Imagine if you could look into the future and see yourself 50 years from now.

You could see the wrinkles on your face, how your hair would gray, and how the very shape of your face would change after decades of life. You would be able to see how you might look to your future grandchildren. 

It sounds like something out of a fairytale. But a viral “Aged” filter on TikTok is allowing users to look into the face of their future selves. 

The new filter uses AI to estimate what your face will look like as you age, and dermatologists on TikTok are calling it “very accurate.” But the response, especially among young people using the filter, reveals a deep fear within Gen Z of getting, and more importantly, looking old. 

What does the filter do? 

The filter, which has over 9 million videos on TikTok, provides a rendering of users’ faces with realistic aging, including wrinkles, crow’s feet and often gray hair. The filter looks different for each person and uses AI to enhance existing facial features, like under-eye bags or wrinkles, to estimate how their face will age.

TikTok is not the first app to release an aging filter. Snapchat released a similar filter back in 2019, and users similarly used FaceApp to age themselves.

Even Kylie Jenner hopped on the trend saying simply “I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.”

Others disagree about how much the filter ages them, comparing their aged face to other users. Some have used the filter on old photos of their parents or celebrities and compared the filter’s results to how they look today.

Others, however, have taken a more loving approach to their future selves. Many users express shock at how similar they look to relatives and others express excitement for the years ahead. 

How to use the filter

Any TikTok user can access the filter by creating a new video with the plus button in the center of the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.

Search for “Aged” in the effects tab and select the filter. Then, take a photo or record a video to see the effect.

Is the TikTok Aged filter accurate?

Dr. Joyce Park, a board-certified dermatologist at Skin Refinery, known for her TikTok handle @teawithmd, posted a video acclaiming the accuracy of the filter. She pointed out how the filter added features such as crown’s feet, forehead wrinkles, thinned lips and Marionette lines, all realistic parts of aging. 

In a series of videos and speaking to USA TODAY, she explained that your skin undergoes changes as you age, causing the features exhibited by the filter. In aging, you lose fat and muscle tone from your face, as well as collagen and elastin, proteins that make your face more bouncy. With less to hold up your skin, gravity pulls it down causing jowls. 

Wrinkling occurs as you make the same expressions over time, etching the folds into your skin, she said. Hyperpigmentation comes from exposure to UV rays over a long period of time. 

Taking care of your skin as you age

Park wants people to know that features in the age filter are not inevitable, and the filter does not take into account lifestyle and genetic factors.

“The filter shows you the potential of what you could look like as you age, but there are still a lot of things that we can do in our daily lives to intervene,” she said. 

Eating well and getting more than five hours of sleep each night help your skin retain water, keeping it healthy, she said.

She also suggests that everyone get in the practice of wearing sunscreen of at least 30 SPF daily, or avoiding the sun during peak UV hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wearing sunscreen regularly reduces UV exposure and resulting hyperpigmentation. 

Using a retinoid product can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark spots, Park said. 

And genetic factors such as face shape and skin color play a role as well. For instance, individuals with higher levels of melanin experience less wrinkling, while those will lower levels experience less hyperpigmentation. 

Park tells young people not to worry too much about the age filter, and to continue to take care of their skin with science-backed ingredients. 

“My hesitation with using the term ‘anti-aging’ is aging is a natural process and it is a beautiful and inevitable process,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel bad about getting older because it’s going to happen to all of us. But I think what we can control is helping our skin age in a healthy way.” 

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Why are we afraid of getting old? 

Amina Mire is an associate professor of sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa and has been studying beauty standards and aging for over 25 years.  

Mire attributes anxieties about aging to the marketing of the beauty industry, specifically the $63 billion anti-aging industry (which is projected to reach $106.65 Billion by 2030 according to Vantage Market Research). She said the industry builds its success by marketing insecurities about natural, physical changes that happen with aging by marking it as an ugly process. 

“It is a very insidious industry,” she said. “But what you’re seeing is not so much a new phenomenon. But the old phenomena are now being marketed and promoted to a new platform, with new technology.”

When she started her research, Mire said most anti-aging marketing targeted women 40 years and older, advertising products to make them appear younger. Now, the ever-expanding industry warns consumers in their 20s and younger to begin preventative anti-aging procedures and products. 

Mire said technologies such as AI allow Gen Z, a generation already focused on tech and the future, to project today’s ideals of beauty and wellness onto their future selves. 

“[The beauty industry is] going after the very people who believe in technological innovations and they can [show] them their future and say ‘now you can do something about it,’” she said. 

Fears about aging, especially among women, come from long-held perceptions about how it can impact one’s image. Mire said women’s worth has long been associated with their fertility and desirability, as opposed to their capabilities, and aging represents an apparent decline in those qualities. 

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Social media response 

The trending facial-aging filter on TikTok has drawn a range of responses from young users, including some who expressed shock at seeing how their faces might change with age while others said they were planning to double-down on skin-care routines or were simply looking forward to seeing their future selves.

Here’s a selection of some responses.