frame. The trend has also moved beyond the frame, with femme-focused digital platform HERVISIONS recently trialing new filters in an Internet art workshop called Face-Up at London’s Tate Modern.

These filter makers have achieved cult and influencer status, as their artwork is worn by Teddy Quinlivan and Rosalía among others, showing how far the face filter has evolved since Snapchat’s creepy dog mask. And it’s simple to use, just follow one of the face filter artist accounts, go on your Insta story front camera to take a selfie, and choose one of the effects. Our favourites include @johwska, @ramenpolanski, @ines.alpha and @rifkes, see some IG users try out the filters below!

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