Beauty Standards – The Dangers of Filtered Images

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Beauty standards are no longer 'real'

Beauty standards are no longer based on reality but seem to be created by a false perception and representation of how women ‘should’ look. I am following on from my recent blog on beauty filters, which I had quite the response to!   I have been doing a lot of research into our changing beauty standards and the impact of super-sophisticated beauty filters.  As someone in the beauty and aesthetics industry, I feel a great deal of responsibility around how I impact this – and am committed to doing more/being better when it comes to contributing to beauty standards and realistic expectations. 

It’s made me think deeply about the evolution of beauty standards, the impact of filters, and the language around ageing. I am now highly uncomfortable with the term ‘anti-ageing’, as I am not ‘anti’ ageing at all. I believe that ageing is an absolute privilege and is something to be celebrated. And, whilst the treatments that I offer are now solely focused on triggering a natural response in your body, boosting collagen & elastin, and lifting and tightening your skin, they are essentially ‘anti ageing treatments’. Really, they are about stopping premature ageing, and optimising your skin health – but the language around them still conveys that ageing skin is not desirable. 

I’ve mentioned before that Dame Helen Mirren is one of my role models, as she’s ageing beautifully and gracefully. I also love Sarah Jessica Parker, for her response to the shaming and shameful media attention that she gained, when she went out makeup free, with grey in her hair.   Why WAS there such an outcry when SJP did that?? I mean, what the….?? that is what a woman in her 50’s looks like, naturally. Why was that such a shock to so many people, and why on earth was that newsworthy!? 

Unrealistic Beauty Standards

I have used the same beauty filter app, as my previous blog

I had a 3-day free trial, so I took a few photos and filtered them. Even though I knew exactly why I was doing this experiment and that I wanted to challenge beauty standards, I still couldn’t help but be negatively impacted by seeing these filtered versions. Here’s how I was left feeling over the weekend, after looking at the filtered versions of how I ‘could’ look:

As I looked at the filtered pictures, I felt a sense of anxiety and disappointment that I didn’t look like this. And, that’s knowing what I had done, and why – ie. researching and writing content for the warped beauty standards we have, and unrealistic ideas of what beauty is. 

But imagine if someone else saw these filtered images of me online. It got me thinking about the effects of what would/could happen, if I posted these filtered pictures, instead of the real me. And here are some thoughts I had around different scenarios: 

Social Media personal profile: Sure, others might think I look good, and I might get some nice compliments that would boost my ego. But then what? Then I’d be worried that when I went out, and someone saw the ‘real’ me, they would this I looked terrible and maybe even think I’m ill! 

Dating: Let’s say I put this on a dating website. Again, I might get lots of interest and compliments. But then the anxiety of meeting someone in person, knowing I don’t really look like that would likely mean I wouldn’t turn up! Or, I’d go – and they would be disappointed that I look nothing like my picture!

Professional social media: And then there’s work.  If the filtered version is what I am putting out there, then I am blatantly contributing to the false beauty standards that I am complaining about. I’m showing women that ‘hey, this is what a 47-year-old woman looks like’.  I’m potentially, non-verbally, saying that products and treatments can make you look like this.  And, it’s a proven fact that when women see filtered images of other women, they are triggered to spend more money on products, treatments, and even plastic surgery. 

Realistic Beauty Standards

This is what I look like in REAL LIFE! I’m wearing my day-to-day makeup and honestly – I’ve not brushed my hair! If you met me in the street, you’d recognise me. 

Now, prior to using the filters, I was pretty happy with how I looked. I was happy that my skin was in good condition, and I was confident in how I looked – for the most part. Sure, I’d like to lose a little weight and find a miracle product for my frizzy hair, but I wasn’t unhappy with my appearance. 

But after the filter application, I felt, as I mentioned, a little deflated.  I’m annoyed at myself for this, but it shows you how easily beauty standards can be warped in our minds when we see these pictures.  In this picture, I feel like I’m a fair representation of a 47-year-old woman. I also feel that if we’re working together on your skin transformation goals – I’m not misleading you with unrealistic expectations and promises. 

Beauty standards gone wrong

I’m going to be completely honest with you and tell you that I’m feeling a little ashamed of my response to the beauty filtered photos right now. I can’t help thinking that I wish I looked more like that, that I’d be more attractive, more desirable, and ‘more’, somehow. 

I suspect this comes from a deep-rooted feeling of always falling below the beauty standards, due to having facial scarring, and multiple scars on my body. I also don’t have the body type, or shape that society seems to consider attractive – another beauty standard that’s way off the mark, and has crippling effects on our self-esteem!

The only way we can start to break down these beauty standards is to be real. To start to celebrate beauty in ALL of its forms, and to know that each of us are beautiful in our own way.  And also, being ‘beautiful’ on the outside does not make you beautiful on the inside!

Here’s an exercise I have shared with you before, in previous blogs.  Now, imagine that your best friend stands in front of you, looking exactly as you do.  Write her a letter (pen and paper are best, we connect with emotions better that way). Write to her and tell her all the things you love about her, the things you admire, and why she’s beautiful.  Let me know how you get on. Did you find this helpful? Did it bring anything up for you?  And, whilst you’re at it – maybe write your REAL best friend a letter too! 

My own reaction shocked me!

