Snapchat Dysmorphia: Surgeons report that patients are trying to look more like their filters

By Marina Wang

Forget Megan Fox’s nose or Angelina Jolie’s lips. The new plastic surgery trend is to look like the glossy-eyed filtered version of yourself from Snapchat, according to a recent paper published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

“Usually people bring in photographs, but what I’ve noticed is this change in what they bring in, and it’s mostly selfies and filtered photographs of themselves rather than celebrities and models,” says Dr. Neelam Vashi, a dermatologist and co-author of the paper. A survey from earlier this year found that 55 percent of plastic surgeons had patients requesting surgery to improve their appearances in selfies, up from 42 percent from two years ago.

Photo-editing was once a luxury typically reserved models and celebrities, but with social media apps like Snapchat and Facetune, people can now achieve doe-eyes and creamy skin with the simple swipe of a finger.

Perhaps what’s most concerning is how filters can fuel body dysmorphic disorder—an excessive preoccupation with a perceived physical flaw that falls on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. An estimated two percent of the population have this disorder, and sufferers often seek out surgery to fix their perceived flaw. “This could be another trigger for developing body dysmorphic disorder—in that way, it’s alarming,” says Vashi.

Vashi has patients come in with selfies on a weekly basis, often looking for neonate features—bigger eyes, thinner noses, and fuller lips. “It’s more in the younger population, 40 and younger,” she says.

For these patients, Vashi tries to set realistic standards for what plastic surgery can accomplish—she can help clear up blemishes, but her patients will never look exactly like their filtered versions. Her office is lined with mirrors to show her patients that with the right lighting and angles, patients can improve how they look in a selfie without surgery. “We should all be realistic and not blur these lines between reality and fantasy,” says Vashi.