The rise of ‘Snapchat surgery’ – why young Irish women are spending big on looking ‘picture perfect’ for social media
Irish millennials are resorting to cosmetic surgery in order to get the ‘picture perfect’ look they want to project on social media, Independent.ie can reveal.
In previous years, cosmetic surgery was favoured by high-income earners, traditionally females over the age of 35 who preferred botox and neck-lifts to slow down the ageing process; but in 2017, women as young as 18 are hoping to go under the knife (or needle) to look like their favourite influencer or model, whom they feel more acquainted with than the generation before them because of the intimacy social media provides.
Pre-internet, it used to be case of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ but now it’s the Kardashians they have to keep up with and their millions of clones clogging their newsfeeds every day.
Dr Peter Prendergast, President of the European College of Aesthetic Medicine and Medical Director of Venus Medical said there’s “no doubt” social media is the impetus for a cosmetic surgery revolution among those aged 18-25.
“On Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, they tend to see themselves in different lights and angles and some are not so flattering. 10 years ago, it was just photographs and people looking at other people in magazines…but now they see themselves in video,” he told Independent.ie.
“I’ve quite a few patients who are fitness instructors or singers who see themselves on social media and YouTube; they’ll be more animated and see things like dimples in your face or asymmetry you wouldn’t notice staring in a mirror.
“It can be challenging to fix these changes.”
“I see quite a few younger people that are not filling lines and wrinkles, they’re modifying their features – straightening their nose because of how they see themselves in profile view or getting a chin enhancements because they feel they have a weak chin in profile view; lips are a big one.”
Aisling Holly, MD of Enhance Medical Group, said the increase in demand directly correlates to the use of social media, but adheres to their strict rules in order to avoid normalising these treatments.
“Historically, when we had young girls coming in for fillers, they naturally had a thin top lip: if you have something and lack confidence and can be fixed, by all means address it.
“Now we have girls with perfect lips wanting to get fillers, so it has to be about safe practice.
“Long term, it becomes like anything - it’s like somebody having mink lashes put on, these treatments and products, you buy into it.”
Similarly, Dr Prendergast emphasised the importance of maintaining ethical standards in his practice, telling us: “You have to be careful when patients are looking for an exact look because there’s no such thing as perfection, we always are best to manage patient expectations and be realistic in what can be achievable.
“I ask what they’re looking for, we’re lucky enough to have a 3D imaging system called Vectra, so we take a picture of their face and it’s like looking in the mirror. Then I can simulate procedures with the software - add a bit of volume in the chin and cheeks. If they’re looking for too much, we wouldn’t treat them.
“It’s rare, like when a patient points out perceived lines in the face and it’s very difficult to see them.”
But you can’t put a filter on your face at all times and there are psychological implications to consider when faced with the stark reality of your appearance away from the comfort of your airbrushing app on your iPhone.
“These poor young girls put themselves under pressure online to look amazing, how must they feel when they walk out the front door and what you see is what you get? People must get very disappointed when they meet people in real life and see the quality of their skin – we all have pores. But all you see are these airbrushed photographs or other photographs of girls who take their dress sizes down on Facebook,” Ms Holly says.
“How did this level of perfection creep in? Social media can be very positive and have a very positive effect with life in general, it’s also got the double edge sword because it makes people feel very inadequate.”
Enhance Medical Clinic also has strict rules in place, “the business model is based around a selection of criteria and we don’t operate under anyone under 18”.
In fact, anyone aged 18 to 22 must be joined by a parent, family member of trusted friend to ensure they’re getting the support they need, even if they’re undergoing a “simple” surgery.
“A choice that you make at 18 is very different to a choice you make at 25,” Holly explains.
And Ms Holly urged against overuse of treatments as it can age you.
“Irish celebrities don’t admit they’re having anything done, it’s the biggest secret. It’s not about looking younger than looking your best. You shouldn’t want the face of a 20 year old at 40. It’s about being age sensitive and looking appropriate.”
But it’s the younger women who know exactly what they want in comparison to those over the age of 35 who come in looking for some “maintenance”, according to Dr Prendergast.
“There’s a difference between younger patients and older patients – older patients just want to look a little better, fresher, more rejuvenated, but they’re not sure what they need and will leave it up to the doctor. Whether it’s for an event like a wedding if they’re feeling a bit tired looking.
“Younger women in their early 20s, know exactly what they want and almost tell you how to do it. They’re more educated, in particular with non-surgical procedures, and will look for something in particular like Buccal fat removal, which is the fat in the lower part of the face that can make the face look bottom heavy.
“They’ll want chin enhancements, lip enhancements or cheek enhancements.”
When it comes to surgeries, botox still remains supreme across the board. “Botox is still number one through across all countries really in terms of statistics, fillers, skin resurfacing, microdermabrasion – as skin resurfacing goes, it’s a deep chemical peel,” Dr Prendergast asserts.
It’s not all women flocking to go under the knife – there’s a significant increase in the number of gynecomastia (the reduction of ‘manboobs’) being done and Ms Holly said the ratio of female to male patients now stands at 60:40.
“A huge proportion of our market non-surgically is botox. We get awful lot of recent divorcees or those recently separated who are trying to get back out there. Throughout the recession period, they were getting botox because they were against younger candidates. There’s also weight loss, gastric banding and liposuction.
The number of men seeking treatments has increased to 15% in comparison to 10% of the Venus Medical patients five years ago. But perhaps it’s Dr Prendergast’s refreshing take on imperfections that synopsises the importance of appreciating your unique beauty: “Asymmetry is normal, a smile is so unique to a person.”