It’s the age of selfies, and who doesn’t enjoy using Snapchat and Instagram filters? There’s dog ears, unicorn horns, and funny face swaps. How could harmless app features negatively affect a person’s mental health?

Well, aside from the cute graphics, filters also enable people to adjust their facial features – smaller nose, bigger eyes, fuller lips, contoured face, and poreless skin. Essentially, filters are used to make women look prettier. And today’s society dictates that when you’re prettier, you’re getting more likes on social media.

This is where the problem comes in: people, especially women, are getting fillers and plastic surgery to permanently achieve how they look in their filtered photos. Recent studies are looking into this situation, as it may be a symptom of BDD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

How Filters Trigger Self-Esteem Issues

A recent study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery Viewpoint suggests that filters used in Instagram and Snapchat are causing people to seek cosmetic treatments in order to have better selfies. With 600 million and 187 million daily active users respectively, these applications may be negative effects on some people’s mental health. More than ever, people are driven to achieve the ‘best version’ of themselves physically because of social media pressures.

“The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder,” according to the JAMA paper.

With smartphone cameras getting better and better, people are increasingly turning to their camera lenses to attain the perfect photos. You may have even taken hundreds of photos in the same place and had to choose which was the best shot to upload on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. You even had to check which ones show the smallest imperfections and delete the ones that ‘made you look fat’.

This relentless fixation on having perfect, flawless photos can trigger BDD. As cosmetic doctor Dr. Tijion Esho coined it, “Snapchat dysmorphia” may be a more appropriate term in this case.

Perfect Selfies and Plastic Surgery

A 2018 poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (AAFPRS) reports that 55 percent of facial plastic surgeons had patients seeking surgeries to make them look better in selfies. This percentage went up substantially from the 13% result in 2016.

In addition, photo editing apps like Snapseed and Facetune allow users to digitally manipulate their facial features real-time. With a few tweaks, any person could see what they would look like if they had smaller noses, fuller lips, larger eyes, slimmer cheeks, and other alterations they want.

“It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well,” doctors wrote in the JAMA study.

It’s becoming increasingly common for surgeons to encounter patients bringing in filtered selfies of themselves as reference.

As Dr. Esho says, “We now see photos of ourselves daily via the social platforms we use, which arguably makes us more critical of ourselves. Patients using pictures of celebrities or Snapchat-filtered versions of themselves as reference points is okay. The danger is when this is not just a reference point, but it becomes how the patient sees themselves, or the patient wants to look exactly like that image.”

Dr. Esho insists that he will turn away patients who seem obsessed with translating their filtered looks in real-life. He had a previous experience where he politely refused to treat a patient, and advised her to take some counseling help, which the patient agreed to have.

On the same note, New York City plastic surgeon Mark Schwartz says that patients often ask for treatments such as Botox, fillers, liposuction, and breast augmentation in order to make them look like the celebs they see on social media.

“They have grown accustomed to seeing themselves in a somewhat distorted way: on a tiny screen and in photos that have been edited to remove imperfections and take advantage of lighting tricks,” Schwartz says.

Comparing photos with celebrities is also a catalyst in upping society’s beauty standards. A good example would be the Kardashians’ plump lips, which created a wave for people to get lip fillers to get the same look. Even Botox parties even became a trend, and one woman actually got a botched lip job on one ‘party’.

A look into Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies Body Dysmorphic Disorder along with the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. People who have BDD are constantly fixated on slight or nonexistent ‘imperfections’ on their appearance. They can think about these defects for at least one hour a day. As such, obsessing over their appearance affects how they function socially, occupationally, and physically. According to current statistics, one in 50 Americans suffers from BDD.

People with BDD often try to hide their perceived imperfections through different ways such as makeup or covering them with clothing. Some however, go to greater lengths to ‘fix’ their defects and resort to plastic surgery.

This is why cosmetic clinics must take extra precautions before giving treatments to patients. For people with BDD, surgeries actually worsen the situation. Undergoing counseling or seeking help from psychiatrists should be advised for BDD sufferers.

Just recently, the Joint Council for Cosmetic Procedures (JCPP) released a regulation mandating all its member clinics to screen patients’ mental health status before undergoing treatments such as fillers, Botox, and other surgeries.  

Owning Your Beauty Amidst a Cosmetic-Inclined Society

With the emergence of Snapchat dysmorphia, we realize the unrealistic beauty standards that the social media bubble presents. Seeing the perfect faces and bodies of celebrities, influencers, and friends may bring to light a lot of physical insecurities that a person has. Always keep your mental health in check whenever deciding to undergo any cosmetic procedure.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you should stay away from aesthetic clinics forever. With the wide array of procedures, you do have many options to choose from. We recommend Courthouse Clinics for your cosmetic needs.  Their licensed experts will help you determine which treatments are right for you.

To wrap it up, remember that beauty has no perfect, one-size-fits-all mold. Embrace all your features, and appreciate that every mark makes you unique. Real beauty doesn’t follow any rules, and confidence alone is beauty in itself.