Health Team

Snapchat filters are finding their way into cosmetic surgery

Posted November 12, 2018 5:26 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2018 6:29 p.m. EST

Social media apps allow us to edit and share perfect images with the world in seconds. Now some of these pictures are finding their way into doctor's offices.

People are seeking cosmetic surgery to achieve the same look they get through filters.

"If I'm posting something on Instagram, I will edit it every time before I post it," says Madeline Sabbheh, a student at North Carolina State University.

"Especially now that you can fix blemishes and anything you don't like about yourself," adds fellow NCSU student Parker McLawhorn.

Snapchat is a social media app with some goofy filters that users can add, but it can also give you an airbrushed look or larger eyes or other embellishments.

"So this one does your makeup a little bit, right?" says McLawhorn. "It makes your eye lashes longer, and clears up your skin."

Some people have become so addicted to how these filters and quick fixes make them look that they want to look like this in real life.

"Sure enough, they are coming in, they've got their phones in hand and they are saying I want to look like this," says Stewart Collins.

Collins is a plastic surgeon in Raleigh. He says patients coming in with pictures of celebrities that they'd cut from magazines used to be the norm. Now it's mostly about social media."

"Every week we see someone who has brought a photo in that they've done something to and they are trying to show us what they want," Collins says.

A British doctor first used the term "Snapchat dysmorphia" earlier this year to describe this phenomenon and the name has caught on. Doctors around the world say it's a trend.

"I definitely think it's on the rise," says Anna Churchill, CEO and founder of Synergy Face and Body. "We see more and more people as the popularity of social media continues to grow."

Experts in the field say it's actually making their jobs easier -- they say people are starting with more realistic expectations because they are starting with themselves.

"I personally think that wanting to look like the best enhanced version of yourself is much healthier than wanting to look like Jennifer Lopez or Jennifer Anistan when that's not who you are and you are never going to look like that," Churchill says.

Others fear it could lead to more serious conditions like body dysmorphia disorder -- becoming preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance.

"Obviously, everything in moderation, right?" Churchill says.

The cosmetic surgeons we spoke to for this story say they take the psychology of the patient into consideration and will not operate if they feel that person is suffering from a body image disorder or could be at risk of developing one.

Meanwhile, those who use social media say they aren't shocked to see this as a trend.

"I feel like it's so common nowadays that people are altering the way they look, so i am not really surprised," says McLawhorn. "I think it may be a feedback loop. Since we can look good in the filter, we want to look good in real life more."

And those lines -- between what's real and what's not -- continue to blur.