It can be as harmless as an Instagram filter or as drastic as a computer-generated nip and tuck – digital body modification technology is everywhere, and it’s easy. Too easy.

In the age of social media, it’s no longer enough to have a physical body that aspires to an already unfeasible standard of beauty. Now, with the introduction of digital trickery, anything is possible. Which has – ironically – created a beauty standard more impossible than ever.

Social media is saturated with faces and bodies morphed by photo fakery, dangerously warping our ability to determine what’s real and what’s not. In an effort to lift the lid on the phenomenon, Body+Soul magazine – available today – is spotlighting the real-life ramifications of a culture obsessed with achieving digital perfection.

If today’s cover of Body+Soul looks a little strange to you, good. Because we’ve taken what began as a simple photo of a model, and warped her into a figure so technically ‘perfect’, she look far more like a Kardashian-Jenner than she does herself. Watch the video of the transformation below.

As the Social Media Editor of Body+Soul, I’m more privy than most to the tricks of the trade those in the know use to fake their way to filtered perfection. Here, I consult our team of designers to break down the techniques and technologies commonly used by social media juggernauts and everyday Australians alike in order to fulfil a standard of beauty remarkably pervasive, but desperately unachievable.

It all started with Facetune…

To generate the final cover image, we enlisted the help of a professional retoucher. But first, we went back to basics. Our design team used a simple iPhone app to modify our model’s face and body inspired by an array of popular social media images (such as that notorious shot of Kendall Jenner in a red bikini).

“We used the popular Facetune app to create the first draft,” said Anna Hegedus, Senior Designer of Body+Soul magazine. “As someone who works with high-level visual editing software like Adobe Photoshop every day, I was surprised how much was possible using just one app on your phone.”

A skillset once only at the hands of professionals, apps such as Facetune have invited anyone and everyone to digitally alter their appearance – and come out with an end product that is pretty damn convincing.

Cinch it, squeeze it, lift it, fix it…

Using our Facetuned image as a starting point, our design team then instructed a professional retoucher to modify specific elements of the image – elements that need (so-called) improvement to have them better adhere to today’s beauty standard.

“Elongate the legs,” “plump the lips”, “balloon the boobs” – it was incredible to realise through this process that every small part of the female body – from the belly button down to the ankles – has some sort of model of perfection to work towards.

“Photoshop’s liquify tool allows you to contort the face and body any which-way you like,” says Katherine Timms, Art Director of Body+Soul.

“We concentrated a lot on the hips, bust and waist in particular, as these are the parts of the female body under most scrutiny at the moment it seems. By the end of this process, the model’s hip and waist proportions were so modified, it looked ridiculous. But once we returned to our reference images, we realised that while it looked ridiculous to us, it truly did reflect the kinds of bodies we see everywhere online.”

Blur baby, blur…

Now that the model’s face and body had been digitally modified into Kardashian-esque proportions, our focus turned to the skin – the shiny, shimmering, perfect skin.

“The clone tool in Photoshop allows you to take a stamp of one particular part of an image, and place it anywhere else. This is a go-to trick retouchers use in order to hide any sort of ‘blemish’, such as pimples, freckles or body hair,” explained Kate the Art Director.

“The Gaussian blur is the tool used in order to complete smooth the skin, creating a textureless, almost radiant finish,” says Senior Designer Anna. “While this technique does take some mastering in Photoshop, it’s one of the easiest things you can achieve through apps like Facetune or even Instagram filters.” Due to the accessibility of the blur feature, often the images we see on social media – even those from our friends and families – have some level of filtered fakery.

Whether you enlist the help of an entire staff of imaging experts, or you have a crack alone on your phone while sitting on your couch, digital body modification technology is right at your fingertips. In many ways, the social media filter has replaced plastic surgery. And it’s just as dangerous.

Whether it’s a light face-tuning, flattering filter or full digital nip and tuck, the social-media obsession with photo fakery is putting young Australians at risk as they seek to make their distorted selfie-image a reality. Body+Soul talks to the experts about the dangers of digital trickery and what we can do about it. Read it today in Body+Soul magazine, inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), Sunday Herald Sun (Victoria), The Sunday Mail (Queensland), Sunday Mail (SA) and Sunday Tasmanian (Tasmania).