Is our selfie culture leading to more plastic surgery?

It seems like everywhere you go people are taking selfies to document where they are, who they’re with and how they look. The act of taking selfies is so engrained in our culture that ‘selfie’ was the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year in 2013.

As we take selfies and spend more time looking at ourselves, it can lead to some men and women taking a more critical view of their appearance. Filters on smartphones can blend in blemishes, wrinkles, signs of aging and sun damage, but when people want to translate the filter’s effects into real life, that’s where plastic surgery comes in.

Facial rejuvenation options fall into two main categories: minimally-invasive and surgical procedures.

Minimally-invasive procedures

Younger patients who are looking to rejuvenate their faces typically don’t have dramatic signs of aging, so they’re not eligible for some of the more powerful techniques which tend to involve surgery. Non-invasive procedures – this is more the needle than the knife -- are more appropriately done in an outpatient setting. 

Neuromodulators/Botulinum toxin type A

Neuromodulators like botulinum toxin type A are drugs that essentially weaken or paralyze some of the muscles for facial expression so wrinkles and expressions become softer. This can help younger folks because they tend to have more subtle signs of aging.

There are risks when using neuromodulators, but they’re temporary. Depending on where you inject them, you can weaken some muscles of facial expression so it’s possible that patients can lose some of their expressivity. That’s usually not a problem for those people who aren’t bothered by it. Also, you can have injections on your forehead or in between your eyebrows that change the shape or position of your eyebrow. If it gets too near your eyelid, however, you can sometimes get a droopiness of the eyelid, which is temporary.

Neuromodulators in the face tend to last about three months. It’s a great way to “stick your toe in the water” of cosmetic enhancement, “try something on for size” and, if you like it, come back and get it again. If you don’t like it, it will wear off.

Soft tissue fillers

Fillers are generally used to fill creases or lines like the nasolabial folds around the mouth. The idea is to make the creases softer and blend in more harmoniously with the other features of the face.
Depending on which soft tissue filler you choose, they last for different amounts of time. Some soft tissue fillers may only last a month, some can last seven or eight months, some of them last a year and a half, and some of them can be permanent. 

If you’re trying these out for the first time, a judicious use of the appropriate soft tissue filler that gives you a short-term result in the three- to seven-month range will allow you to try it on, see how you like it, come back and get more. If you don’t like it, then it’ll wear off on its own. If you really don’t like it, there’s an “antidote” to some of the fillers that essentially dissolves it within a day and makes it all go away. Some people take comfort in knowing if they really hate it, they can do something about it.

Surgical procedures

In 2016, facelifts were one of the top five cosmetic surgery procedures, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This is attributed in part to our culture’s focus on the face. Other surgical procedures for facial rejuvenation include brow lifts, eyelid tucks and neck lifts. 

These powerful, more invasive surgical techniques can deliver some very significant and impactful results. They’re performed in an operating room and involve more downtime. 

If you seem to be very concerned about the appearance of your face, you don’t have to be 60 or 70 years old to quality for rejuvenation. Rejuvenation can happen at any time, as long as you’re an appropriate candidate. Look for an American Board of Plastic Surgery board-certified plastic surgeon who can do an analysis to determine the appropriate procedure to deliver the desired results.

Jeffrey Janis is a professor in the department of plastic surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 


Live healthier and stay inspired.

Get tips from Ohio State experts right to your inbox.