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Filtered Photos Causing Surge in Surgery

Filtered Photos Causing Surge in Surgery

More and more people are heading to cosmetic surgeons with their filtered selfies asking for procedures to make them look more like their edited image, according to a recently published article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The article, written by researchers at the Boston Medical Center, outlines how photo filters for cell phone social media apps have created a negative trend they have labeled "Snapchat dysmorphia." The researchers also claim that the condition is negatively impacting many individuals' self-esteem.

Snapchat has built-in filters designed to modify users' images. These filters can make the user look different by changing skin texture and tone, elongating eyelashes, changing eye shape and even making the bone structure of the face appear more angular.

The Boston researchers theorize that these image filters are causing people to obsess over perceived flaws and avoid social activities because of feelings of self-consciousness related to those perceived flaws.

It is also spurring many people to seek out cosmetic procedures.

"Cosmetic surgery can help correct flaws or perceived flaws, but it is important for patients to be realistic about what they want to look like after their procedures," said Dr. Bill Johnson, a Dallas cosmetic physician.

The BMC article also says that Snapchat filters are causing patients to have unrealistic expectations, some that cannot even be attained through cosmetic procedures.

"When people seek cosmetic surgery for the wrong reasons, they can be let down. It is important for cosmetic surgeons to have consultations with patients that give the patients an idea of what to expect after their procedure," said Johnson.

In addition to patients seeking out surgery to look like their filtered images, more than half of plastic surgeons reported that their patients are asking for procedures to look better in selfies.

Some phone apps give users the ability to edit their own photos to appear better looking. Some of these apps, such as Facetune, can give users the ability to make their face appear thinner and blemish free before they post the photos on social media.

It is not just social media and selfies to blame, according to the Boston article authors; retouched images of female models in fashion magazines have increased the rates of eating disorders in women and teenage girls, too.

Many women criticize the practice of retouching or airbrushing photos because of its negative impact on self-image. However, a 2015 survey reported that although more than two-thirds of female respondents believed it to be wrong for magazines to airbrush pictures, 57 percent of the same group of respondents said they routinely edited their selfies to improve their appearance.

In addition to increasing the number of cosmetic surgeries being performed, the BMC article also reported that the demand for better selfies has affected the kinds of procedures people are looking for. Nose jobs, procedures to correct facial symmetry and eyelid procedures are in high demand.

The demand for cosmetic procedures is up across the board, according to recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. There were nearly 1.8 million plastic and cosmetic procedures performed in 2017, according to the ASPS annual report, Plastic Surgery Statistics.

"Procedures are increasing in demand for a few reasons; people want to look great, cosmetic procedures have become more affordable, and new technology has allowed procedures to become less invasive," Johnson said.

Additionally, having cosmetic procedures has become less taboo.

"More people are sharing that they've had work done and talking about it with their peers. Twenty years ago, cosmetic surgery was kept quiet," Johnson said.


Boston Medical Center. "A new reality for beauty standards: How selfies and filters affect body image." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 August 2018.

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