Do Facebook and Facial Plastic Surgery Go Hand in Hand?

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and other forms of social media are changing more than how we communicate with one another; these channels are changing how we see ourselves, and driving trends in facial plastic surgery.

The latest numbers from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) show that there was a 31 percent jump in requests for facial rejuvenation procedures as a result of social media photo sharing in 2012.

Overall, more than 700,000 procedures were performed by AAFPRS members in 2012. Cosmetic procedures accounted for 73 percent of all procedures in 2012, up from 62 percent in 2011, according to the newly released data.

But the most eye-opening trend seen in the new data is the way in which social media is affecting our desire for facial plastic surgery.

Thanks to social media, we see all sorts of photos of ourselves from all sorts of not-so flattering angles that we may not "like" or want to share or tweet, says New York City facial plastic surgeon Andrew Jacono, MD, an AAFPRS board member. He is often inundated with social media images during consultations as people try to illustrate what they like or don't like on their own face. "People literally come in with iPhones with 300 pictures of themselves and they blow them up and show you the very specific area that they want to treat."

Non-surgical treatments made up two-thirds of all cosmetic procedures requested in 2012. While they are still popular, the number was down compared to 2011, and this has a lot to do with the way we see ourselves on Facebook, he says.

Social media images show things that we wouldn't see if we were staring straight into the mirror, he says. "You can look in the mirror and see wrinkles that could benefit from Botox, but these angles tend to suggest surgery such as a bump on the nose that is seen only in profile shots." Rhinoplasty (nose surgery) and facelifts were among the top requested procedures by people who cited social media as their reason for seeing a facial plastic surgeon.

(The stakes are high as these images are now seen by the masses with just a simple tag and click. Photo albums used to gather dust on coffee tables, but now our photos can show up on anyone's stream or page just like that!)

At the same time, it would appear that people are using social media less for research. "We thought people were using social media to get information about plastic surgery procedures, but what we are seeing is that they are influenced by social media, but doing research in a different way, namely through word-of-mouth and other Internet sources," says Albany, NY-based facial plastic surgeon Ed Williams, MD, AAFPRS Group Vice President for Public and Regulatory Affairs.

Last year just 7 percent of prospective patients used social media to research doctors and procedures, down from 35 percent in 2011. Instead, 57 percent got their information about plastic surgery online, with 33 percent relying on referrals.

The Man in the Mirror

Also on the rise is male facial plastic surgery, according to the new 2012 stats.

"It is insane," Jacono says. "Years ago, I would do three male face lifts a year. Now I do three a week."

Much of this is due to the desire to remain in the workforce longer and compete with younger counterparts due to the staggering economy. Notably, the number of men having BOTOX® — or "Brotox," as it has been dubbed in the popular press — was up 27 percent from 2011.

Other reasons that men are opting for nips and tucks? They are getting nagged or at least gently nudged by their significant others. Twenty percent of men say their decision to have plastic surgery was influenced by their partner.

Still, women accounted for 80 percent of all procedures in 2012. Two-thirds of women having procedures are mothers, and a large percentage of them are in their 40s and 50s. There has also been an uptick in female "family procedures," with a 16 percent increase in mother-daughter procedures and a 12 percent increase in sister-sister procedures.

Milestone events were also a driving factor, with weddings and high school reunions topping the charts as the events most likely to be an impetus for surgery.

AAFPRS members point out that choosing a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and listening to his or her advice is the best way to make sure you are happy with the results of your procedure.

The new stats are based on an Internet poll of AAFPRS members, conducted Dec. 7, 2012 to Jan, 7. 2013.

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    Yael Halaas, MD, FACS

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    Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York

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    Min S. Ahn MD

    The Aesthetic Wellness Center
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