Published On: Wed, Nov 15th, 2017

MakeApp’s makeup removing app makes your selfies look worse

If you’ve ever taken a selfie and thought, “this is fine, but I’d really love to look more soul crushingly terrible,” then there’s a selfie app for you.

It’s called MakeApp and it’s a face-filtering app whose marquee feature is that it lets you “remove makeup from any face.” 

The premise is similar to FaceTune and any number of “beauty apps” that add different effects to your selfies to make it look as if you’re wearing different styles of makeup. MakeApp’s claim to fame, though, is that it can also digitally strip away your makeup and turn your perfectly-airbrushed selfies into something well, a lot less flattering.

While beauty apps, an astonishingly large category in the App Store, have faced their share of criticism, MakeApp has inspired a particularly strong wave of criticism. Testing the app out for myself, it’s not difficult to see why. Here’s what one of my selfies looked like before and after going through the app’s “No Makeup” filter. 

Image: screenshot/makeapp

Image: SCREENSHOT/MAKEAPP

The “makeup free” look was cringeworthy to say the least. While it did a decent job of removing obvious makeup, like lipstick and mascara, it inexplicably made my skin puffier and blotchier and created wrinkles that don’t actually exist. 

The app’s creator, Ashot Gabrelyanov, acknowledged that the blotchy skin effects I, and other users, have experienced is “not great” and “something we’re hoping to fix.”

But he pushed back against critics, writing in an email that the app “was not intended to be a misogynistic product.” 

“MakeApp is not our core product and it was really just an experiment/demonstration of some of the technologies our augmented reality company has been working on… It was meant to be a fun, entertaining tool.”

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Still, it’s not difficult to see why the app is yet another case of augmented reality tech gone wrong. The underlying technology which, according to Gabrelyanov uses neural networks to apply its effects more accurately than competing services, might be impressive. And other apps, like Prisma, which uses similar technology to transform photos and videos into art, have been widely praised.

But too often, developers ignore the bigger implications of what happens when you apply these types of effects specifically to users’ faces. (MakeApp isn’t alone, by the way, Snapchat and FaceApp have also learned this the hard way.)

They’d be better off thinking about more than just the selfies.

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