Bringing online looks to life

Apps allow users to experiment with different looks and creative body modifications within the touch of a button. Who needs painful cosmetic surgery when you can create your desired look online and show it to more admirers than you will ever reach in your offline life?


Apparently, for many beauty seekers, creating and sharing your digital altered self online is not enough. Most apps that offer the opportunity to experiment with new looks are directly linked to beauty interventions in the offline world. Virtual dressing rooms, make-over apps and augmented reality images simulate how beauty procedures and products will look in real life. An example is the augmented reality app that creates a virtual mirror on your tablet by overlaying a 360-degree 3D image of potential physical changes. In the cosmetic surgery industry, these apps are used to show potential consumers how surgery could alter their bodies. Similar examples are digital make-up apps that bring skin-care products to life by simulating how they will look on a consumer’s photo or video. Some apps offer the opportunity to select a complete new look from a library of pre-set hair and make-up combinations.


In many applications, the image of the digital altered self doesn’t stay restricted to the screen. Some apps are directly connected to actions in the offline world, for example by linking them to webshops where you can purchase beauty products and treatments that will bring your online enhanced look to life. A more technological advanced example is 3D printed make-up: after deciding on your look, it can be 3D-printed onto your face within a few seconds.


In these examples, the digital altered self is more a tool than a substitute for physical beauty intervention. For many, the digital world seems to be the perfect place to experiment with physical perfection. At the same time it seems to be the perfect place to experiment with unconventional looks. Some digital beauty apps stimulate a form of self-expression that is not about assimilating or adhering to beauty standards but more about creating an unconventional self. Apps with cartoon-like features allow users for example to change their irises into flames, cat eyes or fluorescent colors. Emoji style video effects in selfies and cartoon-like features are especially popular among youngsters. These apps allow users to experiment with a look that is less lifelike and not directly related to offline physical beauty interventions. Although, this pixel hair trend might be seen as an offline extension of the online cartoon and video effects trend.


One could only wonder what these applications could bring into play in the future. Especially in the context of processes of commodification, normalization and longings for adaptation, the question may be how these applications will contribute to the emergence of unconventional looks that are less related to beauty concepts in the offline world or cultural beauty ideals of naturalness and humanness.

About platform Immaterialicious

Platform Immaterialicious is made possible with support of Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst and Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie.

Immaterialicious is a platform and research project that explores issues revolving around identity and fashion in the post-digital era. Through potential scenarios, critical articles, found and fabricated imagery, the platform researches the transcendence of how our identities are merging with the internet, and how the internet is overtaking fashion itself. Fashion is the display of our identity. If we compare our current lifestyle to twenty years ago, the possibilities to display our identity are magnified. Through Social media, we ‘refresh’ our online identity every second and even though we can hardly keep up ourselves, we expect the clothing industry to be in line with the vogue of the day. Immaterialicious derived from the dichotomy between the online and offline dimension of everyday life and how the singularity of fashion is must make its way into the digital realm.