Could Your Instagram Habit Be Driving You Towards Cosmetic Surgery?

We’ll all put our hands up and admit to using the odd filter on social media. A glowy finish here, some heart-eyes there. But what happens when we become so accustomed to what we see on our phone screens, and on the feeds of those we follow on social media, that we no longer like ourselves without them?

WAA Founder, Rebecca with no filter

WAA Founder, Rebecca with no filter

‘Bunny’ Filter

‘Bunny’ Filter

‘Subtle’ Filter

‘Subtle’ Filter

‘Puppy’ Filter

‘Puppy’ Filter

‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ is a term coined by cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho – the founder of Esho clinics in London and Newcastle – referring to the phenomenon of people requesting procedures to help their faces appear more like the filtered versions they’ve become used to. 

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There has been a significant rise in those seeking ‘tweakments’ – things such as lip fillers, Botox and jaw tautening treatments – due to their affordability and convenience, but undoubtably due to our exposure via social media. According to 2017 data from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), 55% of facial plastic surgeons say patients have requested cosmetic procedures to look better on social media. This was a whopping 13% increase on the previous year.

Previously, airbrushing was a privilege afforded only to celebrities. We’d see their perfect images on the cover of magazines, but know we were seeing a doctored version of them. Now, with the click of a button on Snapchat or Instagram, anyone can alter and airbrush their own photo – and sit back and watch the likes roll in.

Just as we might take a celebrity photo into the hairdressers before a restyle, patients are now taking in reference pictures of their favourite Instagram jawline to their surgeon. Although, Esho comments, where celebrities may have been their previous inspiration, clients’ own filtered selfies are now what they show to guide procedures.

According to Instagram’s year-end data in 2018, the heart eyes filter, a frequently used favourite of Kylie Jenner, which slims the face and blurs imperfections (as well as shooting hearts from the subject’s eyes) topped the list of the platform’s most popular Insta-story filters. 

You’d think that, with filters such as this one being so obviously false (the last time we checked, we didn’t shoot bow-and-arrow hearts out of our own faces) we’d be adept at spotting where and when they’ve been used. However, a 2017 study in the Journal of Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications found that people only recognised manipulated images 60-70% of the time. It’s a vicious cycle, whereby we are unwittingly bombarded with doctored images, leading to unrealistic expectations. If we do choose to use filters regularly, we begin to set our own unachievable precedent. If we don’t, we feel bad because images of ourselves don’t measure up to the images of those we follow.

All of this can offer an explanation for the explosion of those seeking ‘tweakments’ in recent years. Plus, there has been a significant change in attitudes. Where plastic surgery used to be a secretive affair, with celebrities consistently denying the work they’ve clearly had done, it’s now become a status symbol for many. Previously, buying a designer handbag was the way to spend a well-earned work bonus. Now, it’s not unusual to opt for permanent and semi-permanent cosmetic procedures, instead. With many coming in at the same price as a new designer accessory – and now also acting as a status symbol – it’s not hard to see why. It’s so common that ‘bonus Botox’ has become a thing, while ‘rich girl face’ - where girls are wearing their cosmetic enhancements with pride, proudly showing their lip filler off on Instagram, is also on the rise. 

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Dr Dirk Kremer, a Harley Street surgeon, has said that this has in turn led to a concerning rise in girls opting for treatment with no knowledge of the risks. Girls as young as 18 are going to backstreet beauticians for a fraction of the cost but are sadly unaware that this could potentially leave them blind or with severe skin necrosis if the filler blocks a nerve.

While cosmetic treatments are of course a personal choice, anyone considering getting them should always be fully aware of the risks involved. If the price being advertised seems too good to be true, it probably is. Likewise, never opt for a cosmetic enhancement without fully considering it first. You wouldn’t get a permanent tattoo without thinking long and hard about it, so apply the same logic to something that could permanently alter your face. Celebrities may be flaunting their fillers on Instagram, but most of us can’t afford the sort of surgeons and aftercare they have access to. 

They may be being more honest about work they’ve had done, but there is still a rift between them and us. That rift is money, power and influence. And those things count for an awful lot when it comes to changing your face.