woman speaking with ginger TikTok filter on (l) woman with ginger TikTok filter on caption 'Didn't know ginger hair makes you thinner' (c) woman speaking (r)

@snuffbee/TikTok @missgoodi/TikTok

The problem with TikTok’s ‘ginger hair and freckles’ filter

Problematic filters still slip through the cracks.


Tricia Crimmins


Daily Dot Web_Crawlr

Problematic on TikTok is a weekly column that unpacks the troubling trends that are emerging on the popular platform and runs on Tuesdays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

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Problematic On TikTok


In case you didn’t know, TikTok filters aren’t created by the app itself. Similar to Instagram and Snapchat, app users can create filters that can be used in the app by others.

But such an egalitarian system can lead to errors. Just in the last few months, TikTokers have called out the “Hooked Nose” filter for its anti-semitic, prejudiced impact, and the “My Screen Time” filter, which TikTokers said assigned food-related apps to fat TikTokers, was removed from the app because it violated TikTok’s Community Guidelines.

TikTok reviews filters submitted by users through its Trust and Safety team before filters are released, but problematic filters still slip through the cracks.

At least, that’s what seems to have happened with the “ginger hair and freckles” filter.

The “ginger hair and freckles” filter purports to do exactly what it’s named for: give TikTokers a chance to see what they’d look like with red hair and freckles. But TikTokers have identified that the filter slims one’s face and it doesn’t work on darker skin tones.

Didn’t know ginger hair makes you thinner,” @missgoodi wrote in the overlay text on their TikTok showing how the “ginger hair and freckles” filter narrows their face when they use it.

TikToker @snuffbee, who is Black, chimed in about the filter, and duetted @missgoodi’s TikTok to show that on their skin tone and hair, the filter hardly shows up. Freckles can be seen ever so slightly on @snuffbee’s cheeks.

“These filters are not diverse for anyone,” @snuffbee wrote in the overlay text of their video.

Why it matters

The issue with the “ginger hair and freckles” is that it communicates hegemonic beauty standards, both in what it does and what it doesn’t do.

By slimming the face of users, it emphasizes the untrue and harmful idea that thinner is better. And by not functioning correctly on darker skin and hair, it makes users feel that those features are not the “ideal” ones.

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