Ever since plastic surgery became common, adults of just about every age have availed themselves of its ability to improve their looks. For some people it’s the solution for perceived physical flaws, like a crooked nose or acne scarring. For others, it’s more about vanity than anything else. Whatever the case, cosmetic procedures and Brazilian butt lifts can be great confidence-boosters when done right.
That’s only one side of the story, though; in order to get the full picture, you have to look at people’s motivation for getting plastic surgery. While in the past it was common for plastic surgery practices to see more patients over 30, they’re now seeing increasing numbers of people under 30 coming to their offices. What’s driving this trend? It pretty much boils down to insecurity caused by social media sites like Tik Tok and Instagram.
The difficulty here isn’t that demand is higher than supply; the issue is more of an ethical one. Plastic surgeons take the same oath as any other doctor, to “do no harm” – so does that apply when a 22-year-old asks for an invasive surgery so they can look just like their airbrushed idol on Instagram? Many of these potential patients don’t really know what they’re getting into; they just want to look flawless in selfies, or stop comparing themselves unfavorably to online influencers. At least a lot of them are going for minor procedures like some subtle liposuction or a strategic brow-lift; it isn’t as if every single one of them is showing up demanding a full face-lift in their 20s. Even so, the trend is definitely there, and it probably won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
The importance of thorough consultations
Most plastic surgeries tend to be elective cosmetic surgeries, rather than medically necessary procedures. That being the case, plastic surgeons don’t just have to evaluate someone’s physical suitability for a certain procedure; they also have to consider their mental or psychological suitability. Consider, for instance, a young person who feels bad about how they look, and who’s turned to plastic surgery to “fix the problem”. After a certain point, the procedures they’re getting won’t make them look better; they’ll just start looking like someone who’s had a lot of plastic surgery. That’s why some surgeons have started spending more time during consultations; they want to make sure that the work they do isn’t just a band-aid solution for underlying self-esteem issues.
Social media’s impact on plastic surgery trends
It’s pretty easy to see how social media could convince a lot of young adults that their appearance is in need of improvement. In fact, plastic surgeons have noted that it’s even changing the way people are describing the procedures they want done. Instead of asking for specific parts of their appearance to be altered (nose, jawline, eye shape, etc.), people show doctors their favorite selfie and say “this is what I want to look like”. The problem is, those selfies are usually filtered or edited, just like most of the photos posted by popular influencers. It’s not that the results are unattainable; it’s just that they’re just unrealistic without surgical intervention.
Some online influencers have actually succeeded in getting this look through cosmetic procedures – their end goal was to appear as though they’re “wearing” a filter. The slightly widened eyes, the plump lips, the pert nose, and the sharp jawline are selfie-ready 24/7. With people trying to look like digitally altered versions of themselves, the question is: how can you want to look more like yourself, when it isn’t actually yourself? For some people, the cost of spending time on social media sites is a changed self-image that makes them discontent with their current looks. And this is why some plastic surgeons are turning them down: because they don’t want to be responsible for enabling the consequences of low self-esteem.
Recent plastic surgery trends
There’s such a thing as plastic surgery addiction, but not everyone who gets regular procedures is trying to look like a Bratz doll. In fact, the trends of the last couple of years are headed in the opposite direction. Even though younger patients aren’t dealing with wrinkles or sagging skin, they’re often interested in non-surgical skin treatments like radio frequency. This is used to erase anything from rough skin texture to discoloration, and it’s been growing in popularity recently. On someone who’s 50-plus years old, this can give a more youthful appearance to the skin. For someone who’s still young, however, it almost has the same effect as an airbrush filter.
There has also been a shift to early surgical interventions, such as eye lifts. According to some plastic surgeons, eye lifts are so in-demand that they might even give the ever-popular rhinoplasty a run for its money.
Could social media have positive effects too?
It’s well known that many aspects of social media can be pretty toxic, but when it comes to plastic surgery, some doctors say that they’ve seen a silver lining. Patients are showing up to consultations having already done their homework, largely thanks to influencers who’ve gotten plastic surgery themselves, and documented the process online. They not only show their before and after pictures, but they also tell their followers about the risks involved, what the recovery process was like, and how well the results matched their expectations.
This doesn’t exactly make up for the fact that insecure 20-something-year-olds are seeking plastic surgery in greater numbers than ever before, but at least some of them know the risks – and that they might not end up with the picture-perfect face of their dreams if something goes wrong. At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear that most social media isn’t doing young adults any favors. Even if they don’t resort to plastic surgery, they often end up with unrealistic expectations about the way they look. At least responsible plastic surgeons are learning to spot this trend; it looks like a lot of people will just have to keep using filters for now.