Social Media Fuels Rise in Plastic Surgery

By Stephanie Chuang
|  Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013  |  Updated 2:58 PM PDT
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Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- three words that mean millions of dollars for plastic surgeons. NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang look at how it's becoming a lucrative by-product of social media.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- three words that mean millions of dollars for plastic surgeons. NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang look at how it's becoming a lucrative by-product of social media.

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Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – three words that mean millions of dollars for plastic surgeons. It’s becoming a lucrative by-product of social media.
 
Marilyn Monroe famously said, "Imperfection is beauty." But to many her beauty is perfection -- and people want it.

 
From Marilyn, to Natalie Portman's nose, and Angelina Jolie's lips -- looking like the stars has been inspiration for countless women going under the knife.
 
But now people are getting inspired from a different source: themselves. From pictures you take yourself, also known as selfies, to candids your friends snap on their smartphones, these are all images that end up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn.
 
Dr. Corey Maas, a plastic surgeon and associate clinical professor at University of California San Francisco, said the idea of being image conscious is not new, but it has changed dramatically with social media.
 
In fact, 31 percent of doctors polled by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery said people cited social media as a reason why they decided to get plastic surgery.
 
Maas believes social media influence is even bigger in the Bay Area. "I'd say at least half of our patients have some impact [linked] to social media.”
 
Most of Maas's patients seek his services after seeing themselves in pictures, usually after a major social event, like a wedding.
 
"Now everything is a social event," Maas said. "There are people snapping shots, posting them on Facebook, they're putting them on Instagram, they are everywhere."
 
Dr. Mary Lynn Moran, a plastic surgeon on the Peninsula, said she's noticed more requests for procedures like nose jobs.
 
"As a result of social media," Moran said, "we are getting some more younger people doing rhinoplasties because they are seeing their profile."
 
Many more are going for fillers, like “Linda,” a manager at Oracle. She never imagined she’d set foot in a plastic surgeon’s office, but that changed when she kept seeing her photos online.
 
“I’m becoming much more aware of my appearance,” she said.
 
She said her desire to look younger has been driven just as much as something else – a tech industry that seems to fall more and more in love with youth.
 
“As entrepreneurs are starting social media companies, we’re seeing that they want younger and younger workers,” she said.
 
“The average age at Google is 27,” Moran said. “And if you’re in your 40s or 50s, you’re really seen as the old guy or gal in the room. And as our patient said, you’re dismissed often.”
 
It’s not just women who are worried. Maas estimates men made up less than 10 percent of his clientele 20 years ago. Now he puts it at 25 percent. “By far the fastest growing segment of the population coming in… is men.”
 
Linda now considers ageism the biggest problem in her industry. “I have to try harder. I have to prove myself even more.”
 
“People begin to feel irrelevant, they’re made to feel irrelevant if they’re older, which is ironic because they have more experience and maturity,” Moran said.
 
And it’s not just social media says Moran, but the growth in using new technology, to take pictures.
 
“Those handheld devices – they’re high-definition, you’ve got lighting that’s coming from above, creating shadows that you wouldn’t normally see, that can even accentuate and exaggerate flaws,” Moran said.
 
While she strives to look young, Linda, who turns 51 this week, appreciates the years she lived before the age of instant gratification.
 
“When we were with our friends, just hanging out, I didn’t have to always be picture perfect,” she said.
 
“I could just be me, and so I think that instilled a little bit of a sense of self-confidence in me that maybe this next generation coming up doesn’t have.”

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