Dr. Saber’s Blog

The “Instaface Effect”: How Social Media Shapes Plastic Surgery Expectations

Remember the Dark Ages of… 2010? When photo editing required an expensive Photoshop license and at least some training, alongside a few hours of tweaks and airbrushing? Nowadays, most people carry enough processing power in their pockets to eliminate their acne, blur any expression lines, and give themselves a thinner profile – within minutes!

Professional-level filters are no longer the exclusive privilege of models and media personalities. Our social media feeds are full of colleagues, classmates, and neighbors who now look inhumanely smooth-skinned, eternally young, and permanently ready for a catwalk. And while we know none of it is real, it’s easy to forget what real faces are supposed to look like.

Researchers are still examining how this constant bombardment of unnaturally perfect faces affects people, but we’re here to talk about how it affects plastic surgery.

Social Media and Plastic Surgery

How does social media influence plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery has always seen its share of celebrity worship. Pretty much every plastic surgeon in the country has had one patient who requests “Nicole Kidman’s nose” or “Tom Cruise’s chin.” Sometimes, these surgeries are ill-advised, as Nicole’s nose will not fit every face — but with a few tweaks and a genuinely caring cosmetic surgeon, patients could eventually attain graceful and natural results for their rhinoplasty.

Yet, over the past two years, we’ve seen how social media promotes plastic surgery much more directly — but without the backing of “real faces.” Patients moved away from genetically-blessed Hollywood royalty and began taking their cues from newly-famous social media influencers or even their own edited selfies.

Even regulatory bodies are now taking notice. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, in 2020, 72% of cosmetic surgeons saw patients who “wanted to look better in selfies” coming for consultations. In 2021, a survey study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that nearly half of all patients reported social media played a role in their decision to seek plastic surgery.

The curious factor? Most selfie-editing apps have been around since at least 2018. So what changed? Different experts point to four different factors that have changed how social media promotes plastic surgery.

1. Ambitious and easy-to-use filters are now ubiquitous

And most of us have gotten better at using them!

In the beginning, “beauty filters” were confined to Snapchat, and most offered slightly unnatural ways to add make-up when you were wearing none. However, now most social media platforms allow you to crosspost what you edited on one app across all your social media handles – and the editing options are becoming much more sophisticated.

Through smart “shadow and light” alterations, it’s now easy to alter your nose profile and imitate lip fillers. Plus, even if you weren’t an early adopter, these options are now old enough that we’ve gotten used to the way our faces look with them.

2. The lockdown isolated us from the faces we love

Often, a key ingredient of self-esteem and body satisfaction is the way we compare ourselves with both others and the version of ourselves we would like to be. We can now see, in very physical terms, how we would look without all our real or imagined flaws.

This would’ve been tricky by itself – but then the lockdown happened. Depending on your situation, you may have spent anywhere from three weeks to two years isolated from the wider world or keeping your in-person contact to a minimum — in some areas, immunocompromised people are still stuck in isolation. This meant two things:

  • Our use of social media skyrocketed, as it was often the only way to keep in touch.
  • We spent a while seeing the “best version” of our friends and family but without access to the real deal.

After a few weeks, it became just too easy to forget that our friends also have acne and expression lines. Plus, for many of us, the lockdown was a stressful and frightening period. We may be paying the mental health bill for it for years to come. When we are surrounded by endless uncertainty and uncontrollable circumstances, it’s only natural to seek to control what little we can and to seek comfort in familiar details.

Social Media and Plastic Surgery

3. Work-From-Home put us in an unfavorable light

Nobody looks good on a Zoom or Google Meet camera. Unlike TikTok and Instagram, these were created to be efficient and professional, so they didn’t have access to the brushing tools we’ve become used to.

Suddenly, we’re all looking at our disheveled, poorly-lit reflections every day for long stretches of time. Granted, your priority during a work meeting or classroom lecture may have been on the data being presented – but if you found your eyes diverting to your miniature, horrified by your “new” jowls or “terrible” complexion, you are not alone.

4. Big industry names brought a new wave of acceptance

Cosmetic procedures have been around for decades, but most of the time, they were seen as a dirty little secret. Actors and artists were very careful about denying any use of Botox and thanking their personal trainers for the effects of liposuction. The process behind cosmetic surgery consultations or recovery times was shrouded in secrecy, making them feel distant and extreme.

In what’s probably one of the most positive recent developments when it comes to bodily acceptance, many celebrities have opened up about their experiences with plastic surgery. Kaley Cuoco matter-of-factly framed her breast augmentation as a “career investment,” while designer Marc Jacobs gave us very intimate access to his latest facial plastic surgery.

The new acceptance of cosmetic surgery brought about more information and a much-needed dose of realism to the equation. The trend then spilled over across each social network’s influencers. A quick search for the “plasticsurgery” hashtag on Instagram, for example, will result in over 6 million results. Many of these show before-and-after comparisons for many common procedures.

