Circle of influence: How social media influencers are shaping plastic surgery trends
The rise of social media has not only transformed the way we communicate but also has significantly influenced our perceptions of beauty. Influencers, with their extensive reach and relatability, play a pivotal role in steering the beauty narrative. This digital revolution has significantly impacted the cosmetic surgery industry.
Access to information and transparency
The sphere of beauty and cosmetic surgery has not been left untouched in the era of digital transformation, where every aspect of our lives is increasingly intertwined with the online world.
"With the rise of influencers, everything has become much more accessible," said Amalfi. "For previous generations, celebrities were the primary points of reference, often shrouded in speculation about their cosmetic procedures. Now, Gen Z has a wide variety of influencers at their fingertips, many of whom are candid about their surgical journeys."
This democratization of information has led to greater curiosity and engagement among younger generations, who approach these topics with more awareness and often with prior knowledge.
Yet, it is not just about the openness of influencers. Digital platforms like TikTok serve as catalysts for trending treatments.
"There's definitely been an uptick, and you can almost draw a direct correlation between the request for certain procedures and when influencers actively promote them," said Ramanadham, noting the recent popularity of "Barbie Botox" after it trended on TikTok, showcasing the immense influence such platforms wield.
This increased access to information can be a double-edged sword, though. The transparency and candor that many appreciate also comes with some drawbacks.
"Transparency is crucial," said Amalfi. "But showcasing the journey after surgery is as significant as the before and after. Any complications or challenges can sometimes be overly emphasized on social media, potentially spreading misinformation."
Ramanadham agreed, adding that while it's valuable for influencers to share personal experiences, they must tread carefully.
"Speaking about personal experiences is valid, but it's crucial to stress the importance of consulting with qualified professionals and ensuring you're making informed decisions," said Ramanadham.
Influencer endorsements: a double-edged sword
In the age of Instagram and TikTok, influencers wield substantial power over their audiences, and this is especially true in the realm of beauty and cosmetic surgery. They have undeniably increased the flow of information as they openly share their treatment and surgery journeys, making the once clandestine world of cosmetic surgery more accessible to the average person. Potential pitfalls also come with this flood of information.
"There's an influx of information from influencers who primarily share their personal experiences, which may not be universally applicable," said Ramanadham.
The influx of beauty influencers promoting or endorsing cosmetic treatments without a proper medical background can, at times, lead to a skewed perception of the process and results.
"Patients are coming in with a broader knowledge of the available minimally invasive surgical procedures," said Amalfi. "However, along with this broad scope of information, there's also misinformation or exaggerations regarding complication and risk profiles."
This narrative, fueled by influencers, can sometimes give potential patients the wrong impression. For instance, an influencer might rave about a specific treatment they underwent, leading their followers to believe it is the perfect solution for them, too. Yet, as Ramanadham warned, someone might come in "wanting exactly what their favorite influencer had, down to the specific type of implant and its placement. This isn't always the best option for everyone given individual anatomies."
Influencers often have partnerships or affiliations with certain brands or clinics, which, if they are not transparent about them, could lead to inaccurate perceptions.
"It's okay to gather a broad overview of options from influencers and online research since we have more access to information now," said Amalfi. "However, always remember there's a motive behind online content, whether monetary or for popularity."
The personalized nature of plastic surgery, which requires careful consideration of individual anatomies and unique needs, often gets overlooked in the sweeping and generalized narrative portrayed on social media. It is essential to remember that each person's journey is unique. Cosmetic procedures are not one-size-fits-all.
"Just because a particular look or treatment worked for one person doesn't mean it's the best option for you," said Ramanadham. "So, gather all the relevant information and ensure that whatever treatment you're considering aligns with your unique needs and desired results."
Trends vs personal choice
The boundary between personal choices and the latest trends is increasingly blurring in today's digital age. Furthermore, the ripple effect of these influencer-endorsed trends is evident in clinics worldwide.
Yet, patients might be left with lasting effects from a trend that fades as quickly as it began.
"Plastic surgery comes with permanent consequences, risks and complications," said Ramanadham. "It shouldn't be approached as 'My favorite influencer did it, so it's cool, and I should do it too.'"
A major complication is the proliferation of heavily edited images that live on social media. These images, often showcased by influencers, set a high, sometimes unattainable goal.
"A significant issue today with digital media is the prevalence of digital editing and Photoshopped images," said Ramanadham. "When patients base their expectations on edited photos from influencers or celebrities, it sets an unrealistic standard."
This illusionary beauty standard can lead to disappointment and potential dissatisfaction in the long run.
"Digital media has allowed us to see a wide array and variety of people," said Amalfi, noting that it's also responsible for promoting often fleeting beauty standards. "Always remember there's a motive behind online content, whether monetary or for popularity. The most unbiased opinion and comprehensive education you can get will come from a conversation with a qualified physician."
The responsibility of choice
Digital personalities amplify their voices through social media by giving audiences a window into the expansive world of cosmetic enhancement. These insights range from noninvasive treatments to major surgical procedures, all presented in a curated manner that often glorifies the results.
The caveat is these glimpses often miss out on the nuanced journey and understanding of cosmetic surgery. The responsibility, then, does not just lie with the influencers to present a genuine account but also with viewers and patients to discern, research and make informed decisions.
"Social media and digital media have undoubtedly shifted beauty standards," said Ramanadham. "But with the introduction of social media, there's been an acceleration in the propagation of beauty trends. Whether it's Botox, fillers or surgeries, they all come with their own risks. This can lead to disappointment and can set someone up for dissatisfaction in the long run."
Her advice is clear-cut and foundational: "Ensure you're looking at reputable sites to gather information. More importantly, if you're considering a procedure, consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon."
The need for viewers and potential patients to sift through the noise and make responsible choices has never been greater as influencers continue to shape the beauty and cosmetic surgery narrative. The lines between personal choice and influencer-driven decisions can blur, so it is critical individuals reflect on their motivations.
"The most unbiased opinion and comprehensive education you can get will come from a conversation with a qualified physician," said Amalfi. "It's always important to work with a responsible surgeon, and often the best physicians will tell you no. And if that is the case, don't move on and find a surgeon that will give you a yes if someone trustworthy has identified a limit in the best interest of your safety and good taste."
Do it for you, not a trend
In the digital age, the power and responsibility of beauty influencers cannot be underestimated. Transparency, education and personalized consultations become paramount as cosmetic procedures become increasingly mainstream. Embracing cosmetic enhancements should be a journey of personal empowerment and confidence, not just following the latest trend.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.