Makeup Against Facial Recognition Software:
Does it Work?

  • 3 min read

In chaotic times, self expression and maximalism take to the extreme. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the slogan of the moment isthe bolder, the better, in every sense. Maximalist makeup has been a top trend since 2019, and has only grown since then. Plus, spurred by social media algorithms that treasure trend disruption and strive for quick impact, makeup has never been more influenced by technology. 

However, technology is enabling these emboldened looks in a more curious, (slightly more dystopian) way—through facial recognition software, or rather, in rebellion against it. Since protests began across the country in late May, protestors have been doing anything and everything in their power to make an impact while trying to evade authority surveillance. 

Facial recognition software is used to track rowdy protest participants sometimes months after the fact. If you’ve seen pleas on social media for folks to avoid posting protesters' faces, this is why. If you’re caught on camera during a protest, whether it’s through your phone, another protestor’s social media, or the police’s own video technology, you are more at risk of arrest. 

In comes CV Dazzle, the makeup technique that is maximalist at least, and a rebellion against tech and authority all together. 

CV Dazzle Example

The philosophy is that by obstructing your face with over-the-top, borderline nonsensical makeup techniques, you become harder to recognize, and may even confuse facial recognition software. 

Image credit:

Every facial recognition software is different and utilizes a variety of algorithms. While CV Dazzle tips float around the internet, be warned—technology is often more advanced.

Ideally, the more maximalist you go, the harder you are to identify, but these algorithms become harder to fool with every passing day.

While you may look like a cool protagonist from an '80s sci-fi movie, that’s the thing—our current understanding of facial recognition and CV Dazzle is unfortunately outdated.

In the coming months, we may see CV Dazzle become a trend rather than a legitimate technique. But whether you’re just curious about this technique, or see a more tactical use for it, we have some tips that can help you learn more. 

So yeah, if you want to be recognized by facial recognition software, DON'T follow these step-by-step instructions: 

  1. Definitely don't put your hair or hair extensions over your face in weird, unconventional ways that could obstruct recognition.
  2. And definitely do not obscure the shape of your forehead, the depth of your eyes and the bridge of your nose, all key identifying features, through cubism art techniques that confuse proportions through color and shape across your face.
  3. Andnope, don’t put glitter, stick-on gems and other obtruding objects on your face! That makes it even harder for software to recognize you. 
  4. It would be a shame if you used pigmented shadows that contrast with your natural skin tone. 
  5. It would be bad if you created asymmetrical looks that alter the proportions of your face, whether through shading or more cubist makeup.
  6. Sounds like a bad idea to test your makeup with your iPhone before the protest as a test to see if it can identify you.
  7. Do not cover up your tattoos, hair, or any other discerning features that may help police identify you. 
CV Dazzle Examples

image credit: freethink

    While certain advanced technology is especially difficult to avoid, CV Dazzle is just one step you can take towards protecting yourself. Wearing a mask, sunglasses, a bandana or a hat can also throw the algorithm. And for one more tip you definitely shouldn’t follow: don’t use oil-based makeup or skincare, which can bond with tear gas.

    As technology grows more advanced, this makeup technique is becoming less effective, but don't get it twisted—makeup still has a huge impact on racial injustice and representation in the United States. 

    If you decide to dabble in the CV Dazzle technique, we also urge you to consider donating to queer, black GoFundMe's, signing petitions, working to arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor, and contacting your local and state representatives. 

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