If you’re anything like 70 percent of Pinterest users, you’re searching for images of and links to beauty ideas that you might want to try on yourself. And that’s been pretty easy to do so far if you’ve been searching for things like false-lash tutorials, buzzcut inspo, and other beauty topics that don’t really apply to skin color. If you’re looking for the best red lipsticks for dark skin or blonde highlights that complement olive undertones, though, you could find yourself drowning in a digital sea of extraneous images, even if you type in those exact phrases. So Pinterest, in an effort to make the platform more inclusive and user-friendly, has launched a new search-filtering feature.
“We’ve heard from pinners that it’s not always easy to find the most relevant ideas among the 8 billion beauty and hair pins on our site,” reads a statement from Pinterest. “That’s why we’re rolling out a way to customize your beauty search results by a skin tone range. As you search for makeup tutorials, hairstyles and more, you can select from four palettes to narrow your search. Each palette represents a range of skin tones.” The new filter appears under the search bar after you’ve searched for something beauty-related, like “gray hair” or “contouring.” You’ll be invited to “Pick a skin tone range to narrow your search” from four circles resembling pie charts, each containing four shade variations. Click on the fairest circle and you’ll see results featuring photos of people with lighter skin; click on the darkest, and your results are narrowed down to deeper skin tones and the products aimed at them.
It’s a work in progress: As Wired reports, the system is still being trained to recognize shadows and bright light, and fair skin with abundant freckles sometimes finds itself in the results for darker skin tones. Still, Pinterest has already gotten at least one thing right: It will never save or remember the skin tone you’ve searched for, not only to prevent assumptions that would undesirably limit future search results but to protect users’ privacy. Furthermore, the Pinterest team was careful to not categorize by ethnicity and instead has devised a spectrum of 16 shades based on color values and working with Modiface to decode skin tone in images.
“Today our search results aren’t as inclusive as they should be, which is why we’re taking this first step,” Omar Seyal, Pinterest’s head of discovery, told Wired. “The beauty content is there, and the skin-tone ranges feature allows it to be easily surfaced when a pinner wants it. The next step is to learn what pins people are engaging within those ranges so that we can eventually incorporate those pins into more prominent spaces.”
Obviously, some beauty searches don’t require specifying a skin tone. A cat-eye tutorial is pretty universal, after all. But if this makes searching through an endless scroll of beauty pins for a tutorial that will actually work for your specific skin tone a little easier — and if it makes the beauty space and the internet feel more inclusive — then Pinterest may be on to something good.
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