We’re starting to prefer our faces with filters on them to the point that we can hardly bear our real appearances.

Most of us have had the experience of running our selfies through a “beautifying” app like FaceTune or Meitu. It’s not all that embarrassing when you consider that whoever saw you virtually smoothing out your skin or slimming your cheeks probably does the same thing to their own front-facing photos. The normality of using filters — the ones clearly intended to prettify as well as the silly ones that just happen to alter our appearance in a photogenic way — may be contributing to the exacerbation of self-esteem issues directly linked to the disparity between our filtered selfies and how we actually appear in the mirror.

Take Kim Kardashian: She previously shared a video of a trip to an aesthetician, the smartphone camera focused on herself as she received an expensive facial, a treatment that requires the removal of foundation and concealer. Kim kept the skin-smoothing, eye-brightening Snapchat flower-crown filter on her face the entire time, as if she was unwilling to show her millions of followers what her natural face — the very skin she was having treated — looks like. It’s a tendency I’m familiar with; if I had a dollar for every time one of my friends posted a selfie while they were wearing a skin-care mask and simultaneously veneered with a cuteness-boosting Snapchat filter, I could buy Snapchat. Is it fair for me to assume that they’re doing it not so much for the adorableness of the animal noses as the eye-enlarging, chin-shrinking properties that come with them? Perhaps it isn’t. But I do know that’s exactly why I’ve done it.

Why do so many of us prefer the filtered versions of our faces? It’s not the cat whiskers or bunny ears, as endearing as they may be. “Snapchat filters refine the face,” explains Dr. Daniel Maman, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City. “They smooth blemishes, wrinkles, and give the skin a glow. Some filters also make the eyes appear bigger and lips plumper.” Naturally, we like looking what we’ve come to believe, through years of exposure to subtly confidence-destabilizing imagery and harmful yet tenacious beauty standards, is our best; it’s what motivates us to buy acne spot treatments, conditioner, contour kits. But for some, the desire to look our best means looking “better” than we ever could in the flesh. We justify using filters by telling ourselves that if even the most conventionally beautiful models and actors are Photoshopped for ads and editorial spreads — if someone like Kim Kardashian won’t go without foundation unless she’s veiled in digital gauze — then surely it’s normal, even expected, for us regular folk to present an edited version of our faces; that our as-is faces aren’t even acceptable.

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