This New Makeup-Removing App Wants To Destroy Your Self-Esteem — & It's B.S.

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
In a digital-obsessed world where sending memes back and forth without comment is a perfectly acceptable form of staying in touch, what you look like on the 4.7-inch screen of a standard iPhone is almost more important than what you look like face-to-face. Filters are the new foundation, and the App Store overfloweth with ways to virtually apply lipstick, chisel your cheekbones, brighten your dark circles, shrink your nose, and otherwise alter your appearance without actually altering it.
And then, somewhere in the midst of it all, there is MakeApp and its new Remove feature. This tool does the opposite of your go-to photo editor: Rather than add makeup, or at least the illusion of it, to enhance your features and make you look like a better version of yourself, Remove exists to wipe the slate clean. It'll show you what you look like underneath all that makeup, and expose the real you — or that's what it says, at least. That's not exactly true.
Now, I have FaceTuned with the best of them. I admit to using apps to lengthen my moon-shaped face, darken my lips, correct my slightly left-of-center nose, smooth out my premature crow's feet, and whatever else I wish to "fix" that day, on a fairly regular basis. It's not dramatic, you wouldn't struggle to recognize my Instagram self IRL — it's just the same sort of thing I generally hope to pull off with makeup, only I don't even have to put on makeup to do it! Now that's the future.
But when the filters are reverted, when the makeup is off, are we all shadowy-eyed, tired-looking specters with thin, dry lips and dull, sallow complexions? Through the lens of MakeApp Remove, yes. With its "makeup-removing" claims, this silly app perpetuates the idea that underneath the layers of concealer, highlighter, blush, and mascara, you're not just a person who happens to not be wearing makeup — you're ugly. And in today's inclusive, feel-good brand market, preying on a woman's insecurity to sell her a beauty app isn't just shitty, it's a bad business move.
Ahead, four Refinery29 staffers gave MakeApp a whirl to see how well it did at guessing their makeup-free faces under all that makeup magic. Let's just say that not a single one of us ended up biting the 99-cent bullet after the free trial.
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"I don't hate what I look like without makeup on, but I do hate this app's idea of it. With the exception of red lipstick, I'm actually wearing very little makeup in the selfie on the left — a little bit of concealer where needed, a few swipes of brow pencil, and some blush. The MakeApp Remove seemed to think that I was wearing mascara, so it did me the courtesy of blurring out my lashes and otherwise adding a red, just-been-crying effect to my eye area. And my lips! What happened to my lips? I don't lose half my lip volume every time I wash my face at night. I call bullshit." — Rachel Krause, beauty writer
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"Any app that destroys the handiwork of Pat McGrath's master makeup artists should be sent to the forever-trash bin. The selfie on the right is actually one of the best I've ever taken — partially because I hate selfies and only have, like, 12. Shame on MakeApp for diminishing the shimmer on my lids, lips, and cheekbones." — Khalea Underwood, beauty writer
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"This is my face before and after using MakeApp to remove my makeup, and as you can see, it didn't do a great job. The finished result resembled what I look like when I use a shitty makeup remover — meaning, I'd never be caught dead going to sleep with basically half my makeup still on. It also appears to have erased my eyebrows, which is funny because mine are tattooed onto my face." — Mi-Anne Chan, beauty writer
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"Unless this particular filter is for someone who doesn't own a mirror, or never takes off their makeup, I don't understand its purpose. Not only does it make me resemble a dead fish (what are my eyes doing?), it also assumes it knows my face better than I do. Sorry to break it to you, MakeApp, but you know nothing about me — or what I look like first thing in the morning." — Samantha Sasso, beauty editorial assistant
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appearance by Mi-Anne Chan.
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