Social media and plastic surgery statistics

To gain the full picture of how social media is driving plastic surgery among millennials, we should look at numbers. Here, we can see that the plastic surgery increase due to social media has also changed the types of treatments people now choose.

Which plastic surgery is the most popular? To ensure we are comparing apples to apples, let’s divide this answer between more invasive procedures and minor aesthetic treatments.

Top cosmetic surgical procedures in 2022

Nowadays, the #1 plastic surgery in the US is the BBL or Brazilian Butt Lift. This increase cannot be completely attributed to social media, as it also reflects a larger shift in society’s beauty standards. Plus, in recent months, BBL repairs and reversals have become their own hashtag categories, and the public at large became more aware of the dangers of “combined procedures” (which involve liposuction and a fat transfer, either to the buttocks or the breast).

The effect of social media is more evident for facial plastic surgeons. Selfies and webcam reels are now our main way to expose ourselves, and many trending procedures aim to improve our facial contours directly:

  • Rhinoplasties or “nose jobs” are old friends in the field, but have risen by 10% in the past year.
  • Platysmaplasty, also known as a neck lift or chin tucks, helps your overall face look slimmer.
  • Eyelid surgeries, mostly aimed at making eyes look wider.
  • Browplasties, which may involve just a brow lift or a full forehead lift to rejuvenate the top third of the face.

Which cosmetic treatments are on the rise?

By and large, non-surgical cosmetic treatments are less costly, require shorter recovery times, and offer temporary effects. In addition, many of them are offered by “esthetic centers” run by cosmetologists rather than board-certified plastic surgeons — although the legality and safety of this practice are murky at best.

All these factors make it harder to put accurate numbers on them — we know they’re more popular, but we can’t tell the true extent of the trend. This category also includes some long-time classics such as Botox and lip fillers, as well as some newer high-tech options:

  • Platelet-rich plasma, to temporarily erase some expression lines.
  • “Liquid facelifts” use dermal fillers rather than internal stitches.
  • Kybella injections to get rid of a double chin.
  • Microneedling can make the skin look supple and firm again.

The dark side: Are social media influencers harming our mental health?

Anxiety, uncertainty, and unrealistic expectations can destroy your body image — especially when they go unrecognized and are constantly nurtured by deceptive heavily-edited pictures. And while seeking to improve yourself is not bad, it can be taken too far.

Lately, many mental health experts are now warning us about the possibility of “Snapchat dysmorphia:”  the emerging obsession with making your real face look just like a Snapchat filter.

Remember what’s possible and what’s real

When we look at someone’s perfect selfie, we are often not seeing how long that person took to retake the picture and find the best angle. For influencers, the pressure to always look perfect can hide contradictory results: if you look carefully, you can easily spot the same person with three different noses on the same day.

Why? Because these are all created with filters, not with actual changes in bone structure. Each nose will look perfect at its given angle, but none of them are real. Think of them as a “contouring mask” rather than something that will require a plastic surgeon. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous surgeons will still promise any result you want, with little regard to the permanent results they can actually achieve.

And yet, the constant chase for the “Instaperfect face” can devolve into body dysmorphic disorder — a complex mental health condition, which according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is also on the rise across all demographics. Even PubMed searches, dry as they usually are, now list “selfie dysmorphia” and “Zoom dysmorphia” in their titles, especially if you look for post-2020 publications.

Looking for facial plastic surgeons near LA? Get a first-class assessment from Dr. Saber

Aesthetic plastic surgery is at its best when subtle and natural-looking. This means that every procedure should be tailored to your specific bone structure.

For Dr. Sepideh Saber, this provides an opportunity to study each patient’s goals and unique fears. She is a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in facial procedures, liposuctions, and reconstructive surgery. Her training began at Stanford University and was then completed with successive residences and fellowships at the University of Southern California and New York University.

Beyond her clinical expertise, one of the key aspects of her work is her deep empathy and esthetic sense. Many times, patients come to her looking for more than just a cosmetic fix – but a chance to begin anew or to round up a larger process of self-improvement.

To request a consultation, call (877) 205-4100 or schedule a consultation online.

We serve patients in Encino, Woodland Hills, Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Burbank, Glendale, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Northridge, North Hollywood, Malibu, Topanga, Canoga Park, Reseda, Valley Glen, Chatsworth, West Hills, Winnetka, Universal City, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Downtown Los Angeles, Silverlake, and Echo Park.

Dr. Saber graduated from Stanford University’s world-renowned medical school and did her plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at the equally lauded University of Southern California. She then completed a fellowship at New York University in the extremely challenging and delicate disciplines of hand surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Saber offers a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. Former patients from all walks of life have praised not only their treatment outcomes but her caring, thoughtful approach to a wide array of appearance and health-related matters.
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    Dr. Sepideh Saber, MD, FACS

    👩🏻‍⚕️ Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
    🏫 Stanford/USC/NYU Trained
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We absolutely love her results✨

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    ✨Our patient came in for an Abdominoplasty with Liposuction of the abdomen and flanks. 

