Social Media and Plastic Surgery: Hope or Hinder?

Usage of social media platforms, has embedded into our lifestyle, although serving numerous benefits, it may also have unconscious negative impacts.

Beauty Standards

Idealized beauty standards have been plastered into society. The constant pressure to resemble those beauty standards and acclaim it as “natural beauty” is unfathomable, despite becoming a common practice nowadays 一 the cosmetic industry itself values at £340 billion. Throughout the decades, beauty has moulded into lifestyle choices, and a societal obsession, predominantly crafted by social media trends. Although, there is no universally accepted truth of beauty, many sacrifice personal happiness and satisfaction to fulfil the insatiable pressures of culture.

So, does plastic surgery provide artificial hope for those who are unsatisfied with their physical appearances, or solely engulf in societal hype implemented by social media?

Society today prioritises the concept of beauty, through implementing unrealistic and dynamic standards, that pressure primarily women to reflect and compare their physical appearances against those of others. Although, the level of complacency is substantial in determining the cause of an increase in demand for cosmetic surgery, undoubtedly social media is a contributory factor.

Snapchat and Instagram

Accounting for social media platforms, content is tailored through recent search history, based on app algorithms. Social demographic, including quantitative and qualitative data such as age, topics of interest and previous social media posts are all accounted for. A representative of a study, conducted in Saudi Arabia, focusing on the impacts of social media and undergoing cosmetic surgery, 48.5% of respondents were influenced by advertisements to undergo cosmetic treatments. Of them, two-thirds considered undergoing non-surgical procedures, and only 18.7% would consider undergoing surgical procedures due to social media influence (Arab, 2018 ).

Although the sample of the study is unrepresentative and cannot be generalised for international countries, the correlation between targeted social media advertisements and cosmetic surgery is explicit. Evidently, such advertisements are constantly promoting the targeted demographic to consider cosmetic surgery, through comparative and supposed self-improvement ideals. Although the impact of unregulated cosmetic surgery advertisements is arguable, for example emerging debates such as “Should cosmetic surgery advertisements be banned?”, cosmetic surgery advertisements may impede the self-esteem of individuals. In 2017, for example, a survey of Facial Plastic surgeons found that 55 per cent of surgeons reported seeing patients who requested to improve their appearances in selfies (Relly, 2019 ).

Filters and Lenses

Filters. As explained by Google, filters in terms of photography are “a screen, plate, or layer of substance which absorbs light or other radiation or selectively absorbs some of its components”. Notice, “selectively absorbs some of its components”, embracing this concept into the features of Snapchat and Instagram, filters have the ability to alter someone’s physical appearance, immediately, however only virtually.

Notably, Snapchat obtains the “Lenses” accessibility, where users can alter their virtual appearance, through computer vision. Computer vision uses pixelated data to conclude a specific object, identifying the person, (the same technology is applied to self-driving cars).[1]  During October 2015, Snapchat lenses were solely used for entertainment purposes, “posing as dogs with elongated tongues”, “flower crowns” and “killer bunny”. However, an aspect that progressively exerts pressure, is the “beauty element”, recently morphing into “Snapchat Dysmorphia”, referring to the psychological phenomena of patients bringing filtered selfies to their surgeons (Relly, 2019 )

Snapchat and Instagram provide filters that allow users to change their skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, alter the size of their eyes, lips, and cheeks, and change various aspects of their physical appearance (Ramphul, 2018 ).The desire of cosmetic surgery patients to resemble their refined complexion strongly depicts an unrealistic expectation of themselves. Interestingly, cosmetic surgery patients are unaware about the negative impact: frequently patients desire attributes of a physically altered image, by using similar terminology and verbal descriptions. Dr Michelle Yagona, a facial plastic surgeon in New York city, noticed a distinct pattern amongst patients “I don’t ever really have somebody that comes in and says I want to look like Angelina Jolie or I want to look like a Snapchat filter of myself. But I start to notice that they talk about things that are very similar to that without using those words” (Brucculieri, 2018). Despite many other factors influencing an individual to prefer cosmetic procedures as a means of changing one’s appearance, receiving psychological support and counselling provides a wider beneficial impact.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

A study conducted by The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, at University College Medical School, detailed that three patients claimed that they were not pre-occupied by their appearance prior to the surgery and that their symptoms of BDD developed only after surgery, which they believed had been done badly (Veale, 2000). The evidence, according to the study, is minuscule of the likelihood of developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder after cosmetic surgery influenced by social media. From a general perspective, it is reasonable to predict that after undergoing cosmetic surgery satisfaction rate would immediately be higher than previously; however, when patients were discontented with the post-appearance, excessive anger, guilt and frustration fuelled a spiral of undergoing subsequent procedures. Moreover, for those who already underwent multiple cosmetic procedures, after 50% of the procedures the pre-occupation transferred to another area of their body (Veale, 2000). Thus, the study concluded that nearly all patients were dissatisfied with their post-cosmetic surgery appearance and experienced adverse symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder afterwards. 


Conclusively, centring upon the impact of social media, having an incline on opting for cosmetic surgery, it is evident that social media fuels an insatiable desire to resemble one’s virtual complexion. Frequently, such influences from Snapchat or Instagram filters are not identified at first. However afterwards when social media partakes a significant part in daily lives, detrimental influences endeavour a sense of satisfaction, both internally and externally.

Shanum Dewan, Youth Medical Journal 2023


Arab, K., 2018 . Influence of Social Media on the Decision to. PRS Global Open .

Brucculieri, J., 2018. ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ Points To A Troubling New Trend In Plastic Surgery. s.l.:Huffpost .

Ramphul, K., 2018 . Is “Snapchat Dysmorphia” a Real Issue?. s.l.:s.n.

Relly, M., 2019 . Psychology Today. [Online]

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[Accessed 12 December 2022].

Veale, D., 2000. Outcome of cosmetic surgery and ‘DIY’ surgery in patients with body dysmorphic disorder. Psychiatric Bulletin.


By Shanum Dewan

Hello, I am Shanum Dewan at Denbigh High School in the United Kingdom. I am interested in the field of medicine, especially gyneacology and neurology!

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