More plastic surgeons are seeing clients’ Snapchat-filtered photos as they field requests for enhancements, a trend some are saying fuels body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
Snapchat, a social media app known for photo messages that disappear, offers a face filter feature with options that allow users to easily edit away blemishes and enhance lips and eyes. Boston University School of Medicine researchers – in a recent article published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery – say this is fueling “Snapchat dysmorphia.”
People who suffer from BDD suffer extreme stress and anxiety over their appearance. The mental disorder can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors, the Mayo Clinic notes.
The authors of the JAMA article say easily accessible photo edits such as those in Snapchat and Facetune are “altering people’s perception of beauty worldwide” in a dangerous way that feeds into BDD tendencies. Fine lines, red spots and moles can digitally disappear with a swipe, and people want to achieve that look permanently.
A study published last year by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers found that about 13 percent of patients asking for cosmetic surgery suffer from BDD.
Patrick Byrne, director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, told USA TODAY a week rarely goes by without one of his patients taking out their phones and showing him selfies. Often, they prefer to show him imperfections in photos compared to his in-office mirror, he said.
Those who show him Snapchat-morphed images usually ask him for “absurd and unrealistic” results, he said.
The most common procedures those clients, typically between 17 and 22 years old, ask for: oversized eyes and lips, narrowed jaw lines, refined nose and flawless skin.
“Many young people do not seem to distinguish or care that the goal they are seeking looks cartoonish and unreal,” Byrne said.
Byrne said he often is left having a tough conversation about what’s possible, including some eye widening options, plumper lips and so on.
Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, didn’t have a formal statement replying to the JAMA opinion piece but did say helping users express themselves in a fun way is a priority for the company.
Bringing altered images to the plastic surgeon isn’t new.
Alan Matarasso, clinical professor of surgery at Northwell Health System/Hofstra University and president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said his clients have been bringing him photo-edited images for years – just years ago these images were airbrushed magazine photos of celebrities.
He told USA TODAY the technology is “good and bad.” In some ways, a face filter could give someone a clearer idea of what their face might look like with, for example, plumper lips. On the other hand, Matarasso said “it can make people obsess over minor irregularities.”
“The reality is that no body looks perfect, and no one can look perfect,” Matarasso said.
Matarasso’s most common facial surgery requests are nose procedures, followed by (in no particular order) chin enlargements and eye and eyebrow procedures.
“Keep it in perspective,” he said, encouraging clients to be open to the reality of plastic surgery.
Ashley May, USA Today