The increasing visibility of cosmetic surgery is having a dramatic impact on society.
The number of cosmetic procedures has nearly doubled in the last decade. With this dramatic rise showing no signs of slowing down, we want to take a closer look at its impact on society.
Why are the numbers rising?
Between 2005 and 2015, the number of procedures jumped from 28,900 to 51,000, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).
The increase has been attributed to the likes of young starlets such as Kylie Jenner, and more established celebrities such as Kelly Rowland and Renee Zellweger, being open about their nips and tucks.
Renee Zellweger – before and after cosmetic surgery
The role of social media
There is one element that surgeons and industry spectators hold accountable more than any other for this increase: social media.
Plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer, or Dr. Miami, told Highsnobiety.com, “I think the influence of social media is enormous and cannot be overstated.”
With Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and more available at the touch of a button, fans now have a new level of 24-hour access to their favourite celebrities in a way that was unprecedented ten years ago.
High-profile social media personalities, such as Kylie Jenner (94.5m followers on Instagram), use a variety of apps to share their day-to-day lives, and also to showcase the cosmetic work they’ve undergone.
Combine this content with round-the-clock availability and a potent pressure mounts on followers to also attain this glossy, surgically-enhanced perfection.
The impact can be evidenced in a recent survey from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Over 40 percent of surgeons in the survey reported that patients said looking better in a selfie was their reason for getting surgery.
As such, social media and the modern connectivity between fan and public figure can be held responsible for both glorifying and normalising what was once considered an extreme step in self-improvement.
The impact on younger generations
Cosmetic surgeons are especially worried about the consequences of this increased visibility on one particular sector of society – the young.
Plastic surgeon Dr Alex Karidis told The Telegraph, “Increasingly, we’re seeing women in their early 20s – and sometimes younger – having work done.”
The rising demand for injectable facial fillers and botox among ever-younger patients has been directly attributed to the new wave of celebrities using social media, such as reality TV stars Chloe Ferry and Amy Childs.
“These women have grown up reading about celebrities having Botox and fillers [on social media], and find it completely acceptable”, Dr Karidis continued, “They take it for granted that if they want smoother skin or plumper lips, they can have them – and see no reason to wait.’
Yet the impact of social media does not limit itself to non-surgical procedures – young people are also requesting invasive operations such as liposuction, breast implants and buttock augmentation.
Plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer said, “Ten years ago, women in their late teens and early twenties rarely sought plastic surgery, but now young people are doing it because they are seeing themselves on social media from different angles next to models like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian with curvaceous bodies.”
Modern Family’s Ariel Winter famously wore a dress to the 2016 Golden Globes that didn’t conceal her breast reduction surgery scars. The 18-year-old tweeted afterwards, “Guys, there is a reason I didn’t make an effort to cover up my scars! They are part of me and I’m not ashamed of them at all.”
A word of caution
Young people are advised to reduce the amount of time they spend on social media. Instagram, in particular, has been held responsible by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPC) for harming the mental health of young people.
The RSPC said, “Young people…are bombarded with images that attempt to pass off the edited off as the norm. This practice is contributing to a generation of young people with poor body image and body confidence.”
The society calls for an icon or watermark to be placed on edited photos in order to notify users of airbrushing or filters.
In addition, BAAPS president elect Michael Cadier warned of the dangers of people undergoing surgery too young. He told BBC Radio One’s Newsbeat, “[Young people are] still immature, vulnerable and it’s too big an operation with too many potential life-long implications.”
Mr Cadier advised teenagers to investigate other avenues before resorting to permanent cosmetic procedures.
And so the message is clear – if you are interested in cosmetic surgery, take a break from social media and consider all the non-surgical alternatives first. The combination of the two might just change your mind.