• Emily Manock

Surgery and Social Media: A Changing Landscape for Better or Worse?

Updated: May 22

Taking a look at how social media is impacting the cosmetic surgery industry for both better and worse

If you take a look around Instagram, it is evident that a certain type of look is becoming popular. The plump lips, doe-eyes, and a “snatched” appearance can be seen popping up on everyone’s IG feed. Influencers from 5K to 500K followers have popularised this particular look, while less invasive and more accessible treatments have made it possible for the masses. There is a lot of panic around the perceived increase in young women getting these procedures, who many believe are being influenced to get these procedures by trying to attain the impossible standards perpetuated by creators.

However, this feels a little lacking in nuance. It is certainly possible that we are more exposed to young women getting these procedures because they are more likely to be visible online. Dr Nestor Demosthenous, Founder of Dr Nestor’s Medical Cosmetic Centre in Edinburgh, responded when asked about the increase in younger patients, “To be honest, we have experienced an increase in demand from patients of all ages who are looking for treatments that will enhance their appearance and make them feel more confident within themselves.”

Anecdotally, there appears to also be a difference in attitudes towards plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery between the generations. The older generations are seemingly less likely to be open about having work done, whereas the younger generation will not only tell you what they have had done but celebrate where they have got the procedures done and who did it for them. Dr. Nestor also refers to this, “We are really lucky as most people who come to our clinic are open and honest with us and will listen to the advice and recommendations we make.”

Enhance appears to be the operative word concerning patient choices. An invasive procedure like a traditional rhinoplasty seems to be becoming unfashionable whereas filler and other injections seem more popular. Sharin Shafer of Skinfluencer Chelsea, says that “Certainly, we have had experience of patients enquiring about treatments such as lip fillers and non-surgical rhinoplasty, as they have either been unhappy with how they look in online images of themselves, or they have seen something on social media they would like to emulate.”

Image: Emily Manock

This idea of emulating social media then raises the question of filters and photo editing. While plenty of filters are obvious and are designed to give a fun effect to each photo, it does seem as though beauty filters are getting more and more nefarious. I have generally avoided these filters throughout my social media-using years, I tried some popular ones to research this article, such as a Russian beauty filter.

After using these filters I noticed a few common threads. First, some features of these filters could be achieved without a cosmetic intervention. For example, luscious lashes could easily be achieved through a lash lift or extensions. However, most of the lips would only be possible through injections, while the lifted look of the brows would need perhaps a more invasive procedure.

Shafer similarly says, “I do worry, however, that if vulnerable or young people are bombarded with images showcasing unrealistic, filtered perfection, it could trigger body dysmorphia, which can have dire consequences.” A good understanding of these prejudices when going for surgical intervention makes for good practice.

Another thing that is common among these filters is the expectation of completely perfect skin. Such is why I believe there has been such an increase in more extensive facials, chemical peels, etc. Obviously, completely clear and untextured skin is not attainable for anyone. So, this is where people may believe they can buy their way to Instagram skin.

Then there is the problem of social media figures themselves. Dr Dany Kayle, Founder of Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic Dubai states, “In recent years, we have been bombarded by enquiries about how to achieve a specific feature – for instance, we have had enquiries relating to wanting to look more like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez etc.” Even with the best in the aesthetics industry, you can’t make someone look exactly like someone else, which can be very distressing for vulnerable people of all ages. Additionally, people coming back wanting these results would need to come back for repeat procedures, which according to Dr. Kayle, “could be exploited by unethical practitioners within the aesthetics industry.”

He continues, “I hope that social media will be used as a force for good, helping to deliver messages in a constructive way and educating the general public about treatment options for any concerns they may have.” This could represent a positive future for the relationship between the cosmetics industry and social media. However, this is a best-case scenario everyone involved needs to work towards, by being more critical of our social media consumption, being open about our choices, and likely further regulating the industry as a whole.


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