Plastic surgeons say patients are coming to them with selfies of themselves edited using the filters on Snapchat or Instagram and asking to look more like the retouched photo.
Researchers at the Boston medical center have authored an article in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, which labels the trend “Snapchat dysmorphia” and argues that filters on apps are having a disastrous impact on people’s self-esteem.
Snapchat comes with a range of filters that immediately distort photos using artificial intelligence. They can make skin appear smoother, lashes look longer and bone structure appear more angular.
The report says these filters are sometimes triggering body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness that leads to compulsive tendencies such as excessive beauty procedures, wasting hours obsessing over non-existent flaws and withdrawing from social activities.
This trend is really concerning to doctors because filters on Snapchat provide not just idealistic standards of beauty but entirely unhuman ones, presenting “an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients”, according to the report.
Separately from patients specifically trying to look like their selfies, over half of plastic surgeons also report patients saying that they are seeking procedures so they can look better in selfies, according to the report.
Airbrushed, unrealistic representations of women in fashion magazines have been blamed for the increasing incidences of eating disorders and body dysmorphia in women and teenage girls. Third-party apps like Line Camera and Facetune gave users easy tools to make their faces appear thinner, more symmetrical and blemish-free, before posting them to Facebook.
The new report revealed that the kinds of facial surgery people are requesting has changed too. Previously, nose jobs were the most common request, but today people specifically want procedures that will have effects similar to selfie filters, such as nasal and facial symmetry, rhinoplasties, hair transplants and eyelid surgical procedures.
A photo of Frida Kahlo that Snapchat created for International Women’s Day in 2017, which was criticised for lightening her skin and making her features appear more symmetrical. Composite: Alamy & Snapchat