Argggh! Bearing in mind that I took photos and applied the beauty filters, for the purpose of challenging unrealistic beauty standards – I still had a pretty strong reaction to them! Over the weekend, my confidence has definitely taken a dip. I’ve looked at the photos quite a few times and found myself wishing I looked more like the after pictures. Even though I know they are NOT REAL! 

And this is why I feel so strongly about how these filters are affecting the beauty standards we, as a society, seem to be holding ourselves to. It’s impossible!

If you click on the button below, you can read my blog on skin ageing, and what contributes to the ageing that we see in the mirror.  You might find it helpful/interesting, in understanding and coming to terms with the natural ageing process that we all go through. 

Can we ALL make a choice to reframe beauty?

It’s super tough, isn’t it? When we are shown images of flawless skin, lean and toned bodies without a hint of stretch marks or cellulite. 

When that’s what we’re shown on a day-to-day basis, it’s no wonder that we start to compare ourselves to those images. And, guess what? Many of us are going to be left feeling like we don’t measure up. And we don’t, because those beauty standards are not realistic for the majority of us!

I know that some publications produce empowering articles and celebrate beauty on all of its levels. And that is fabulous, it really is. The difficulty is, that when the majority of the pictures we see are flawless images, and heavily filtered/altered images, what we are seeing isn’t real. So, what we’re comparing ourselves to isn’t real either.

I find it really hard. I don’t fit the beauty standards I see daily, on any level. I am short, athletic/curvy, covered in scars, with hair that has a life of its own. I also have melasma ( a skin pigmentation condition).  But each day, I am grateful for all that my body carries me through. And then I turn my focus on how I can make others FEEL, and how can I make a friend, family member, client, or perfect stranger feel better today. And that kinda helps.

I’d love to know if you have any stories to share, on how you deal with the pressures of beauty standards, and/or how to manage your own mindset around this. 

Comparison is the thief of joy

I use this quote a lot. I really believe it – but it is hard to fight against comparing ourselves to unrealistic beauty standards, when that’s all we see. 

When it comes to your skin, it’s going to change – just like the rest of you too. And it’s exhausting trying to live up to these unrealistic beauty standards. 

Maybe, the balance is about having the body & skin that allows you to enjoy your life fully. So rather than focusing on all the things we would love to change, maybe we could lean into the fact that we are able to enjoy our lives, in these incredible body’s that we’ve been given. 

And, when it comes to your skin, it’s less about being ‘anti-ageing’, and more about preventing premature ageing. It’s about ensuring your skin works its hardest for you, so you can have your best possible skin, no matter what your age.

This is the reason that I only offer treatments that boost your skin’s natural processes, and trigger natural collagen & elastin production in your skin. Coupled with targeted skincare, and lifestyle & nutrition choices – you can have amazing skin, no matter your age. 

And, I’d love to know who you find inspiring when it comes to embracing themselves. Me? Dame Helen Mirren. I love that she takes great care of herself, and sure – she may have had a little ‘tweakment’ here and there. But she’s still a real version of beauty. Let me know who you admire, and why! 

Let's rebalance beauty standards together

Next time you’re looking at photos of someone who looks incredible in a magazine, or online – take a moment to stop and think about what you’ve read today.  

It’s likely not even real. It’s just something that others want you to believe. Whether that’s the person in the picture themselves, or whether it’s a brand, salon, or clinic that is trying to grab your attention – take a moment to question whether it’s even real. 

One thing I can promise you is that I never apply filters to my personal photos, or my client photos – save for adjusting the lighting balance if I’ve taken a terrible photo in poor lighting (standard – I have zero photography skills!). 

And, if we’re working together on your skin transformation, I will always be honest with you about realistic outcomes, both now, and for the long term. If you would like to have a chat about your skin, then you can book a complimentary Zoom consultation via the button below. 

New (real) beauty standards

We can tackle beauty standards together, and start to promote realistic and healthy versions for ourselves, and generations to come. 

If you’d like to take some easy steps to boost your skin, you can download my Ultimate Skin Guide via the button below, The Guide is packed full of advice and tips, bringing together my experience as a nutritional therapist, with the best part of a decade of skin experience & knowledge.

If you haven’t yet read my original blog on beauty filters, you can read it HERE.  And, if you haven’t already taken my Skin Quiz, which creates bespoke advice for you – based on your answers, then you can take that HERE

If you have any questions, or thoughts you’d like to share, then please reach out. I would really like to know how I can support you better, and start to be a more positive influence in addressing these crazy false beauty standards we are all dealing with!

Nikki Butler skin specialist
How can I help?

I hope that you’ve found my blog on unrealistic beauty standards helpful.  You’ll find lots more blogs and information throughout the website, where I talk about the importance of looking after your skin from the inside out, and outside in. 

If you’d like help with your skin and/or scars, then please get in touch. I’d love to be able to help you. 

My aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I’m 15 minutes from both Basingstoke and Farnham, and at the end of a direct train line from London Waterloo. 

I offer both in-clinic and remote skin services. Many skin stress concerns can be treated remotely. It might interest you to hear that less than 10% of clients that contact me about skin stress issues, ever need aesthetic treatments!

You can book via the button below, and you can also download my Ultimate Skin & Scar Guides. 

And, if you haven’t taken my Skin Quiz yet, then you’ll find it HERE. It takes less than 4 minutes, and you’ll get immediate, bespoke results – with tips and advice you can action immediately! 


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