How Our Selfie-Obsessed Culture Is Changing The World Of Plastic Surgery

August 3, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Once upon a time, plastic surgeons spent their days fielding requests for Jennifer Aniston’s eyes, Gisele Bundchen’s cheekbones and Angelina Jolie’s lips, These days, however, some plastic surgeons say the only person many women want to look like is themselves–albeit, a version that exists after a few improvements, courtesy of a filter.

Selfies are all the rage among women in plastic surgeon offices, something that has both positive and negative side effects. On the one hand–slow clap, please–who wouldn’t celebrate the idea that women no longer aspire to look like 19-year-old supermodels whose very livelihoods depend on how many hours a day they clock in with their personal trainer. On the other hand, your phone’s special effects might be a little too good. And as a result, some women still have unrealistic expectations about what surgery can accomplish and filters aren’t helping matters.

“In plastic surgery, selfies are the new celebrities,” says Dr. Elie Levine at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology of NYC. “Patients used to come in with pictures of celebrities and say, ‘I want Gwyneth Paltrow’s nose.’ Now, they now come in with their best (and many times altered) selfies and say, ‘I want to look like myself in this picture.’ As a plastic surgeon, I am constantly working to manage expectations when patients want to have any kind of work done. I have to be sure that they have realistic ideas of what they will look like after surgery. ”

Levine says the advent of selfies has given people access to areas of their faces they might not have noticed or thought about before. “I think that the technology and better resolution cameras in phones are causing people to take more selfies and therefore see more photos of themselves at angles that might accentuate areas of concern,” Levine says. “Having these photos so easily accessible makes it easier for patients to explain to me what bothers them about themselves.”

Unfortunately, he says, there are some patients who want procedures that simply will not give them the outcomes they want. “For example, surgery cannot always give the same effects as the latest filters,” he says. Common requests that Dr. Levine has to explain are simply impossible? Making the whites of your eyes instantly brighter, filtering your skin tones and blurring or de-focusing parts of your body or spots on your face.

On the flip side, common plastic surgery procedures that are achievable by facial cosmetic work include improving the look of one’s nose, cheeks, and lip contour. Levine says a surgeon can soften wrinkles and eliminate sun spots, using a combination of Botox and lasers that can make skin smooth. Surgery can hide the bump on your nose–and in many instances, fillers can be used to camouflage a bump, making this an achievable goal for many. Another extremely popular request addresses a cosmetic issue that selfies have helped bring to light: the desire to make lower eyelids less hollow, something Levine says can be achieved with fillers, which can be used to add volume to the lower eyelid to make you look less tired.

In most cases, selfies help give doctors a better understanding of how we want to look and the the message they deliver is that most women still want to look like themselves–two thumb’s up for that.

For more beauty tips, check out 11 ways to prevent face wrinkles without having to stop smiling for good and  4 ways to deal with back sweat.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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