‘Beautygate’: iPhone XS is Smoothing Skin in Selfies, Owners Complain

Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max are at the center of a new controversy some have dubbed ‘Beautygate.’ The front-facing camera is said to be automatically smoothing skin in selfies, and there’s no way to turn this “beauty filter” off.

When shooting selfies, the iPhone XS and XS Max reportedly adjust colors and apply “aggressive” skin smoothing that hides fine details such as blemishes, freckles, and more.

On September 25th, a comparison photo shared on Reddit took off and received a considerable amount of attention:

iPhone XS is applying skin smoothing/beauty filter on the front facing camera without telling you and no way to disable it. This is not acceptable. from r/iphone

The next day, Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy published this 7-minute video reporting the same issue:

“So it looks like, whatever processing is going on here, with the facial recognition, and this smart HDR and whatever extras are there — because it’s even happening with Smart HDR turned off — is resulting in this almost covert beauty mode, this secret beauty mode,” Hilsenteger says.

Hilsenteger says he originally noticed the auto retouching being applied to his photos before confirming online that others were seeing the same thing.

Turning off HDR doesn’t make this smoothing go away — there’s currently no known way to avoid it.

Here are several other side-by-side comparisons that have been shared online:

Astrophotographer Abdul Dremali, whose comparison went viral, says he reached out to Apple and was told by the company that it’s working on a fix:

The differences aren’t as noticeable in well-lit conditions, leading some to believe that the “beauty mode” is actually the result of noise reduction being applied to photos.

“We set a reference frame and fuse in information from multiple frames,” Apple software VP Sebastien Marineau-Mes explains to Lance Ulanoff. “As you stack the frames, if you have the same image, you have lower and lower noise and better and better detail.”

But this seems to only apply (or apply more) when a face is detected in the frame (something we also found in our own tests):

If this strong skin smoothing is indeed the result of new noise reduction being applied to selfies (a likely explanation), then Apple may want to rework its algorithms to bring the results more in line with what the iPhone X captured.

Update on 11/1/18: The iPhones “Beautygate” bug has been fixed with the release of iOS 12.1.

Image credits: Header image by Lewis Hilsenteger/Unbox Therapy