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Snapchat Dysmorphia Fuels Cosmetic Procedures

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It’s no secret that Snapchat and Instagram filters are widely used among anyone who has the apps, but these face-smoothing filters are beginning to grow in popularity in an unlikely place. Medical spas have seen an influx of clients making requests to have cosmetic procedures that will help them achieve these filtered looks.

“It has caused patients to become very critical of themselves,” said Patrick Byrne, M.B.A., M.D., AAFPRS Board Member. “They are wanting to ‘fine tune’ things we would have never seen before the world of the ‘selfie.’” he further explained.

The Snapchat Phenomenon Explained

Social media has given the younger generation new opportunities to see themselves more frequently. “With each glimpse of themselves at different angles, different times of the day, different lighting and social settings, people are seeing what they look like to the outside world,” elucidated William H. Truswell, M.D., AAFPRS president.

More specifically, these filters will morph the actual appearance of the person using them by smoothing the skin and providing fuller lips, bigger eyes, prettier eyelashes and a smaller nose. This “filtered” look has caused people to notice what they don’t like about their natural appearance, and thus seek out treatments to change it. According to the AAFPRS annual survey of facial plastic surgeons, 55% of facial plastic surgeons saw patients who wanted to look better in selfies, which was up by 13% from 2016.

Snapchat Dysmorphia in the MedSpa

According to an AAFPRS report, while some more invasive procedures have surfaced, Snapchat has also begun to increase the desire for non-invasive treatments like fillers to reshape clients’ faces. Prior to any procedures even being requested, Fred Fedok, M.D., facial plastic surgeon and immediate past president of AAFPRS had “several people point out something about their features that they noticed in their Snapchat photo that they wanted [an] opinion about.” Fedok continued to explain how many of his patients understood the smoothing effects that Snapchat had on their photos, but more often sought out face augmenting treatments.

Benjamin Caughlin, M.D., Kovak Cosmetic Center, also found that his patients who were influenced by social media continued to ask for treatments in specific areas like the nose, lips and cheek bones. He explained how many preferred non-invasive treatments to achieve their ‘filtered’ look. Thus, even though fillers are nothing new to the medical spa world, these lip- and-cheek plumping filters are helping them stay in high popularity.

The Filter-Face Craze Impact

With this constant method of self-assessing, it seems as if social media could potentially be doing more harm than good. Byrnes finds that within this filtered societal craze that “Social media has made awareness of options greater, has empowered young people to consider improving their appearance and has educated them greatly about options that exist today.” However, he understands that it is not all positive outcomes, and agreed that the harm that may come from this craze relies on how susceptible the user is to negative influences.

"A certain segment seems unable to distinguish between a digital image of themselves they are unhappy with, and their actual physical appearance." Patrick Byrnes, M.D.

More commonly, it has been viewed that the ‘selfie’ craze is prompting more harm than good. Fedok explained his opinion of Snapchat by saying “I believe Snapchat represents wonderful entertaining technology...[but] it is literally the wrong tool to be used for the assessment of one’s facial features.” On the other hand, Caughlin took a completely different approach to assessing the impact of this craze by providing a remedy of the negative impact this could have on the clients. “It is up to us as surgeons to be honest to the patients and make our recommendation based on experience and what is best for them,” Caughlin explained.  

Overall, while this craze may be leading to an influx in medical spa procedures, the question remains on whether it is also leading to a society of self-deprecation.

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