Do Your Selfies Have You Thinking About Plastic Surgery?

Poll: Social media is making us more aware of our looks

Social media may be making us more interconnected, but it’s also making us more conscious of our looks, a recent survey says.

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One in three facial plastic surgeons in a poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) reported that patients are more aware of their appearance because of social media and this heightened awareness has prompted an increase in request for procedures.

Thirteen percent of the AAFPRS members surveyed identified increased photo sharing and patient’s dissatisfaction with their own image on social media sites as a rising trend in practice.

At the same time, AAFPRS members surveyed noted a 10 percent increase in rhinoplasty – surgery to change the shape of your nose – in 2013 over 2012, as well as a 7 percent increase in hair transplants and a 6 percent increase in eyelid surgery.

“Social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and the iPhone app, which are solely image-based, force patients to hold a microscope up to their own image and often look at it with a more self-critical eye than ever before,” AAFPRS President Edward Farrior, MD, says in a news release.

The AAFPRS also reports that those seeking plastic surgery are getting younger. In 2013, 58 percent of the surveyed facial plastic surgeons saw an increase in cosmetic surgery or injectables for patients younger than age 30. The organization says social media, which is highly influential with younger adults and teens, is driving the trend.

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“These images are often the first impressions young people put out there to prospective friends, romantic interests and employers and our patients want to put their best face forward,” Dr. Farrior says in the release.

Selfie help

Selfies are having an impact on plastic surgery in other ways too, says plastic surgeon James Zins, MD, Chairman of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

During consultations, patients considering plastic or reconstructive surgery often will show physicians their selfies, which are photos that you take of yourself with your smartphone, Dr. Zins says. The selfies help the patient explain what specific goals they would like addressed through plastic surgery. This helps the doctor to pinpoint the surgical approach that would work best, he says.

“Patients have always brought in pictures of themselves and we encourage them to do that,” Dr. Zins says. “But technology has now made that easier. Perception is reality and we want to make sure we address what the patient is concerned about.”

Patients also use selfies post-surgery to let the doctor know how their recovery is progressing, Dr. Zins says. Texting selfies to the surgeon can let the doctor assure the patient immediately that things are going well or alert them if they need follow-up.

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“When they have concerns, they will send me a picture, which is very, very helpful,” Dr. Zins says. “Then I can assure them this is not a concern.”

Smoothing the process

Transmitting information quickly via smartphone helps smooth the process for patients and their doctors, Dr. Zins says.

“The selfies are a great tool for us and it really is something that simplifies patients’ lives and our lives to a great degree,” he says.

There are other ways that technology can help people considering plastic surgery. For example, Cleveland Clinic has an online consultation tool for people thinking about cosmetic plastic surgery.

The tool is aimed at helping prospective  patients make an informed decision about plastic surgery whether it’s an elective medical procedure or one that is medically necessary.

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