Selfies can be a helpful tool or an unhealthy influence as you consider plastic surgery.
It wasn’t so long ago that prospective patients came to plastic surgery consultations with pictures of celebrities, pointing to aspects of the star’s appearance that they admired and wanted to emulate. The patient would look in a mirror and point out the flaws they hoped plastic surgery could correct.
Now, more and more patients bring in selfies to show what they hope to change with plastic surgery, often doctored images with idealized versions of themselves. Now it’s not just celebrities who can have airbrushed images of themselves. With filters on Snapchat and Instagram and inexpensive apps like Facetune, anyone can change their looks in selfies.
How Selfies Can Be Helpful in a Plastic Surgery Consultation
The best candidates for plastic surgery have clear and realistic expectations about what a procedure can do for them. They understand the positive changes it can bring, but also its limits and potential risks.
Used well, selfies can be a useful tool in explaining to the surgeon the changes you’d like to make in your appearance — what flaws you would like to correct. Even appearance-enhancing filters can be helpful in this conversation. They can help you show the doctor the look that you are seeking. Talking about selfies can be a way to communicate your desires. And it allows the doctor to explain how plastic surgery can or cannot deliver those ideal results.
As part of a good consultation, selfies can aid communication and help you reach a clear understanding with your plastic surgeon. They can help the doctor plan a procedure that will meet your needs and leave you happy with the results.
How Selfies Can Drive Unrealistic and Unhealthy Expectations for Plastic Surgery
The problem with selfies comes when we focus too closely on them and they make us unhappy with aspects of our appearance that should be perfectly acceptable. A growing number of patients are seeking plastic surgery to look better in their selfies.
A typical selfie, not manipulated, can distort our appearance. The standard setting on a phone’s camera, for example, is a wide-angle view, which tends to make the nose look larger than it really is. Some patients come to their plastic surgery consultation wanting a nose that looks smaller in their selfies. If a doctor were to respond to this request without questioning it (which no reputable plastic surgeon would do), the result could be a nose that is disproportionately small. Other patients, in their consultations, point to minor flaws that are only visible in selfies such as, a small dent at the end of the nose, or nearly invisible skin blemishes. These tiny issues could be addressed with plastic surgery, but should they be? An obsessive and overly critical focus on our appearance in selfies can lead to a desire for unnecessary and potentially risky procedures.
The other problem with selfies can come from the fantastic ideals fostered by photo-manipulation tools. In a social-media world where other people appear in altered and idealized form, we can start to compare ourselves to unrealistic standards of beauty — to the looks of people who, in real life, don’t look like they do on the screen. We can be lured to want that imaginary look for ourselves. Sure, it’s fun to see doctored images of ourselves with wide eyes, thick hair, plump lips, and absolutely perfect skin — and entertaining to add rabbit or dog ears. Used in a playful way, these tools can bring smiles and laughs. But for some people, the distorted images can lead to unhappiness with their actual appearance and an unhealthy desire to be the person in the manipulated pictures. Researchers have even come up with a name for this obsession: Snapchat dysmorphia. It’s a new and growing form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a clinical condition that is best treated with therapy, not with plastic surgery.
The Importance of a Good Consultation
If you have selfies that can help show the changes you would like to make with plastic surgery, by all means, bring them to your consultation. Do your research ahead of time, too, to help you understand what’s involved in different procedures — what they can and can’t change, and their potential risks. Then be prepared to listen as the surgeon explains how plastic surgery can help and which procedures might be right for you.
Dr. Richard Fleming is a board-certified plastic surgeon serving patients in the Los Angeles area. Call the Beverly Hills Institute of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery at (310) 278-8823 today or contact us online to schedule a personal consultation.