So Long, Selfie Esteem: Instagram Filters Spark a New Plastic Surgery Trend

Women who want to look like their digitally altered pictures all the time are asking doctors for the ‘social media makeover.’

(Kylie Jenner/Instagram)

Feb 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

“Can you guys help me pick a filter? I don’t know if I should go with X-Pro II or Valencia. I want to look tan,” sings the female narrator in last year’s hit song “#Selfie” from DJ duo The Chainsmokers.

Sure, the viral track might have been called a low point in electronic music, but those lyrics perfectly sum up the pressure some women feel to look attractive on Instagram. Now it turns out that our ability to digitally alter our selfies on the platform is driving a new wave of plastic surgery: the social media makeover.

Instead of toting photographs of Victoria’s Secret supermodels or celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to the plastic surgeon’s office, people are taking their filtered selfies to the doctor.

“This is a huge trend,” New York City–based surgeon Elie Levine told the New York Daily News on Wednesday. “People are bringing in pictures of themselves taken at a favorite angle or filtered and saying they want to look like that.”

Instagram filters can make an individual’s complexion seem brighter, help fade blemishes, and de-emphasize skin discolorations—every photo can be easily transformed into a glamour shot. If a user of the service chooses to, he or she can download a slew of other photo-editing apps that can soften their wrinkles and slightly slim their faces or bodies before they upload pictures to the platform.

Women are tired of looking fantastic and seemingly ageless on social media but not appearing that way in real life.

“I decided I wanted people to see that person in person,” 32-year-old Queens resident Nancy Chacon told the paper. Chacon said she used to rely on “either the Inkwell or Sutro filters or the sepia tones to hide blemishes.” After shelling out around $1,000 for laser treatments and BroadBand Light photofacial therapy, she feels she can go filter-free in her selfies.

“So many people asked, ‘What are you doing to your face? You look so young!’ ” Chaco said. “It was worth it.”

It’s not just New Yorkers asking for these kinds of procedures. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, there’s been a 33-percent increase nationwide in people who want work done because of how their appearance on social media makes them feel.

Of course, what people choose to do with their pictures on Instagram, or to their bodies in a plastic surgeon’s office, is their business. But it’s still pretty incredible to see how our modern-day obsession with perfection can bubble up from something as seemingly inocuous as the choice between Valencia and X-Pro II.