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Alien eyes to elf ears: Try ten of our fave Instagram filters from 2019

These AR effects flout societal standards and make seemingly impossible looks possible

There’s no doubt that Instagram filters have truly had their moment this year. Ever since the platform allowed creators to make and upload their own augmented reality effects using Spark AR, as opposed to in 2017 where they were limited to eight initial effects including the dreaded puppy filter. We’ve collectively come along way since then, with Instagram filters even making big news headlines this year after the announcement banning plastic surgery effects. Though these stories were met with mixed emotion, it seems the controversial augmented reality medium is here to stay. 

On the plus side, make-up artists are no longer restricted by physical technicalities. Instead they can upgrade their go-to looks digitally and interactively, potentially transforming them into something that doesn’t really resemble make-up at all, with effects that allow the user to momentarily escape from natural beauty standards.

Not to mention the ability to easily share their work with millions around the world. Instead of applying the same everyday winged eyeliner and contour, it’s possible to create literally any look imaginable as long as the software allows for it. From alien-inspired looks to Shrek combined with freckles, here are our ten of our fave filters of 2019. 

Disclaimer 1: All effects are available to use by following their creators and will then be found in your ‘following’ library. 

Disclaimer 2: We could’ve made an entire other top ten list just for Joker make-up filters but luckily that’s not going to happen.


Johanna Jaskowska was one of the first to experiment with Instagram filters and “Beauty3000” was the original iridescent and glassy effect featured on the platform, and one of the first we discovered. The innovative French artist experiments across various mediums from conception to completion, using new technologies as they’re released and is well renowned for her work creating the first digital dress on the blockchain. We love her ethereal sci-fi inspired aesthetic. 


For some reason, Western beauty ideals have convinced everyone that monobrows aren’t cute unless you’re specifically in a 90s Britpop band named Oasis or literally Frida Kahlo. Which completely isn’t true as this “Unibrow” filter by Mexican conceptual artist Oscar Asero proves. The effect also adds a very slight skin smoother, freckle and blush which is definitely appreciated. 


This list literally couldn’t get made without the “Top Dolly Look” featuring somewhere. The marmite of beauty-enhancing filters: you either love it for giving you rosebud lips and rosy freckled cheeks, or hate it for promoting generic beauty and being ‘creepy’. No matter your stance, it’s undeniably been popular.


Élan is a club kid based in Madrid who collaborated with filter creator Rodrigo Ben Da Silva to exclusively recreate one of Élan’s iconic make-up looks as an AR effect; allowing some of us mere make-up mortals to momentarily try on an avant-garde-inspired theatrical face. It’s a fierce combination of excessive nose contouring, dramatically slanted brows, four red circles, an extremely overlined lip with no filler but it works. 


Digital make-up artist Ines Alpha is one of the big guns in the realm of augmented reality beauty, recently creating a filter for Dior as well as her collaboration with Selfridges to create looks hinting at what the future of beauty would look like. Her personal work often features jelly-like liquid textures but “This Is Human” also incorporates a blob companion and a spa-like soundtrack. Not only is it a beauty filter, it’s an experience. 


Dragons, along with other Y2K tropes like tribal tattoos and the Louis Vuitton print, had a massive impact on 2019 fashion and beauty so it’s no wonder that they’ve made their way into filter designs too. Previously a collaborator on effects for both Grimes and Hanatruly, it’s obvious that Allan’s otherworldly effects take inspiration from fantasy and futurism. 


Jenny Yoo is no stranger to collaboration, having previously made filters with jewellery brand Jiwinaia as well as the badass fake tattoo design for Soto Gang. This lightning-inspired filter is a striking digital rendition of a Me Love Me Alot signature make-up look ahead of her new make-up brand launch. Other masks you should check out are the very memeable “I’m Baby” effect and the frosty white mascara look


AR make-up artist Paige Piskin is a downright legend when it comes to making beauty masks, uploading new looks every week. The “Lil Icey Eyes” make-up look pays homage to glam drag, with slightly overlined nude lip, a smokey eye, and thick winged eyeliner. Look, we’re not saying this isn’t achievable to do in real life, but it would take an immense amount of skill and sometimes you just don’t have time for that.


If this is actually what aliens look like then beam us up, Scotty. This extraterrestrial makeover gives you larger eyes, cheekbone enhancements, a longer face and a smaller mouth that creates the overall shape of the stereotypical alien that we’re used to in films and TV, but with the option to add a pink and red highlighted make-up effect with a simple click. It’s gorgey, truly out of this world. 


Up until 2019, if you mentioned hot elves and you weren’t heavily into World of Warcraft, only Legolas springs to mind. This was truly the year we all realised that everyone kind of looks super sexy with pointy ears, accentuated cheekbones and as a humanoid creature from folklore thanks to filter creator Laforasteraaaaaaaaaa. Not a single person doesn’t suit it. There’s quite literally no turning back from this.