⚫ One study shows an unhealthy uptick in plastic surgery inspired by social media

⚫ People want to look more like their image in filters

⚫ Past studies show a link between internet use and poor body image

A new study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology shows there is an unhealthy surge in patients seeking plastic surgery to look more like their image in filters.

About 175 patients enrolled in the study so researchers from Boston University could find their motives regarding plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures, said Dr. Smita Ramanadham, a New Jersey board-certified plastic surgeon at SR Plastic Surgery, with offices in Montclair and East Brunswick.

What they found was that there was a direct link between social media use and cosmetic procedures, associating more time spent on apps and using photo editing software with appearance dissatisfaction, and the desire to change their physical features.

duck face selfie

In addition to the connection, the study also found that aesthetics procedures increased from 64% to 86%, and whose seeking out a consultation with a plastic surgeon, soared from 44% to 68%, Ramanadham said.

As a result of the “selfie culture,” users have developed what is called “Snapchat dysmorphia” and are seeking out procedures to copy the filtered images of themselves, Ramanadham said.

With the “selfie culture,” patients are looking at themselves in a completely different way.

“When you’re taking a picture from 12 inches versus a traditional photograph that’s taken multiple feet away, it distorts your facial features. So, your nose might be bigger. To combat that so patients look and feel better in their selfies, they’re using different Snapchat or Instagram filters to change the way that their appearance looks,” Ramanadham said.

Then when they come into a plastic surgeon’s office, they request to look like their filtered photo.

“So, we’re seeing people coming in requesting rhinoplasties, or even liquid rhinoplasties where we can alter the shape of the nose using fillers. They’re coming in for lip fillers, any sort of procedure that can make them feel and look their best,” she said.

brunette making selfie

Past studies have demonstrated the effects of social media on teens, suggesting an association between internet use and poor body image.

Specifically the increase in plastic surgeries to look like filtered images is coming from younger people who use Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with each other, Ramanadham said.

In general, women are the majority of her patients, and historically, only 8% of patients are men, she added.

Not only is the selfie culture prevalent where people are looking at their faces all the time in photos, but Zoom is also popular as people continue to work from home, seeing their faces on screens constantly.

“We are just looking at ourselves so much more than we were traditionally,” she said.
Ramanadham said it is so important for people to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist to have serious conversations and plan healthy and safe procedures.


If patients are coming and asking for drastic changes in their facial appearances based on a photograph, that’s a red flag, she said.

“We want to make sure that patients have long-lasting results that they’re going to be happy with and improve their confidence in the long run, but not give them these drastic results that may cause more harm in the long run,” Ramanadham said.

She said plastic surgery can make people look and feel better, and that is always the goal, but having honest conversations with the surgeon about realistic results is also important.

With social media, Ramanadham said what’s so interesting is that many positive things have come with it as far as plastic surgery.

Surgeons can now have direct connections with patients and educate them. But it needs to be done safely and with caution, said. Oftentimes, what we see on social media may not be accurate, and that needs to be discussed and understood between patient and doctor.

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