This article was published on August 16, 2013

I tried 5 photo apps to help you look more beautiful online. Are they better than plastic surgery?

I tried 5 photo apps to help you look more beautiful online. Are they better than plastic surgery?
Kaylene Hong
Story by

Kaylene Hong

Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in touch via Twitter or Google+.

I always thought it was unfair how so many people look gorgeous in all their photos on Facebook or Instagram — flawless skin, bright eyes and sparkling teeth — while my photos mostly featured a shiny face and ultimately a not-very-glamourous me. But now I think I know why.

Recently I found out there are now a ton of smartphone apps that can touch up your photos. Just for a day, I decided to test out five ‘beautifying’ apps — yeah, yeah, I know I’m the only girl on the TNW staff — to see if I could look as dazzling as these people do on Facebook.

So here goes my experiment to find out if the effects of these apps, some of which have taken Asia by storm, are better than plastic surgery.

1. Beauty Camera | Android

Beauty Camera for Android

This app is only available for Android phones — and it is extremely basic. Choose either to select a photo from your gallery or take a selfie on the app itself. Once you take a photo the app will do its work automatically to smooth out your pores and remove blemishes. The only tweaking you can do is increase or decrease the amount of brightness, tone, smoothing and detail. That’s it.

Beauty Camera for Android - before and after

Effects: A bit washed-out in terms of color — that is, it made me look a tad pale and sickly instead of actually looking more radiant. It also diminishes the photo quality, making it become more pixellated.

Conclusion: Good only for those who do not have a higher-end smartphone with pre-installed features and just want a fuss-free touch-up to their photos instead of spending time nipping and tucking patiently on a more customizable app. Otherwise, there are plenty of other better options.

2. Beauty Booth | Android | iOS

Beauty Booth for Android and iOS

The app is said to have more than four million downloads on iOS and more than three million on Android and touts itself as a “science” to revive life into your face.

I took a photo, selected a tone, waited a couple of minutes and got the shock of my life. Basically the app’s unique feature is that it brightens up your eyes with a tinge of light. I ended up looking either I was about to cry anytime soon, or — if you prefer thinking about it another way — like an evil stepmother.

The app is not very customizable too. You get to choose from preset edited versions instead of manually editing your photo, and can only tweak the brightness, smoothing and filter opacity.

Beauty Booth for Android and iOS - before and after

Effects: You end up with a slightly evil glint in your eyes. Maybe it’s meant to make women look more gentle and vulnerable with tears brimming over — but it really did not turn out that way for me.

Conclusion: Maybe this app would work for those who look demure enough to have a glint in their eyes that can be interpreted as fragility instead of evilness.

3. Photo Wonder | Android | iOS

Photo Wonder for Android and iOS

This is one power-packed app — besides the usual features found in other beauty apps, Photo Wonder also has very womanly add-ons: make-up and ahem, breast enlargement features.

When it comes to editing, the choices are all gathered together under the photo. Under the beautifying feature, there is an array of options. If you’re lazy, just go straight to the “One-Click” tool which smoothens out your pores, slims your face and brightens your eyes automatically. If you’re still not satisfied, head to the “Intelli Beauty” to slim your face and enlarge your eyes.

Following that, if you still want to do more — you get to apply blusher and eye-liner (yay to fake make-up!) and even ahem, enlarge your breasts and add some cleavage.

Photo Wonder for Android and iOS - before and after

Effects: The one-click option is really convenient and all of the beautifying effects on Photo Wonder turn out absolutely natural results. However, a lack of customization for the temperature of the photo is sorely disappointing.

Conclusion: This is really an impressive app. For those who have less patience, just use the one-click tool. For those who really want to overhaul every bit of their photo patiently — from applying makeup on your face to getting bigger boobs — you have the option to do so.

4. Beauty Plus | Android | iOS

Beauty Plus for Android and iOS

Apparently the number one photo app in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, this is the only app on this list that you need to pay for (priced at $1.99), though it is currently free for a limited amount of time in certain regions like the US.

If you take a photo in-app it immediately transforms you into a much better-looking version with smoothened pores, a slimmer face and brighter eyes (I call this the intelligent app). Following that, you can continue on to beautify yourself with customizable options, though personally I felt there was not really a need to do that.

Beauty Plus for Android and iOS - before and after

Effects: My skin tone turned out really reddish after the makeover, but you cannot adjust the temperature of the photo — which is a huge disadvantage. Other than that, it is an app in which you practically do not need to do anything else and you look fabulous.

Conclusion: A very smart app. For the sake of less hassle with such good results, maybe it’s worth paying the $1.99, save for the fact that the developers should really allow customization for the temperature of the photo. However, it’s worth noting that Photo Wonder’s One-Click option (which I’ll talk about later) can also carry out a similar function.

5. Meitu Xiu Xiu | Android | iOS

Meitu Xiu Xiu for Android and iOS

This app is in Chinese, but there are icons to guide you along. If you choose to take a photo in-app, you are given a range of filters to apply before heading into proper editing. For the editing bit, there are two choices: either beautify yourself first, or decorate your photo with various knick-knacks.

You can choose to let the app do its work automatically — which includes smoothening out your pores, making your skin fairer and adjusting the tone of your skin color — or go manually into the other options that let you slim your face (and/or other parts of your body), enlarge your eyes and remove eyebags, just to name a couple.

The app also has a ton of options for photo add-ons, including text bubbles and frames.

Meitu Xiu Xiu for Android and iOS - before and after

Effects: Meitu Xiu Xiu has very natural effects, given that you can adjust the color tone of your skin and also manually pull in your face when working on the slimming option. This lets you avoid looking overly fake. (Here you can see how the app made a significant difference to my lovely friends in the image above.)

Conclusion: If you can read Chinese, this is the app for you — it make you look much better but in an entirely natural way. In any case, the icons are generally pretty understandable.

These are but five of the many beautifying apps out there on the market. To be honest, they are fun to use but with the (much faker) effects compared to a normal photo, I don’t really foresee myself using these apps often. Instagram filters are enough for me.

Do you use any other apps to beautify your photos? Share them with us in the comments below.

Image Credit: Luis Robayo via AFP/Getty Images

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