I’ve been known to duck-and-weave to avoid a camera at all costs when I’m having a breakout, bad hair day, or experiencing chronic bags under my eyes. If there’s a chance of a getting a bad shot, I’m usually out of sight faster than Britney Spears‘ movie career. That was the old me though, because now I’ve discovered that no matter how tragic my beauty or body woes, well, there’s an app for that.
To be exact, there are over 6,000 apps that can help edit out your pimples or make your skin appear matte in photos based on a search of “selfie editor” in the iTunes app store. Seriously–and I haven’t even started on Android yet.
It’s not just a small group of people who are using these editing apps either. A survey of social media using adults found that 50 percent of people who post selfies edit them first–so don’t try to play dumb, I know you use ’em too. Apparently 46 percent of us are removing blemishes, 15 percent editing paleness, 6 percent are making themselves appear slimmer, and 12 percent are retouching photos because they just don’t like how they look in general.
Usually, I keep my selfie-editing to a basic touch-up to brighten the photo, but in the interests of, um, journalism, I went ahead and tried six of the most popular apps that promised to totally transform my face. Here’s what I found.
Visage Lab (free)
Editing process: This app is ridiculously easy to use. After uploading your selfie, the app will instantly apply skin makeup, eye makeup, teeth whitening, shine removal, and smooth out your wrinkles–all in about 10 seconds. The final result felt a bit too airbrushed and doll-like, but I have to admit my skin’s never looked smoother.
Time spent: 15 seconds.
Editing Process: I use Snapseed semi-frequently to brighten flat lay fashion Instagram photos, or to make #foodstagrams look more vibrant, but hadn’t tried it on a selfie before. For this shot I increased the ambiance, reduced the saturation slightly to try make the image less orange, brightened, increased the contrast a touch, and reduced the warmth. I then used the “selective adjust” tool to make small changes, like brightening my hair to give the illusion of highlights. The end result was a bit over-edited, and fake–or at least fake tanned.
Time Spent: Two and a half minutes.
Editing Process: This app identifies different parts of your face–like cheeks, lips, and eyes–and lets you edit each part separately. I added blush to my cheeks, widened my eyes, bronzed and smoothed my skin, and finally plumped my lips–which I think would have turned out less, um, toothy, if my mouth was closed in this photo.
Time Spent: Four minutes. It’s crazy how much you can do in this app–I really got sucked into a time vacuum and four minutes passed in a flash.
Editing Process: Facetune isn’t free, but it’s easy to use and has great features. In a couple of minutes I was able to whiten my teeth, smooth out blemishes, and even add a red lip using the “tones” feature. Oh, the magic of technology.
Time Spent: Two minutes.
YouCam Perfect (free)
Editing Process: At first I found all of the features in this app–there are heaps–overwhelming and confusing, so simply adjusted the white balance to brighten the picture. Then I discovered the “beautify” tab that unlocked a bunch of new options, allowing me to automatically smooth out my skin, enlarge my eyes, add blush, remove bags from under my eyes, and contour my face better than any Kardashian.
Time Spent: Three minutes.
Photoshop Express (free)
Editing Process: It was tempting just to pick one of the filter options available on Photoshop Express, but decided to go ahead and edit manually instead. I used the auto blemish removal wand, the red eye fix, and then the automatic enhance wand to brighten the picture. Photoshop might be the king of image editing, but I didn’t find the app that useful for smartphone selfies.
Time Spent: Two and a half minutes, although most of this time was spent trying to work out what the different features did.
The Final Verdict: Facetune might come with $3.99 download fee, but it’s definitely worth it. While some of the other apps offer more features, Facetune is the easiest and most intuitive to use, and gives users plenty of control to retouch without over-editing.