Selfie SOS

Took a bad selfie? Don't worry, you can edit it to perfection on your mobile phone.

In recent years, a slew of selfie-editing apps have appeared in mobile app stores, letting users alter their appearance in photographs by using a host of digital effects.

With them, you can smoothen out wrinkles, whiten your teeth and remove blemishes such as pimples and white hair - all with a few taps and swipes.

You can also look slimmer or change the size and position of your features - enlarging your eyes and breasts or reducing the size of your nose - and even give yourself a pain-free, virtual facelift.

The first apps, such as Photo Makeover, appeared as early as 2010.

But with selfies becoming increasingly popular, more apps have popped up in recent years.

These newer apps have become increasingly user- friendly, and come with functions to automatically detect facial features and blemishes.

Many also come with built-in filters that can mask imperfections.

SundayLife! found at least 30 selfie-editing apps, mostly developed in China or the United States, in the Apple App Store and Android store.

Most are free while others cost up to $3.98.

The free Camera360 Ultimate app, for example, has 200 million users worldwide, says its website. It can be used to smoothen your complexion, enlarge your eyes and slim down your face.

The website of another free app, Perfect365, says it has at least 30 million users. It allows users to digitally apply lipstick and eyeliner to their photos.

Student Pamela Khoo, 16, uses the Poco Mei Ren Xiang Ji app at least once a week to brighten her eyes and remove unsightly blemishes such as pimples from photos of herself before posting them on social media platforms.

She tells SundayLife! with a laugh: "My photos usually look much better after I edit them using the app. This is probably why I look much better in selfies than in real life."

She has the photo-editing programme Adobe Photoshop installed on her laptop, but says it is "confusing and difficult" to use, and prefers to use the apps instead.

"The filters and settings are already built-in, so it can take me just one minute to edit a picture-perfect selfie," she says.

Ms Adora Yeo, 24, a co-director in a magazine company, uses the Mei Tu Xiu Xiu app at least three times a week to cover the dark circles around her eyes in photos.

"I hate wearing make-up, but I also don't want to look like Kai Kai and Jia Jia," she says, referring to the pair of pandas at the River Safari.

"I don't see any harm in using these apps, since they can make me feel more confident. We are not born with symmetrical faces and I'm not brave enough for Botox."

Associate Professor Norman Li from the Singapore Management University's School of Social Sciences, who researches mate preferences, mate value and evolutionary social psychology, is not surprised at the popularity of such apps.

Dr Li, who is in his 40s, says: "People are increasingly living through their mobile phones. So it is not surprising that they are turning to these apps to make their online photos more attractive."

However, he warns that these apps can fuel a general dissatisfaction with one's appearance, since nobody can look "perfect" all the time.

"For those looking to meet someone online, the app will definitely help users get their foot in the door," he says. "But it also means potential suitors might be disappointed when meeting the subject in person."


(free on iOS and Android)

Selfie by: Mr Baey Yam Keng, 43, MP for Tampines GRC

What it does: This app, with Chinese instructions, was used to remove Mr Baey's eyebags, smoothen out his skin and give him a warm skin tone to make him look more athletic.

His verdict: "I sometimes use filters on photos, but usually to make them look more presentable, not to modify my looks.

"Sure, I have flawless skin in the photo, but in reality, I have eyebags. And I like my eyebags. I'd look unnatural without them.

What others say: His wife, Ms Lim Hai Yen, 43, artistic director of local theatre company The ETCeteras, says: "His touched-up features are more defined, but the photo looks slightly unreal, at most, it looks 70 per cent like him.

"These days, you can't believe a photo too much because who knows what kind of editing it has gone through?"


($3.98 on iOS)

Selfie by: Sheikh Haikel, 38, rapper-actor-host

What it does: A very customisable app, it was used to remove the pock marks on his cheeks and reduce his double chin.

His verdict: "How can my cheeks look so puffy and my chin so small? I wouldn't use such apps unless I want to make fun of myself or if it's for comedy. The world is not made up of flawless, porcelain-looking aliens. As artists, we should always portray the real us as much as we can."

What others say: His manager, who wanted to be known only as Mr Syaheed, 30, says: "It looks strange, like he was eight years old but with a strange jawline. What some deem as physical flaws are sometimes what make a person attractive.

"Many folks already go for plastic surgery, so this is the digital representation of that.

I don't endorse it and wish people would just be happy with themselves."


(free on iOS and Android)

Selfie by: Julie Tan, 21, actress

What it does: One of the most powerful apps, it was used to apply eyeliner, blusher, pale pink lipstick and coloured contact lenses. Tan's eyes were also enlarged by 5 per cent to enhance her China-doll look.

Her verdict: "I look weird. Maybe I'd look better if my lips were not so pink? Yes, I'd consider using a photo-editing app, maybe to remove some blemishes here and there and edit the colours. But edit wisely! A photo of you should still look like you."

What others say: Her friend, freelance actor Xavier Ong, 20, says: "I laughed when I first saw the photo, it was a little too heavy on the make-up.

"Using such apps is not wrong. After all, everyone wants and deserves to look better. Just be responsible about it, don't edit your face to lure little girls out to meet you."


(free on iOS and Android)

Selfie by: Selena Tan, 42, actress-comedienne

What it does: Another all-in-one app, it was used to slim down Tan's face. A brownish filter was then placed over the photo so that it wouldn't look so red.

Her verdict: "It made me look less scary. I looked quite 'fierce' in the original photo, which was taken just before a show.

"Even though the thinner me looks nicer, I still like being big and round. After all, I'm a Dim Sum Dolly - we live life big!"

What others say: Fellow Dolly, Pam Oei, 42, who will be performing with Tan and Denise Tan in a Dim Sum Dollies show this December, says: "Very nice, the processed photo actually looks more like Selena because the original photo looks like she overdid it in a tanning machine.

"People have been photoshopping photos in print for years. Why shouldn't the same power lie in the hands of the selfie-taker?"

PIXTR ($3.98 on iOS) and BEAUTY BOOTH PRO ($2.58 on iOS and Android)

Selfie by: Mr Dennis Foo, 61, chief executive of St James Holdings

What it does: Pixtr was used to adjust his skin tone, facial symmetry and proportions. The Beauty Booth Pro app was used to brighten and smoothen out his skin.

His verdict: "It's a total clean-up of my face - there's even a glow to it. I might look like this if I had taken care of myself all these years. But a dash of grey hair, a black spot here and there, wrinkles showing - that's my real self."

What others say: His wife Jenny Foo, a housewife in her 50s, says: "I don't like it. It looks artificial and I love my husband the way he is. The app can be a lot of fun. But if it is used to deceive others about your real looks, that's unethical."

This article was published on April 27 in The Straits Times.

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