Don't rely on YouTube for cosmetic surgery advice

21 September 2018

YouTube Face Paint - Claudia Ramirez - UnsplashIt should go without saying that you shouldn't always believe everything you read on the internet, but asking 'Dr Google' is indeed the first approach many people take when wanting to learn more about something. New research has revealed the old adage of not always believing can be applied to videos on the internet as well, and can be especially true when it comes to plastic surgery videos uploaded to YouTube.

New study finds online videos misleading

A new study published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal has found that videos can be extremely misleading forms of marketing, and often provide inaccurate advice to people that are searching for legitimate information that relates to cosmetic surgery procedures.

For the very first time, researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, examined the modern day trend of people browsing YouTube for videos that contain information about medical procedures. This involved a full inspection of YouTube's 240 most frequently viewed plastic surgery videos, which together had amassed a staggering 160 million views between them. The videos were found through keyword searches for popular cosmetic procedures, such as “nose job”, “ear surgery”, “facelift” and “eyelid surgery”.

These 240 videos were then evaluated for factual information and quality of content using DISCERN criteria – an in-depth questionnaire that assists with evaluating the reliability and quality of consumer health information.

The researchers also conducted an examination of the YouTube videos to identify board-certified physicians and cosmetic specialists, and checked their names against official industry databases. They also did the same with the names of the people or groups that had posted the YouTube videos.

Educational YouTube videos often have underlying marketing ploy

What they discovered was quite startling, as Dr Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, explained how they found videos that were created to look like educational pieces of content from certified medical professionals or specialists, but were actually very cleverly deployed marketing schemes. Paskhover went on to warn that YouTube is primarily used for marketing, and the majority of people posting educational cosmetic surgery content are doing so in an attempt to sell something. People who use YouTube for educational purposes should be aware that videos can often present very biased information, be unbalanced when considering risks versus benefits of particular procedures and treatments and can be unclear about the actual expertise and qualifications of the practitioner providing the advice.

Last year, a study conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine was published highlighting the fact that around 26% of the top Instagram posts on plastic surgery were shared by cosmetic surgeons who were not board certified – meaning they were general surgeons, dermatologists, gynecologists, family medicine doctors or worse still, completely fabricating their expertise. The study found that approximately 67% of that content was self-marketing.

Each of these studies emphasises just how important it is to use caution when scouting out online videos for your cosmetic surgery advice.

Doing your thorough research on both the procedure and surgeon or practitioner is vital.

I am a board-certified plastic surgeon with a wealth of experience in many aesthetic cosmetic procedures, so if you're keen to discuss the procedure you're interested in then do get in touch today to book your consultation with me here at Harley St Aesthetics. You can call 0845 519 7232, email info@harleystreetaesthetics.com or complete an online contact form.

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