Is cyberbullying behind the rise of Gen Z in cosmetic surgery?


Image source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly

“Felt cute, might delete later.” It’s the perfect adage for the heightened emotions that come with showing up on the internet – an anxiety many young people have grown up with. It’s no secret that the combination of social media with the general insecurities of adolescence creates a perfect storm for psychological stress, which has only increased over the past 10 years. Platforms continue to sprout cyberbullies and unrealistic beauty standards, and the ripple effects are now creeping into the offices of plastic surgeons.

According to a 2017 study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, “Teen bullying may be a key driver of interest in cosmetic surgery.” In the group of nearly 2,800 participants aged 11 to 16 who were bullied, 11% expressed a desire for plastic surgery, especially among girls.

Recently, TikToker Audrey Peters shared how the negative comments amplified insecurities around what she called a double chin, ultimately contributing to her decision to go under the knife. “Obviously the comments on the internet are super fucking brutal. And everyone would be like, ‘Stop shopping and get your double chin removed,'” Peters said in an interview with the New York Post. But Peters’ choice to speak candidly about what was done and why provides both transparency and inspiration.


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Millions of users have taken to TikTok to show off their runny nose and chin liposuction, setting cosmetic trends. Just a quick hashtag search #chinlipo will earn 60 million views. Surprisingly, the social media trending cycle can be beneficial.

“Sharing and transferring patient knowledge and experiences has helped de-stigmatize non-surgical and surgical procedures,” said a dual-board board-certified facial plastic surgeon. Akshay Sanan, MD, tells POPSUGAR. “Patients are more educated than ever before coming in for their consultation.”

However, it also has drawbacks. “When procedures, both surgical and non-surgical, begin to expand online, they are often requested by patients,” says Dr. Sanan. So while facial trends may fade in just a few months, this megaphone-like lip lift might not. In addition, not all treatments are uniform. “My job is to understand patients’ goals and determine if this look is really what the patient wants or if it’s influenced by societal trends or pressures.”

Echoing this responsibility, board-certified dermatologist surgeon Jason Emer, MD, often references a lyric from the Coldplay song “Clocks”: “Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?” Although Chris Martin’s sad early 2000s jam is probably is not describing the moral dilemma facing cosmetics suppliers, it offers much-needed introspection.

“A patient who has a selfie they want to look like is a problem, because it’s an altered view of themselves,” Dr. Emer tells us. “But if someone has severe acne scars or a sunken chin and we change the whole dynamic of their face, it can change their whole life,” he adds. Ensuring that patients make the right decision for themselves long-term, both physically and emotionally, can be helped by having a therapist – a service that many providers like Dr. Emer are now opting for.

Los Angeles-based therapist Stephanie Anyakwo, LMFT, which works with aesthetic clinics, agrees. “Providers can talk to patients about the benefits of therapy and the importance of meeting certain therapy needs before having a cosmetic procedure,” says Anyakwo, who notes that it doesn’t need to put a wrench in your neither is the timeline. . “There’s a misconception that therapy should be an ongoing process, and it isn’t. Many therapists provide treatment on a short-term, as-needed basis.” So even a one-time appointment before committing to surgery can be helpful.

Anyakwo also points out that “cosmetic surgery alone does not cure”. If left untreated, the effects of cyberbullying and negative self-images can lead to anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. “This is where going to therapy or seeking some kind of counseling has a real benefit in healing your emotions, behaviors and thought process.”


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