Selfies and the Impact on Plastic Surgery

Aesthetics Hub | 1 Nov 2017

There's no doubt we’re a generation that’s increasingly becoming selfie-obsessed. What’s the impact of selfies on the general perception of beauty, and in turn on plastic surgery?

Figures from America suggest up to 42% of surgeons see patients who wish to undergo procedures to make themselves look better on Instagram, Snapchat, and in selfies.

The trend is certainly similar in Britain where we’re seeing a boom in patients bringing pictures of ‘beautiful strangers’ or social media stars to consultations.
In the past, images of pop stars or celebrities such as the Kardashian sisters were often seen in the consultation rooms, but these pictures have been replaced by filtered images of Instagram stars which provide the inspiration for surgery like rhinoplasty, face and neck lifts, or breast augmentation.
We see people who will trawl through thousands of images, pick the ones they like, and tag their friends and family, essentially seeking their approval of the look.
The big problem is that these pictures are often filtered and may not represent reality at all.
I turn away approximately 70 per cent of prospective patients, sometimes because their Instagram-enhanced expectations are simply not realistic. That’s why it’s important to employ the use of psychological screening tools to assess a patient’s suitability for a procedure.
It’s important we only accept people for surgery who have realistic expectations. Performing the most suitable operation at the most suitable time raises both outcomes and professional standards, but that’s not to say there isn’t a place for using ‘selfie’ images in the plastic surgery world.
A recent study from the University of California suggested that if you wish to look more attractive you should snap yourself from the front, rather and the side.
For plastic surgeons, it means we should be looking at all angles when it comes to suggesting treatment.
If you’re adding dermal filler to the lips, for example, it may look good from the front, but what bearing will it have on someone’s side profile? Will the lips protrude too far and upset the balance of the face as a whole?
Many modern surgeons also use computer simulations in order to predict the outcomes of a patient’s surgery.
So again, it’s important to assess both the frontal and lateral views of a patient when identifying areas to treat, particularly as we move into 3D computer generations.
Potential patients must be happy with all views and the range of results that can be achieved with the surgery.
Results from plastic surgery are never guaranteed and when looking through pre-op and post-op images, patients need to be able to see improvements in all the images shown – that’s where angles can make a difference.
Plastic surgeons should provide a range of results for patients to visualise rather than selecting only the best results, in the same way that you might pick your ‘best’ picture for a social media post.
This means patients are prepared for all outcomes – and should be prepared for any complications – in order to make the right decision on whether to proceed or not.
My advice is simple. Patients shouldn’t concentrate on selfie images and the reactions of others to those images. If you really want a good indication of surgery outcomes, take a look through pre-op and post-op images of patients with similar anatomy to get a better idea of what can and cannot be achieved.
You have to remember that everyone is different and what is right for one person may be totally wrong for another. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Mr Gary Ross
Mr Gary Ross, Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. In July 2017 he became the first plastic surgeon to be certified by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) professional standards system.
This article first appeared in Hippocratic Post.