‘Beautygate’: iPhone XS is Smoothing Skin in Selfies, Owners Complain

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Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max are at the center of a new controversy some have dubbed ‘Beautygate .’ The front-facing camera is said to be automatically smoothing skin in selfies, and there’s no way to turn this “beauty filter” off.

When shooting selfies, the iPhone XS and XS Max reportedly adjust colors and apply “aggressive” skin smoothing that hides fine details such as blemishes, freckles, and more. The differences aren’t as noticeable in well-lit conditions, leading some to believe that the “beauty mode” is actually the result of noise reduction being applied to photos. But the smoothing isn’t seen in photos shot by the iPhone X.

On September 25th, a comparison photo shared on Reddit took off and received a considerable amount of attention:

iPhone XS is applying skin smoothing/beauty filter on the front facing camera without telling you and no way to disable it. This is not acceptable. from r/iphone

The next day, Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy published this 7-minute video reporting the same issue:

“So it looks like, whatever processing is going on here, with the facial recognition, and this smart HDR and whatever extras are there — because it’s even happening with Smart HDR turned off — is resulting in this almost covert beauty mode, this secret beauty mode,” Hilsenteger says.

Hilsenteger says he originally noticed the auto retouching being applied to his photos before confirming online that others were seeing the same thing.

Turning off HDR doesn’t make this smoothing go away — there’s currently no known way to avoid it. The filter also apparently only applies the “beauty filter” when a face is detected in the frame:

Here are several other side-by-side comparisons that have been shared online:

Astrophotographer Abdul Dremali , whose comparison went viral, says he reached out to Apple and was told by the company that it’s working on a fix (we’ve also reached out to Apple for comment and will share an update when we hear back):

What is your opinion on the ‘beauty mode’ being applied?

“Here’s my plea to Apple: […] Just make it an option to turn it off completely,” Hilsenteger says.


Image credits: Header image by Lewis Hilsenteger/Unbox Therapy

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