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Selfie-improvement Projects

Posted On March 31, 2016

A new look for spring? Cosmetic procedures stay popular, inspired in part by all those photos on social media.

By Linda Lamb

There’s nothing like a fresh breeze of spring to stir up inspiration for a fresh look … lighter textures, prettier pastels, perhaps a rhinoplasty, mini lift or some laser skin resurfacing.

To be sure, a cosmetic procedure takes more thought and time commitment than adding highlights to your hair or buying some strappy sandals. But sometimes, the change of season coincides with a desire to change the image one presents to the world. Not to mention the special occasions that are just around the corner, such as weddings, vacations and swimsuit season.

For people of a certain age, the intimidating prospect of a high school reunion motivates many a self-improvement project. But these days, there’s another factor that’s motivating younger patients as well. It’s social media – the “look what I’m doing!” share-a-thon that has people posting pictures of themselves constantly on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“The selfie trend is influencing demand,” said Dr. Smythe Rich, a facial cosmetic surgeon in Columbia.

He said all of this sharing and self-exposure tends to make people think more about how they look and perhaps view themselves with a more exacting eye.

“It makes people more self-critical,” he said. “People derive a lot of self-esteem from their appearance.”

On a more positive note, he said, nonsurgical treatments offer numerous options in addition to traditional options like face-lifts and eye surgery. 

“Non-invasive procedures are making a lot of inroads,” he said. “The hottest thing now is the ability to restore or create upper facial volume,” including fillers that create beautiful cheekbones. “It takes us 10 minutes.”

Behind the trend

If you’re thinking about a cosmetic procedure of some sort, you have plenty of company. In addition to the proliferation of photos on social media, specialists in cosmetic surgery see several other reasons for the trend.

  • Baby boomers expect to look younger longer and are willing to pay for it. They’re already getting facials and using teeth-whitening products, and a cosmetic procedure might be the next step.
  • Millennials are not necessarily just stoking their egos as they pretty up for all those selfies. As of 2015, millennials are the largest demographic group in the workplace, facing fierce competition in the job market and wanting to look their best.
  • Also, some younger people are deciding to spend their own money on procedures their parents wouldn’t or couldn’t bankroll in the past – getting their noses or ears fixed, for example.
  • There’s an ever-increasing array of cosmetic options with varying commitments of money and time. You might consider a chemical peel for $400, Botox for $525, facial fillers for $700-plus, eyelid surgery for $4,550 or a mini lift for about $7,000 (“average costs” listed on RealSelf.com). 
  • For better or worse, an interest in pop culture celebrities also generates interest in their attractive features – J-Lo’s rear end, Angelina Jolie’s lips, Natalie Portman’s nose.

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found in its 2013 member survey that almost three-quarters of all procedures they performed were minimally invasive ones such as Botox and injectable fillers. 

Tried, true – and new

Nose surgery and breast augmentation are still common cosmetic procedures – and by no means is the face-lift a thing of the past. “Face-lifts have been done for 90 years, and we do more now than we did 10 years ago,” Dr. Rich said. A mini lift he calls a Whisper Lift has won praise from some patients for whom minimally invasive treatments had become less effective. 

“He had offered other alternatives, fillers, which I had done in the past, but I was ready for something that didn’t just hide the jowls but eliminated them,” one of his patients commented online.

Dr. Rich said one strategy that often works for patients is combining a couple of treatments. Examples: Botox for wrinkles, used with another injectable called Dysport. An acid peel coupled with an additional skin care regimen people can do at home. Botox for frown lines and also Sculptra, a synthetic filler, to improve the jaw line.

It might not take a $10,000 face-lift to enhance your looks and boost your spirits. An online comment from a woman who’s used Botox for years: “Nobody has ever asked if I’ve had anything ‘done’ – although I can tell a difference and feel that I look refreshed.”

Resurfacing lasers, topical treatments and various types of fillers also are popular, less-invasive ways to fight the effects of sun and aging, Rich said. Many people put a priority on limiting their down time after a procedure. His pragmatic advice is that shorter down time usually means more limited results. 

He said he also cautions patients against rushing to get the latest, newest – and most expensive – treatment or procedure. Time will tell whether some of them are promising more than they will deliver.

Clearly, there’s a lot happening in cosmetic procedures, and it can be a challenge to keep up. Be sure to talk to your doctor, talk to your friends, and read up on treatments and side effects. 

You’ll want to make sure you can smile in those selfies and show the world not just an attractive face, but a happy one.


Considering a cosmetic procedure? Some tips:

  • Be sure a cosmetic procedure is something you want; don’t let anyone else pressure you.
  • Carefully check out your doctor or surgeon’s credentials.
  • Ask patients/friends who’ve had the treatment you’re considering: “Is this something you would do again?”
  • Ask your primary care doctor for advice.
  • Be realistic about the results and the down time you can expect.
  • Know about the procedure or product that will be used and be informed about possible side effects.
  • Do not buy products such as dermal fillers on the Internet. They might be fake or tainted.
  • If considering a product or procedure that’s “the latest thing,” consider waiting until it has a better-known track record (and is less expensive).
  • Beware of a provider or clinic that demands consultation fees or non-refundable deposits. There shouldn’t be a penalty for changing your mind beforehand.
  • No matter what you decide about cosmetic procedures, it’s smart to stop doing things that make skin damage worse, especially sun exposure and smoking.

Sources: Food and Drug Administration; National Board of Cosmetic Surgery; Dr. Smythe Rich

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