Sep 26, 2017

Plastic Surgeons on Instagram Are Not What They Seem

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Plastic Surgeons on Instagram Are Not What They Seem - ZALEA Article Banner

By Chelsea Campbell

Hop on Instagram to search popular plastic surgery hashtags and you will likely see thousands of photos of people who went under the knife to achieve their enviable appearances. But dig a little deeper, and you may discover that there’s more to these photos than meets the eye. In fact, these photos promoting body-altering surgeries may have in fact been performed by doctors who are not board-certified and even by many who have no formal training in plastic surgery at all.

If you are a consumer interested in having a cosmetic surgery procedure done, you might take to Instagram, one of the largest social media platforms available, to search popular hashtags related to the surgery you are contemplating. After typing your desired hashtag in the search bar, you would be presented with hundreds or thousands of images uploaded by either consumers who had the procedure done, or by the doctors who performed the surgery. Sometimes these images leave you impressed and lead you to further inquire about where the procedure was done -- but buyer beware. This is where you should be vigilant.

The Sinister Side of the Search
A study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that many top Instagram posts advertising cosmetic procedures do not actually come from qualified surgeons, but instead from untrained professionals like dentists, hairstylists, and spa therapists. While these extreme cases do not necessarily take up the majority of the posts under plastic surgery specific hashtags, they are out there, and that is case enough to be wary about who is advertising their services. The study showed that most of the posts come from foreign surgeons whose credentials are often not known or unregulated, and this can often lead to consumers being swayed by an inexpensive option internationally.  Botched surgeries and mismanaged non-invasive procedures like chemical peels, fillers, and injections run rampant where unqualified doctors perform. It is vital to know the qualifications that your potential surgeon has.

Check the Credentials
More alarming is the fact that, legally, any licensed medical doctor can perform cosmetic surgeries.  The study found that that 26% of the posts on Instagram under the hashtags #plasticsurgery, #facelift, #liposuction, #boobjob, #breastimplants, and #brazilianbuttlift came from doctors such as gynecologists, and general surgeons. Board-certified plastic surgeons accounted for less than 18% of the top posts.

If this causes worry, don’t panic yet. Just because a doctor is not board-certified doesn’t automatically mean they are unqualified. Other organizations like the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery train and certify doctors who are not plastic surgeons so that they are skilled and adept to practice cosmetic surgery.  This training often includes a fellowship and residency, which will take years to complete. What’s more, there is a difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon. Plastic surgeons focus on both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures, while cosmetic surgeons only perform the latter to enhance the appearance.

Do Your Research
If you are considering plastic surgery, whether you use social media for references or not, do your due diligence when selecting a doctor. Make sure that you inquire about the doctor’s credentials, their experience, ask to see their portfolio, and seek out honest reviews. After all, real-life doesn’t come with a filter, and any damage by untrained hands could have consequences beyond “likes” on social media.


Keywords: plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, botched, instagram surgeons

This article was produced exclusively for ZALEA.com.

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