The fact that it’s National Selfie Day here in the U.S. is, in and of itself, a bit ridiculous. After all, the word wasn’t even officially recognized until 2013, when the Oxford English Dictionary declared it the Word of the Year.
Our general distaste for such an absurd ‘holiday’ aside, some doctors say the millions of #selfies uploaded to Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook today (and every day) are causing an increase in the number of requests they’re getting for plastic surgery and non-invasive cosmetic procedures like Botox and fillers.
Although the jury is still out on whether selfies are solely to blame, there is no denying that the number of cosmetic procedures is on the rise. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, combined surgical and nonsurgical procedures in 2015 were up 20 percent compared to 2014, with a staggering total of 12,792,377 procedures performed.
How do I look? Kim Kardashian West, 35, is so well known for taking selfies that even her waxwork at Madame Tussauds in London has her posed with her camera phone in hand – at a flattering angle of course
Dara Liotta, MD, is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side who has seen the uptick in what she refers to as ‘tweakment requests’ firsthand.
Young people aren’t coming in and asking for major overhauls to their appearance, she said. They want to do small things on a more regular basis, and selfies, she maintains, are one of the main reasons for it.
‘Many social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat, are image-based, and our presence on these platforms forces us to see our own image repeatedly, and to look at our image with a more self-critical eye than ever before,’ she said. ‘Gone are the days of a morning farewell to ourselves in the mirror and a quick passing glance at our reflection in the Bergdorf’s window during the day. We are now forced to gaze at, and compare, our self-selfies and the selfies of others on a constant basis.’
In addition to the sheer quantity of selfies being taken, Dr. Liotta believes the front-facing camera on our smartphones and the ‘flipped-image effect’ they create are driving many of the requests she gets.
Citing a story from TheAtlantic.com, Dr. Liotta explained: ‘Whether or not a selfie is reversed after being shot is a major factor in how we perceive our photo. If you’ve used multiple mobile apps to take pictures of yourself, you’ve probably noticed that some, like Snapchat, show you the view of yourself that you would see in a mirror, and that others, like GroupMe, flip the image horizontally and save your selfie the way others would see you. We are used to seeing our image in the mirror, and we’ve grown accustomed to our mirror faces, and familiarity breeds liking. When our mirror image is flipped (this is what others see), it often looks strange and less attractive to us.’
Let’s look at selfie queen Kim Kardashian West as an example:
Mirror, mirror: With the number of selfies Kim Kardashian West, 35, has taken, she’s probably just as used to seeing her face horizontally flipped from a forward-facing camera (right) as she is to seeing her reflection (left)
Beverly Hills-based dermatologist – and Kim’s ‘all-knowing skincare guru’ – Harold Lancer, MD, FAAD, has also seen the effect of selfies in his practice.
Dr. Lancer, however, attributes it, in part, to the criticism that can come from them.
‘I get 12 year olds coming in for acne who ask me for an acne program, tell me they don’t want any pills, and ask me to start them on an anti-aging program,’ the Lancer Skincare founder said. ‘What does a 12 year old ask me that for? They say, “Well, you know, my girlfriend told me I look bad on Snapchat.” It’s self-criticism and peer-criticism happening.’
Group selfies can be even worse than solo selfies, Dr. Lancer added. ‘The hairstylists tell me the same thing, the eyebrow people tell me the same thing – that people come in because they didn’t like their image with a group that somebody else posted. It’s self-abuse and others triggering it to be amplified.’
For some patients, simply understanding why they’re unhappy with their selfies is enough. In addition to the mirror-image issues, Dr. Liotta also said the angle of the face combined with the forward-facing camera can cause distortion.
‘Selfies exaggerate certain features such as the nose,’ she said. ‘The parts of your face that are closer to the camera seem larger than other features in comparison to non-selfie photographs, where the distance from the camera to your face is longer and has more of a flattering effect on your face. Some people describe this as the fish-eye effect of smartphone lenses.’
People also tend to tilt their chin down when they take a selfie, which can make it seem like they have more of a double chin than they really do.
If changing your angles isn’t enough, Dr. Liotta recommends seeking out a board-certified specialist before undergoing any procedure ‘and to make sure your doing it for your self, and not just your selfie.’
You may also want to think about your make-up routine. ‘Make-up trends and watching YouTube tutorials about how to do the trend are another thing that draws people’s attention to their own features, and often in a critical way,’ she said. ‘Many plastic surgery treatments, from laser, to filler, to surgery, are aimed at tweaking the way that the light hits the face, and eliminating the shadows across the face. This is exactly the same as contouring and strobing. Plastic surgery just does it in a way that is more permanent, and won’t wash off in the morning.’