Filters and face retouching for photos taken from the selfie camera has become a common feature in almost all smartphones nowadays, with the filter being turned on by default. These filters will remove all blemishes from your face in the selfies you take thereby setting a wrong beauty standard. As per Google's research, such filters can have a negative impact on one's mental wellbeing by setting an unrealistic beauty standard that one will end up comparing themselves against.
Keeping this in mind, Google has created "people-centered guidelines" that will inform and respect one's choice regarding face retouching and transparency. The guidelines suggest the face retouching should be off by default and when enabled, it should be clearly mentioned to the user. Google has also avoided using "beauty" mode wording for face retouching as it wants the filter to be value-neutral.
Putting its own principles into practice, Google will be making these changes in the Camera app of the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a (5G), and the Pixel 5. The face retouching option will be off on all these phones, with an upcoming update changing the icons and language to be value-neutral and descriptive. Even when a user decides to use the face retouching filter, Google will provide them with more information on how the filter will work and how it will adjust their skin texture, under-eye tone, and eye brightness. Users will also have an option to apply a subtle or a high level of skin smoothening effect in their selfies.
Many other smartphones particularly from Chinese OEMs end up applying a certain degree of skin smoothening in selfies even when the filter is turned off completely. One can only hope that such OEMs end up following Google's principles for the mental wellbeing of their users.