Beauty

"This is why I’m campaigning against distorting our faces with filters"

This time last year, misleading filters were banned from beauty ads on social media thanks to Sasha Pallari’s #FilterDrop campaign. Now, she hopes everybody will feel empowered to embrace their natural beauty…      

In June 2020, Bristol-based make-up artist Sasha Pallari was feeling frustrated and alarmed by how rarely she saw people’s real, unedited faces on social media. 

She posted a story on Instagram, challenging her followers to share filter-free selfies using #FilterDrop – launching a grassroots campaign that ultimately led the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban filters from being used to promote beauty products on social media.

One year on from that landmark ruling, Sasha explains why she’s still encouraging people to move away from filters – and realise we all have the power to spark positive change…

The dangerously addictive nature of filters

I know how difficult giving up filters can be, because I was addicted to them myself.

My turning point came in 2017, when I posted a photo of myself wearing a swimming costume on Instagram. I’d painstakingly tweaked the image so I looked about three sizes smaller than I really was. 

It got loads of attention, but the response left me feeling empty. All this external validation was being offered to a version of myself that didn’t exist. 

I thought: I can’t do this anymore, it’s making me utterly miserable.

Over the next few years, I started weaning myself off filters.

I stopped using the ones that made me look slimmer and moved onto grainy versions, or effects that gave me a tan.

But it was only during the first lockdown in 2020 that I noticed how little real skin I was seeing on Instagram, because everyone was filtering pictures so heavily.

After I saw an influencer posting a sponsored story for a beauty product in which she’d filtered her face, I thought: something has to change.

I had about 3,000 followers on Instagram at the time, and put a story up asking people to post unfiltered selfies using #FilterDrop. 

The idea spread like wildfire – it turned out there were so many others who desperately wanted to see real faces on social media, too. 

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Even the ‘natural’ filters cherrypick facial features from different cultures: creating an Asian eye shape and full lips like a Black woman’s, for example, while women from those cultures aren’t celebrated enough by the beauty industry in their own right.

It’s wrong on so many levels.

You could have all the surgery in the world, but you’d still have visible pores. That’s why filters are so dangerous and addictive, because they show us how we’d look if we fit into a beauty ideal that we could never reach in real life.

And we’re now seeing the impact of that on our mental health and perceptions of self.

Beauty is an inside job 

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I have huge admiration for cosmetic techniques such as those used in drag, which have nothing to do with looking ‘natural’. 

But my philosophy has always been to encourage people to love how they actually look. 

Enjoy using make-up, enjoy using goofy filters that are purely for lols, but your goal shouldn’t be to change yourself, it should be to embrace yourself. Find a foundation that makes you glow, not one you’re willing to cover yourself up with. 

I go for bareMinerals because they’re all about enhancing natural beauty - their Original Loose Powder Foundation was one of my first make-up investments because it gives you coverage without covering you up, its good for your skin and you. Plus, it’s made of minerals, so also good for the planet. I still use it today.

Despite my love for make-up, I’ve always wanted people to appreciate that beauty is an internal job, too. 

When I was working as a make-up artist full-time, I’d encourage clients to think differently about their appearance: rather than moaning about looking old, we’d talk about how ageing is a privilege. 

I’m trying to spread the same message on social media.

The goal is always to boost people’s confidence, because inner self-belief creates a positive cycle. The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you are to others.

And the more secure you are in yourself as a person, the more how you look won’t be part of where you place your worth. At the moment, they way filters are being used eats away at that sense of security, which is why it’s so important for all of us to represent our true selves on social.

I’m very aware that I’m extremely privileged: I’m white, I’m able-bodied and although I probably do fall into the plus-size category, to a lot of people I’m still considered slim. 

But I also know that if I can go from constantly thinking my body was disgusting, to feeling at peace with how I look and focusing on the value I bring to the world, then anyone can. 

Spreading the message further 

When the ASA ruled that brands couldn’t use filters to promote beauty products, I cried. 

This movement isn’t just about me; its power comes from everyone who’s been brave enough to post an unfiltered selfie, and share the campaign’s message with others. If it wasn’t for their vulnerability, #FilterDrop wouldn’t have spread the way it did and no-one would have benefited.

We can all make a difference and change how other people see the world, no matter how big or small our platform is.

There are other things I’d like to achieve in this space – I’d love it if there was an automatic label on photos that have been edited with the Paris filter on Instagram, for example, because it’s so subtle. 

But my true goal is to redefine the way we see beauty.

I always say, you can be beautiful – but make it a point to be so much more than that. 

bareMinerals are the creators of clean beauty products that are skin-improving, Earth-conscious and cruelty-free – to help you look good, feel good and do good.

bareMinerals mineral foundations have something to suit everyone: with a wide range of true-to-you shades, buildable coverage levels, and finishes from matte to naturally radiant, you can choose a clean, skin-improving formula made to embrace your unique skin tone and type.

All images featured in this piece are un-retouched.

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