As the selfie craze drives people to alter their looks, doctors tell GN Focus how you can use cosmetic surgery to your advantage without going overboard
We’re living in a selfie-obsessed world. It all starts with a smartphone: You tilt the device just above your eyeline to get the right angle. You give your best pose — a sideways smile, pouting lips, or a dreamy stare — and snap! Afterwards, you choose a flattering filter, erase out unsightly blemishes and soften colours.
The awareness of what is possible has increased and more and more people are choosing cosmetic procedures. It is not wrong, as long as you know what is safe and what is crossing a line. Defining expectations and counselling patients about real possibilities is 90 per cent of my 60-minute consultation.
Then, with a single tap, you are ready to upload to social media, hoping to be liked several times over. Now, experts are showing concern about a side effect of the selfie age — Snapchat Dysmorphia, which refers to a trend of people seeking cosmetic procedures to replicate their filtered faces without the filters.
“Yes, social media has forced us to be self-aware of our looks,” says Dr Sanjay Parashar, CEO of Cocoona Centre of Aesthetic Transformation. “The awareness of what is possible has increased and more and more people are choosing cosmetic procedures. It is not wrong, as long as you know what is safe and what is crossing a line. Defining expectations and counselling patients about real possibilities is 90 per cent of my 60-minute consultation.”
New data gathered by researchers says those who regularly use social media are more likely to consider getting plastic surgery to improve their appearance, particularly if they prefer photo-editing sites and apps. “Half of the patients at our centre come through social media,” says Dr Sana Sajan, Director, American Aesthetic Medical Center. “And half of them from looking at previous patients who have got a procedure done.”
On social media, everyone else seems flawless. We compare and then we can’t help but despair because in comparison, our lives are not so perfect. “People on social media are definitely very concerned about their looks,” says Dr Marian Coutinho, Expert Dermatologist, Kaya Skin Clinic. “There is a lot of pressure to look good and perfect all the time.”
Patients should be reasonable and rational. Dreaming of some drastic changes is not always fruitful.
If selfies are pictures of yourself (edited to perfection), how could you want to look more like yourself? Photo-editing apps provide a glimpse of perfection that doesn’t look too difficult to chase and thanks to the medical advancement, minor flaws can be corrected using safe non-surgical options. “Selfies are the first point where people notice what is bothering them about themselves,” says Dr Parashar. “So, if they don’t like the shape of their nose, they start exploring options. Every patient that I see considers the need for a while; it’s not an overnight decision. A small nose bump, or under-defined lips or chin can be corrected using fillers. Wrinkles can be removed using Botox, scars can be treated using safe lasers.”
Dr Sajan says, “Patients should be reasonable and rational. Dreaming of some drastic changes is not always fruitful.”
Dr Coutinho says selfies taken with various filters appears to erase out flaws and this can be done by cosmetology treatments like peels, microneedling and various other services. “Cosmetic surgery is meant for very obvious flaws such as an unshapely nose, loose skin on eyelids, or small chin.”
As the demand and acceptance of plastic surgery has gone up, today typical patients for a plastic surgery consultation are mostly common people — patients as young as 18 and as old at 70.
“Earlier we had the rich and affluent among to us, but now we get a lot of normal people,” says Dr Parashar. “They save up to invest in themselves. They know and understand how of image and self-confidence can help them live better lives. The basic concerns are common, they don’t like their current appearance. It could be a nose, a under developed chin, smaller breasts or fat-related issues.
“It’s also interesting to note, cosmetic procedures are not limited to women. More and more men are getting procedures done. We see about 35 per cent male patients today, [compared to] 5 per cent when I started my practice in Dubai ten years ago.”
A typical patients could also be someone who has seen other people’s results in the media or in person and they come for the same procedure. Dr Sajan says, “The 19- to 23-year-old ladies come for nose surgery and breast implants; 30- to 40-year-olds for breast reduction; 45- to 65-year-olds for face lift or eyelid surgery and 25- to 55-year-olds for liposuction.”
People sometimes have problems according to age groups too, as Dr Coutinho finds the younger ones coming because they are not happy with their looks, and older ones have issues after multiple pregnancies or age-related problems like sagging skin or eye bags. “Younger patients want to improve their nose, breasts, etc.”
Mental health experts are also concerned that people who use selfie filters can experience a disconnect between what they’re putting out into the world on social media — not only what they really look like, but who they really are.
“Selfies have led to a larger peer pressure and can have a negative impact on many,” says Dr Parashar. “Some people feel ashamed of themselves. Counselling is important for such patients, which starts at home with parents needed to pay attention to their children’s development.”
There is a constant need to look perfect and that is creating a lot of unhealthy competition in the process.
The selfie craze could also warp the confidence of many younger people in unsettling ways. “You can’t compare yourself to someone else,” says Dr Sajan. “What that is possible in your friend may not be possible in you.”
Dr Coutinho says, “There is a constant need to look perfect and that is creating a lot of unhealthy competition in the process.”
While understanding a person’s desire to feel good about themselves, doctors feel people need to keep their goals realistic, and make cogent and informed decisions for themselves.
“Patients need to be counselled properly,” says Dr Parashar. “They need to see the various possibilities and how the change can impact them. Also, it’s the responsibility of the doctor to give them time. I like to give my patients a 15-day cooling off period. This gives them time to rethink and be sure of the change they are going for.”
It’s always better to consult with an expert plastic surgeon and not just anyone. “Only an expert can provide you correct and possible answers to your questions,” says Dr Sajan. “They can direct your desire to the correct path and help you to understand the changes that are suitable for you.”
It requires a good doctor-patient relationship and empathy from the doctor. “It may take a lot of time and sessions but is definitely worth it,” says Dr Coutinho.
There’s always a downside to any access. Concerns over going overboard are rife, there are also reports that plastic-surgery trends are moving away from overly-enhanced looks towards a more natural appearance. So have people finally come to realise how to use surgery to their advantage?
“Yes, patients are asking for natural results, though it was always the case technically,” says Dr Parashar. “Barring a few who want to stand apart quickly. I like to stay away from these patients, as bad work bites back eventually.”
Dr Sajan agrees. “In the past all that patients wanted was a beautiful nose, but nowadays they ask for a natural looking nose and face. They don’t want others to feel they have done surgery.”
Natural look is the norm now as people do not want to attract attention, says Dr Coutinho. “That is why they prefer a subtle change than a drastic makeover.”