When cosmetic surgery hit its first peak, clients would sometimes seek out cosmetic surgeons and doctors that could help to create the look of a celebrity. From Kate Middleton’s or Jude Law’s nose, Keira Knightley’s or Hugh Jackman’s eyelids and Penelope Cruz’s or Brad Pitt’s lips, clients began to bring pictures of their favourite facial features of popular celebrities, hoping to emulate their look.
In recent years, beauty standards have shifted further. Instead of focusing on achieving the beauty standards set by celebrities, clients are turning to their own filtered selfies in a quest for physical perfection. However, are filtered images an achievable beauty standard or a detriment to mental health?
The quest for aesthetic perfection is nothing new. However, the rise in selfies has led to an increase in selfie filters and airbrushing apps. These apps are then blurring the line between what is naturally beautiful and what is an unachievable fantasy.
The filtering apps work on both the face and body to smooth skin, removing natural lines, make facial and body features look bigger or smaller, superimpose six packs etc. However, with applying filters becoming as normal as taking a selfie; it can distort what you think about your appearance and what you believe can be achieved through cosmetic treatments.
The problem with filters is that we feel we must look like the filtered versions of ourselves. People may use a filtered selfie for social media, work and dating apps, leading an expectation that does not equal reality. The problem is this can cause lower self-esteem. If you regularly adapt photos of yourself to make them look better, then you become less happy with the reality of your appearance.
With the increase in selfie-taking and image filtering, the perception of beauty, and how people see themselves is changing. People take more and more selfies and become obsessed with ensuring their images are aesthetically beautiful. However, this obsession and the fact that the line between real beauty and fantasy beauty is becoming blurred can trigger issues such as body dysmorphic disorder, known as BDD.
The condition of body dysmorphia affects around 2% on the population and is classed on the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most people understand that a feature they may not like is normal, but they want to change or improve it. BDD sufferers sincerely believe that a normal feature is abnormal and spend a vast amount of time and energy worrying about it.
No matter how effective a cosmetic treatment, a BDD sufferer will never be happy with the outcome; in fact, any cosmetic treatments can actually exacerbate their anxiety. BDD can be focused on one specific area of the body or may be an overall appearance concern. It can cause further issues of self-harm, depression and effect relationships and social life too. Treatment includes psychological support and therapy.
According to a study by Boston Medical Centre in the US, 55% of cosmetic surgeons say that patients are coming to see them to improve how they look in selfies. Furthermore, not only do people want to improve their appearance when they take photos, but they want to look like filtered versions of themselves.
However, where the issue gets blurred, which can be difficult for surgeons and doctors, is whether it is the reality of their appearance or the image they see is what they want to improve. In many ways, managing client expectations is one of the most challenging and important parts of a cosmetic practitioner’s job.
In the past, clients would typically visit a surgeon or doctor to seek their expert medical advice to find out what options are available and what is achievable. However, what is more, common now is that people will come with filtered images and perhaps examples of what others have done believing that they can achieve the same results while their facial profile may be completely different.
The primary problem with selfies, whether filtered or not, is that they are not an accurate representation of how people actually look. Typically, the image in a selfie is mirrored while what is at the centre of the photo is bigger, while everything on the periphery comes across as smaller. Depending on the angle of the photograph, the facial features can be altered dramatically.
Selfies have caused people to consider neck lifts and rhinoplasty (nose jobs). However, research has shown that selfies can make noses look 30% bigger than they actually are.
So, if selfies are causing people to consider cosmetic surgical or non-surgical treatments, what can surgeons and cosmetic doctors advise?
Selfie angles and the quality of the phone camera can be misleading. The best thing that people can do is to take an accurate photograph or video of themselves from a reasonable distance. Professional lighting is important too so that the photograph is an accurate representation in normal life and not from a typically blocked or unnatural light from a selfie angle.
When you have accurate photos or videos to assess; it may alter the way you see yourself, and you may not think surgery or treatment is necessary. Furthermore, a selfie only shows you from a static viewpoint, not from all angles and not when you’re talking or moving.
If you want to proceed with a cosmetic treatment to improve your appearance, then it is wise to have a consultation with an experienced cosmetic doctor or surgeon. Such a professional has expertise across a range of different cosmetic options and will be able to give an honest assessment of what is achievable and what the downsides and complications are and what would work best for you.
Looking at the results others have achieved may be a helpful guide as to what cosmetic treatments can do, but it’s important to understand cosmetic outcomes can vary between individuals and the person in the photographs may have different facial, skin or body structure.
Furthermore, cosmetic treatments require a degree of post-treatment compliance with aftercare and instructions. Surgical procedures usually require more aftercare then non-surgical treatments and failure to comply with such can dramatically affect the aesthetic outcome.
In most cases, cosmetic medical procedures can be a significant boost in a client’s confidence and happiness. However, sometimes, patients may find that one treatment makes them desperate for another in a constant quest for perfection. It is crucial to assess whether you are thinking about cosmetic treatments for the right reasons.
Cosmetic treatments should be viewed as part of the jigsaw of self-improvement, not the complete puzzle! Sometimes people somaticize and convert anxiety or depression into a body part they don’t like and hope that by improving the aesthetics of such will resolve all their problems. Unfortunately, it rarely does!
As a cosmetic doctor, Dr Comins aims to help people feel and look their best, which is why he will only accept clients who want cosmetic treatments for the right reasons. If you are considering a cosmetic treatment, please get in touch for an initial consultation, so that we can tailor the right treatment or treatments that will achieve the best results for you.