E-Beauty: Inside The Weird World Of Instagram Filters

BY Emily PrichardApril 14, 2020

E-Beauty: Instagram Filters

When people hear the term ‘BeautyTech’, their minds often head straight to ‘try-on’ makeup apps beloved by major brands. Super useful for consumers to navigate, they’re removing friction in the purchasing journey and are fairly straightforward for brands to update regularly with collection drops and limited editions.

However, there’s something more unusual at play out there. With more than 500 million of us using Instagram Stories every single day, there’s a strong chance you’re already au fait with one of the most accessible BeautyTech trends: E-Beauty.

So, whack on Grimes’ ‘Miss Anthropocene’ and prepare to enter a brave new world…


Credit where it’s due, we wouldn’t be talking E-Beauty without that dog filter. Cute and unfairly demonised, it was the forefather of the new raft of AR filters. E-Beauty takes those puppy dog eyes, ears and snout and injects them with a shot of sci-fi surrealism. Ultra-glossy iridescent masks, pixie-esque spiky eyebrows, pinched features worthy of a Vulcan. It’s unsettling, weird and is born from a real-world heritage.

Away from the mainstream, beauty industry pioneers have pushed the limitations of their craft to the point where it feels totally natural for the digital world to pick up the reins. Take Isamaya Ffrench: her work veers more towards more modern art than the old school definition of makeup. Pulling in AI analysis of Instagram imagery, she ‘melted’ Kylie Jenner’s face for Dazed Beauty and declares displaying your DNA as the next big beauty trend.

Meanwhile, former Creative Director of pioneering beauty brand, Illamasqua, Alex Box famously dabbled in makeup as performance art, with a tech influence – think UV infused pearls for contemporary mermaids and digital makeup printing.


So far, so fabulous – but beauty isn’t just skin deep. In the face of collective unease (COVID-19 to start), creativity is an outlet for us to examine our fears and challenge aspects of society that make us uncomfortable. Given the global political and geographical division we’re currently experiencing, it’s no wonder we’re seduced by the prospect of transforming into citizens of an otherworldly republic. As for dystopia? In the face of identikit Kardashian Facetunes, it’s no wonder creators are responding with a DIY antidote to uncanny valley homogenised ‘perfection’.

The power of The E-Beauty lies in its accessibility – and right now, that’s more important than ever. Whether you’re self-isolating in your bedroom in Paris or binging a boxset in Peckham, current events are opening up an opportunity to get creative. Over to social media marketer, freelance designer and friend of Huckletree, James Frewin:

Even though AR has been around now for a while, I think this is really the first application for it where the quality of the tech is good enough, the incentives to learn it for creators is there and its rolled out to a popular enough product (Instagram Stories) that people don’t have to download something new to use it. It’s definitely the first time I’ve played around with AR.”

Alongside fellow artists, designers and the bored and restless alike, James has taken to Instagram’s free platform, Spark AR, to explore building his own AR filters. As for the results, is he seeing success…?

“A tonne! My follower numbers alone have more than doubled and I’m now getting requests from all over the world to create Instagram Filters for companies or to consult on their internal projects, it’s been pretty amazing. I recently passed 150 Million Impressions (Views) on my filters and had a few conversations with some really amazing companies.”


So for brands looking to play in the space, where do you get started? Here are a few tips:

  • Get playful with product
    Some of the most popular filters take the ‘Wheel of Fortune’-esque quiz functionality and use it to their advantage. Bootleg though it may be, the ‘Which Gregg’s Item Are You’ quiz incorporated an everyday product for maximum comedy effect. Got anything but the vegan sausage roll? Commiserations… 
  • Don’t overbrand
    This isn’t about whacking your logo onto the face of an influencer and expecting it to go viral (unless you’re Louis Vuitton – or incredibly lucky). Brands who want to play in this space need to really think about how their audience is using IG Filters – and what makes them tick.
  • Embrace escapism
    Reality is overrated. If you have the creativity and opportunity to distract your audience from the angst of their rolling news feed, embrace it. Take note from Gucci Beauty’s memorable campaign which transformed users into a Baroque or Renaissance portrait, complete with powdered wigs, bold lips, interlocking Gs as diamond hairpieces and spectacular moustaches.
  • Over to James for the last word:
    “I think the key piece of advice is to always stay learning – when new trends or tech come out, if you’re one of the first to jump on it and play around with it then you have a great chance of becoming one of the first movers in that trend and the opportunities will follow.”

Fascinated by the future of beauty? Want an insight into the founders growing revolutionary BeautyTech businesses?

Follow our BeautyTech cohort of our pre-seed accelerator, The Alpha Programme, here.


Emily Prichard

Manager, Brand and Creative