Exploring the link between social media and cosmetic procedures

29 March 2024

Face with social icons - Image by Gerd Altmann from PixabayBy plastic surgeon Dr Dirk Kremer

In today's digital age, the influence of social media on our daily lives is undeniable. From connecting with friends and family to staying updated on the latest trends, platforms like Snapchat and Instagram have become integral parts of our social interactions.

However, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology sheds light on a concerning trend: the link between social media usage, photo-editing applications, and the increasing desire for cosmetic procedures.

Understanding the phenomenon of "Snapchat dysmorphia"

The study was carried out with an aim of exploring the complex relationship between our virtual personas and real-life decisions, particularly when it comes to our physical appearances. Dubbed "Snapchat dysmorphia," this phenomenon describes the tendency for individuals to seek cosmetic enhancements to resemble the filtered versions of themselves they present online

Surveying attitudes towards cosmetic procedures

To better understand this phenomenon, researchers surveyed individuals attending an ambulatory dermatology clinic at an urban hospital in Boston from October 2019 to June 2021. This timeframe was chosen to capture data from both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing insights into changes in attitudes towards cosmetic procedures amidst increased social media consumption during lockdowns.

Read: Facebook facelifts? Social media and plastic surgery

The impact of social media usage on cosmetic procedures

The results were revealing. Participants who reported spending more time on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram were more likely to consider undergoing cosmetic procedures. This suggests that prolonged exposure to curated images and lifestyles on these platforms may heighten dissatisfaction with one's appearance, leading to a greater interest in cosmetic solutions.

The role of photo-editing applications

Additionally, the use of photo-editing applications before sharing selfies on social media emerged as another significant predictor of participants' consideration of both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The act of digitally altering one's appearance can translate into a desire to make similar changes in reality, possibly due to discrepancies between the edited online self and the unedited reflection in the mirror.

Influence of social media content on cosmetic enhancements

Moreover, engagement with social media content related to celebrities, influencers, and accounts showcasing the results of cosmetic procedures significantly influenced the desire to undergo cosmetic enhancements. Following and interacting with such accounts exposes individuals to a higher frequency of idealised beauty standards, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy and increasing the appeal of cosmetic interventions to achieve similar aesthetic results.

Impact of the covid-19 pandemic on cosmetic procedures

Interestingly, the study also observed significant differences in attitudes towards cosmetic procedures before and after the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. An increase in the number of participants considering cosmetic procedures was noted during the pandemic, along with a rise in the number of individuals who had ever undergone a cosmetic procedure.

Read: Choosing the right procedure for your aesthetics goals

The importance of informed discussions

In light of these findings, healthcare providers must consider patients' social media use as a factor in their desire for cosmetic procedures and engage in open discussions about the motivations and expectations behind such decisions.

At Harley Street Aesthetics, understanding our patients' holistic needs is paramount to delivering exceptional care. As a board-certified plastic surgeon committed to enhancing our patients' lives, I emphasise the importance of open communication.

This study underscores the significance of exploring all facets of a patient's journey, ensuring their motivations and aspirations are fully understood and addressed.

If you’d like an open and honest discussion related to cosmetic surgery to find out if it’s the right avenue for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch to book in your initial consultation. Simply call 0845 519 7232, e-mail info@harleystreetaesthetics.com or complete the simple online contact form.


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