How The Pursuit Of “Instagram Filter Face” Is Destroying Our Sense Of Reality

Illustrated By Lindsay Hattrick.

Would Fraxel laser treatments let me lead a no-filter life?

Over the past few years, a lot has been written about Fraxel. A patented laser treatment that is supposed to help resurface your skin, it's a procedure that beauty bloggers and celebrities swear by. Depending on what you’re trying to treat—everything from fine lines to hyperpigmentation and scarring—there are different lasers that can help, by causing controlled micro-damage to your existing skin, revealing a new, unblemished layer beneath, one that's been aided by the laser's ability to stimulate collagen production and cell growth.

Fraxel is an outpatient procedure, but it does hurt, and the healing process involves a week of peeling, flaking, and tenderness. However, all that initial strife is said to be worth it for a result that's been dubbed “Instagram filter face." What's a more appealing promise, after all, than that you’ll soon be in possession of the kind of crystal clear skin that looks as if you’re wearing a photo filter in real life? "No makeup required" are the three words we most long to hear. After all, who wouldn’t want to forgo foundation and just glow—sans concealers, highlighters, and color correctors?

With all this in mind, I paid dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Dr. Michele Green a visit to experience Fraxel for myself. One of the RealSelf's most popular NYC dermatologists, Dr. Green was nothing short of an angel—she held my hand through the entire process, even as I experienced a flood of second thoughts and an acute anxiety attack. 

I made it through, of course, and it's now three weeks later, the perfect time to reap the benefits of the treatment, the perfect time to realize that maybe my expectations were set unrealistically high. Maybe the term “Instagram filter face” was always too lofty of a promise, or maybe (definitely) the entire premise of perfection, whether related to skin or anything else, is inherently a myth. Whatever the reason, in the weeks following my Fraxel treatment, I’ve found myself in more of an existential crisis than anything else. Why had I even felt the need to have my skin lasered off in the first place? What is it about Fraxel that overrode my natural inclination toward skepticism about accepted beauty standards? Why did I see a series of before and after photos following Fraxel and immediately say, “I want this"?

First off, this isn’t an indictment of Fraxel, which has practical uses, as well as cosmetic ones. According to dermatologist Dr. Howard D. Sobel, Fraxel can be used to treat pre-cancerous cells and deep scarring over the course of several treatments. And there's nothing wrong with using it purely cosmetically; I'd never pass judgment on women who choose to try and turn back the clock, give their skin another chance, and take better care of it the second time around. Plus, it's not like it wasn't effective for me at all: Post-Fraxel, some of my hyperpigmentation is gone and my skin is slightly more even in terms of texture and tone. However, can I say in good faith that Fraxel is worth the thousand-plus dollar price tag and a week of itchy redness? For young people like me, who already have good skin, it's questionable. 

Aside from some hormonal acne in my teens and a smattering of sunspots from years of lax sunscreen application, my skin is actually pretty great. What I realized post-Fraxel is that my skin only feels imperfect to me in comparison to social media filters. And, no, the irony is not lost on me that, in order to realize that my body’s natural collagen production is up to snuff, I had to have my skin seared off by lasers. 

It's this kind of skewed personal perception that made me reach out to a psychologist to talk about "Snapchat dysmorphia" and why there’s been an uptick in young people asking for Fraxel in the pursuit of that "photo filter" face. As Dr. Jordana Jacobs, a New York-based clinical psychologist explained to me, many people are like me, and are constantly searching for the kind of high derived from getting a ton of likes on our selfies, but the need for "no filter" perfection also goes a lot deeper than that.

"We’ve come to a place in which we receive so much external affirmation from looking 'flawless'—like we would in a Snapchat filter, with our skin smoother, sans wrinkles or blemishes," Dr. Jacobs said. “[As a result], we’ve come to believe we will only be liked, albeit loved, if we are perfect."

Jacobs also theorizes that this desire to strip ourselves of all visible flaws and vulnerabilities is, in part, a result of our unconscious denial of death—an offshoot of the human instinct that will try and “halt change, end aging, [and] defy death,” by any means possible. 

“I fear that the millennial generation, of which I am a part, views themselves as even more invincible than previous generations due to the rise of the internet, which essentially allows us to feel that a version of ourselves can be perfected,” Dr. Jacobs explained in her breakdown of the phenomenon. “In a sense, social media has become an unconscious immortality project. Our desire for perfection using this vehicle is just a microcosm of our overall desire to ‘perfect’ the human condition.” 

And maybe that's the biggest takeaway I got from Fraxel. Instead of the minimal improvements to my skin (which, admittedly, I am enjoying), what made the most profound impact was the recognition that maybe I was alright, to begin with, and didn't need to achieve perfection.

As Jacobs pointed out, “This is a true tragedy... The epitome of mental health lies in accepting yourself for who you are, being aware of your very human vulnerability, and learning to love yourself all the more for it.”

Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]



Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

As in Black Panther Political Party leader

It's been a running joke that the Black parents/grandparents of millennials were really confused about all of the Black Panther hoopla ahead of its 2018 release. Many of them were anticipating a movie about members of the Black Panther Political Party and didn't know who the hell T'Challa was. Well, those people are about to have their moment, and we're about to have another one.

Variety is reporting that Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader at the center of the upcoming biopic Jesus Was My Homeboy, could be played by none other than Daniel Kaluuya. Apparently, he is in negotiations for the role. And he's not the only Black Panther alum in the mix. The Warner Bros. project is being produced by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler. The same article reports that the forever swoon-worthy Lakeith Stanfield—who appeared with Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out—is also in negotiations, to play William O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

Coogler and Charles King are putting together a dream cast to tell a difficult story. Hampton was killed by the Chicago Police Department, while his pregnant girlfriend lay next to him, thanks in part to information they received from O'Neal. Whenever it's out, I strongly recommend having Black Panther queued up as a palate cleanser.