instagram's impact on the cosmetic industry
In the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and selfies, acceptance towards plastic surgery is at an all time high, along with the cosmetic industry itself. The industry has jumped 11% in 2017 with cosmetic procedures of all kinds increasing 115% since 2000. And while most of us are able to discern the fact that most celebrities and influencers retouch their photos, there's still an unrealistic approach to how we view ourselves. Not only is distorted reality harmful, but it can be dangerous in prompting false realities as authentic.
Many doctors have referred to this obsession with a perfect image on social media as, "Snapchat Dysmorphia," which relates to Body Dysmorphic Disorder where a person excessively obsesses over either tiny or even non existent flaws and problems with themselves. Lara Devgan, chief medical officer at RealSelf explained to Market Watch the increasing number of people coming in for what she refers to as "micro-optimization," tiny millimeter-level changes that end up making the face look better. This includes things like fillers in the lips and jaw or even going as far as narrowing the nose. Tweaks like these point to social media as an influencer, especially with an increasing trend of patients bringing in Facetuned or edited versions of their own face compared to when patients use to bring in pictures of celebrities.
Even though these surgeries are minimally invasive and quick to do, there is a scary element to using social media as a reference when finding cosmetic professionals. Particularly after a study at Northwestern University found that only 18% of top plastic surgery related posts on Instagram were by board certified plastic surgeons. These posts also tend to be more visible since they use more search friendly terms such as #boobjob or #lipfiller compared to the medical terms. This can be troubling since almost half of patients admit to social media strongly influencing how they choose a doctor, especially those who are uninformed and don't see low prices or accounts based on price and deals as red flags.
US surgeons claim that Instagram selfies are the biggest incentive for plastic surgery, i.e. patients looking for a "natural filter," with 99% of surgeon involved in the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) agreeing that celebrity postings on social media has played a big role. In fact, AAFPRS members gave two main reasons in a recent survey explaining why more young people are getting surgery, 1) wanting to look good on social media or like a celebrity and 2) those doing gradual age-defying tweaks rather than major operations later on life. This trend has swayed the average age of people seeking surgery to drop dramatically over recent years, with a report finding more women and men in their 20s using more advanced skincare and facial injectables before 30.
In the end, this is not to knock plastic surgeons using Instagram or social media to promote their businesses but rather spread awareness. More than ever, people flock to social media for opinions as opposed to the old age 'word of mouth,' and while social media has been great in spreading information and transparency, we still have to be cautious. Followers and likes don't always equate to level of skill or professionalism and a healthy dose of skepticism can go a long way. With the cosmetic industry booming right now, we need to remember to research doctors and procedures instead of diving in head first because their Insta is "poppin." And as little or small as these surgeries seem, they are still serious surgeries where a myriad of things can go wrong. After searching hashtags and sponsored posts, follow up by doing your research in order to make the most informed decision possible.