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Is 'Selfie' Culture Driving Folks to Cosmetic Surgery?
  • Posted March 7, 2024

Is 'Selfie' Culture Driving Folks to Cosmetic Surgery?

The “selfie” culture on social media appears to be intensifying people's desires to undergo cosmetic procedures, a new study suggests.

Time spent on Snapchat or Instagram seems to heighten a person's interest in such procedures, researchers found. This was particularly true if folks used filters and photo-editing applications to alter the personal pictures they posted.

“While there are many factors that likely contribute to this, social media usage did likely increase the desire, amongst a subset of patients, to seek cosmetic procedures,” concluded the research team led by senior researcher Dr. Neelam Vashi, an associate professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Patients also were more likely to want a cosmetic procedure if they followed celebrities and influencers on social media, or if they followed accounts of plastic surgery or dermatology clinics that show the results of cosmetic procedures.

These factors all gained steam during the pandemic, with folks stuck at home spending more time on social media and subsequently showing more interest in cosmetic procedures, researchers said.

For example, study participants who followed social media accounts showing the results of cosmetic procedures rose from about 32% pre-COVID to 51% post-COVID.

At the same time, those contemplating cosmetic procedures rose from 64% to 86%, while those who'd consulted with a doctor about a procedure rose from 44% to 68%.

Overall, about 78% of participants post-COVID said they thought a cosmetic procedure would help their self-esteem, compared to 48% pre-pandemic, researchers found.

The new study was published March 1 in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.

“While there was an increase in cosmetic focus during the COVID pandemic, until now there has not been data highlighting a clear link or factors that made patients more or less likely to participate in cosmetic treatments,” Vashi said in a university news release.

For the study, Vashi and her colleagues surveyed 175 people at an outpatient dermatology clinic in Boston between October 2019 and June 2021. The survey included 75 cosmetic patients, 49 people there for general dermatology, and 51 non-patients.

Why the greater interest?

Smartphone and computer cameras used for selfies and video chat often distort facial features, causing people to become dissatisfied with their appearance, the researchers said.

“This is corroborated by data demonstrating that increased video call utilization is associated with higher acceptance of cosmetic surgery by patients,” the researchers said. “As our world continues to shift to including more virtual components, it is more likely that these numbers will only increase.”

Exposure through social media to photos of attractive people and direct-to-consumer advertising of cosmetic procedures further fuels interest in improving one's appearance, researchers added.

As a result, people turn to photo editing apps like FaceTune, Lightroom or SnapSeed to edit photos before sharing selfies on social media, researchers said.

The research team advises cosmetic procedure practitioners to discuss social media and video platform usage with patients, as a means of understanding their desire for a cosmetic procedure.

Such a discussion also can help the patient gain a better understanding of the potential results, the researchers added.

“Quality care begins with quality conversations, and we hope this study encourages providers to ask about all aspects of a patient's life to better understand their motivations and goals of care,” Vashi said.

More information

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has more on social media and plastic surgery trends.

SOURCE: Boston University School of Medicine, March 4, 2026

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