Selfies Fuel Cosmetic Surgery Boom, Doctors Say
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The Fiscal Times
June 4, 2014

The selfie revolution is upon us and everywhere you look someone is holding up their smartphone and snapping a picture of their face, which will then promptly be posted to a social media outlet—or three.

This social phenomenon is having a surprising impact on consumer behavior, according to some plastic surgeons, who are crediting an uptick in business to social media’s selfie obsession.

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Last year, the cosmetic surgery business was worth around $12.8 billion, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons—and it’s only expected to keep climbing…one selfie at a time.

Dr. John Borkowski, a plastic surgeon in Connecticut, told a Hartford news station that more and more people are getting work done to look better online.

“It’s all social-media driven,” he said.

One specific group driving the plastic surgery business boom is engaged women whose left hands are sure to be plastered all over Facebook and Twitter.

Dr. Matthew Schulman, a Manhattan plastic surgeon, told The New York Times that he sees about eight patients a month specifically for hand treatments. “Everyone wants to see pictures of engagement rings, whether it’s looking at their wish pic or sending photos to their friends to announce an engagement,” Shulman said. “They are becoming more aware of what their hands look like, much more than getting a manicure.”

But a flawless selfie comes at a price. Shulman’s office charges $200 for a single microdermabrasion treatment and $1,000 for a package of six.

It’s not just handwork though. Plastic surgery in general is on the rise. In fact, cosmetic surgical procedures rose 6.5 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Injectables increased by 21 percent over that same period.

Likewise, a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) found that one in three plastic surgeons reported seeing an increase in requests for facial procedures because patients wanted to look better online. Between 2012 and 2013, doctors said they saw a 10 percent rise in nose jobs, a 7 percent rise in hair transplants and a 6 percent rise in eyelid surgery.

"Social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and the iPhone app Selfie.im, which are solely image based, force patients to hold a microscope up to their own image and often look at it with more self-critical eye than ever before," Dr. Edward Farrior, president of AAFP, said in a statement. "These images are often the first impressions young people put out there to prospective friends, romantic interests and employers, and our patients want to put their best face forward."

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.