The need to have a professional graphics person alter and enhance online photos has passed as there are filters on social media platforms, such as Instagram, that make it easier than ever to achieve a desired online look. Instead of photos of celebrities showing off their style at red carpet events, many plastic surgeons are reporting patients are bringing in altered photos of influencers, as well as altered photos of their appearance, as their inspiration for cosmetic procedures. Let’s take a look at the role social media is playing in the cosmetic surgery choices made by patients.
In the annual survey released by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2020, 72% of the members of the organization reported that patients looking to have cosmetic procedures in order to look better in their selfies was up 15% from 2018.
Many doctors have noted the lack of “real” photos being used for inspiration by their patients. Instead, they will bring in photos that are altered using apps such as Facetune. These patients will also bring in enhanced selfies they have altered on their own instead of providing actual photos of celebrities.
Ever since photo-editing apps and built-in Instagram filters have become available to the public, it is very easy to reshape or enhance features that are viewed as “undesirable” like a large or crooked nose or a face that is suffering acne or large pores.
While it is easy to move the fingertips over a highlighted portion of the face to change its appearance using an app, the final results on a phone screen do not always equal what a surgeon is able to accomplish in real life. Each millimeter on the face that is treated can make a big difference in the appearance of a person. Some patients do not understand this in advance and are surprised when it is not easy to make their desired changes.
In an interview with instyle.com, Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, said many patients are now viewing cosmetic treatments as a grooming process rather than actual medical procedures. “People come in for non-surgical nose jobs, lips, and lasers, and when they see it on Instagram, they just assume that there’s no downtime or recovery and that’s not the case. For any treatment that can make a dramatic improvement, there’s also some downsides.”
Another example of changes that can be made in reality, as opposed to the edits made on social media, can be pointed out when talking about rhinoplasty. There have been patients who have made their nose look so small using editing technology that the nose would collapse and not be functional in real life. Some patients also bring in photos of a celebrity “inspiration nose” but they do not realize the celebrity made edits to their appearance so the “inspiration nose” actually looks different in multiple photos.
Many medical professionals feel that photoshopped or Facetuned photos of the actual patient are easier to work with since they at least give some idea of the basic facial structure of the person that wants to make the changes. It sets a more realistic starting point than the facial features of an online influencer.
While filters can make the skin look youthful and smooth, it is important for someone in their 50s and 60s to realize their skin texture at that age will make it hard to make a dramatic change to their skin. While there are chemical peels and laser treatments that can smooth the skin and remove blemishes, the skin will not be able to achieve the same look it had when a person was in their 20s.
There is also the need to set realistic expectations when it comes to gaining a more contoured look to the body. While patients often want to gain a more sculpted body, they are often comparing their appearance to photos they see on social media that have been altered using filters. Patients need to know what they are trying to achieve might not be real in the first place.
The viewing of altered images invites the public to try and gain a look that can be seen as an alternative version of their actual appearance. The unrealistic expectation set by social media also puts extra pressure on surgeons to find a balance between providing patients the results they desire while still being honest and open about the type of results they can expect to see.
There might come a day when celebrities and influencers will need to disclose when an image has been enhanced in order for the public to more easily recognize when changes have been made to a photo. Until such a time comes about, the public will still turn to online apps to enhance their appearance in search of the look they want to have online and in real life.