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  • What patients say about Dr. Saber

    Over 16 Reviews

    I was fortunate to find Dr. Saber after researching board-certified surgeons who specialize in breast cancer reconstruction revision surgery. I knew I was in good hands from the moment I spoke with the lovely and efficient Marlene, Dr Saber's office manager. Dr Saber patiently listened to my concerns and, after examining me, explained what I could realistically expect the outcome to be from another surgery. She also explained to me that she would need to review my previous surgery notes before we could discuss a possible further surgery, which I found comforting and highly ethical. I also discussed a couple of other procedures that I would like done, including fat removal from my large upper arms that had caused me great embarrassment for several years. Dr. Saber is an excellent surgeon who is incredibly kind and genuine. She truly understands the female body and the emotional aspect of body insecurities yet, she is transparent about what can and cannot be done and takes time to discuss realistic expectations and outcomes. My breast reconstruction revision surgery will take place in the New Year, but in the meantime, I have the most fabulous upper arms that I recently flaunted in a strapless dress (something I have not done in years). Dr Saber is truly one of a kind, and I still cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found her. I highly recommend Dr Saber.

    Linda DeCarlo November 29, 2023

    I don’t have enough wonderful words to describe Dr Saber and Marlene! I had a tummy tuck done this year and from start to finish the entire experience was amazing. Marlene is always so helpful and works so hard to make every detail a breeze for you. When I had my consultation with Dr Saber I was at a point of complete agony with my body. She instantly took that stress and frustration off my shoulders! As a woman not being heard by doctors for years I left that consultation with happy tears knowing I had finally found my Dr. It was a major surgery and I felt completely zen and at peace going in because she really does make you feel that safe. I didn’t think I would ever look the way I do now! She gave me the gift of having the body I kept fighting for. I will never stop recommending her.

    Monica Prusa October 9, 2023

    I saw Dr. Saber when I broke my wrist. I ended up having to have surgery. She did an excellent job and I am healing nicely. She was very professional, but was also very kind and compassionate. I would highly recommend her!!

    Sandy Schaupp September 13, 2022

    I LOVED DR SABER!!! There are a few reasons why I chose her. One was because she’s a female Doctor that was my goal who also did a good job (which I was able to confirm with all her before and after photos) and what sold me was my safety in mind. She made me feel like I was in the best hands ever along with Marlene who coordinated everything THANK YOU LADIES! Dr Saber helped me get back the body I have always desired. I had a lot of stomach fat from weight gain and I lost weight so a lot of my weight was in my front lower and upper abdomen. Now I have a super beautiful curvy body like an hourglass after a tummy tuck and lipo she did. She understood the assignment hahaha . I’m 32 years old no kids just wanted to enjoy my younger body looking and feeling beautiful and she really took good care of me. Even after hours I had an emergency due to my fault but she was there and got back to me very quickly and I’m very grateful. I also think her work says a lot because I stopped taking pain medication on the 3rd day after surgery and was fine with very minimal pain I was able to tolerate the healing process. Highly recommend going with her I just had a wonderful experience and would do it all over again if I had too. Maybe after I have kids. Thanks Dr Saber and team <3

    STEPHANIE d July 15, 2022

    Dr.Saber is by far one of the best plastic surgeons. I love how she takes her time to explain any procedure to the patients understanding. She always makes sure to answers any and all questions.From fillers to body contours she’s the one you want.

    Katherine Melara February 15, 2022

    Dr Saber is amazing! She is caring and very informative. I went in for fillers and she explained procedure step by step. I highly recommend her and look forward to future visits.

    Amanda Vazquez December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. She took time to listen, answer all my questions and was forthright in her recommendations. Her staff was friendly and helpful. I was very happy with the results and plan on going back. If you are looking for a first rate professional experience look no further she is the doctor for you!

    T R December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber is one of a kind plastic surgeon with a heart of gold. She is a well verse plastic surgeon that puts her patient's needs before anything else. She genuinely cares about every single patient, and her work speaks for itself. I notice every post-operative result on her Instagram (@saberplasticsurgery) the patients have this glow that radiates through. I have been going to Dr. Saber for my Botox for the past 3 years, and love the results every time. I know who I will be going to for any future plastic surgery needs, and will confidently refer family and friends to Dr. Saber for any Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery consultations.

    Rudy Garcia December 16, 2020

    I have nothing but great things to say about Dr. Saber! I am so pleased with my results from a breast augmentation she performed on me back in late June! She answered all my questions and concerns before and after my surgery. She’s very easy to get in contact with and she’s so nice. She made feel so comfortable throughout the whole process. 100/10 Lover her work!!

    Amanda Villegas October 15, 2020

    Dr Saber is hands down the best surgeon! She took her time answering my questions and explained procedure in detail. After doing liposuction six months ago, I am extremely happy with my results and I appreciate her so much.

    Marlene Cosentino October 15, 2020

    Dr. Saber is so kind and thorough with her patients! She is an amazing doctor and genuinely cars about everyone she comes in contact with. I would recommend her to anyone for any hand surgery or cosmetic procedure.

    Rachel Meach October 15, 2020