Are Beauty Filters the New Face-Lift?

With over 500 million active users on Instagram as of September 2017 and 158 million active users on Snapchat every day, it’s safe to say the social networks have a far reach. But unlike trends in recent years that left users rushing to plastic surgeons’ offices for Botox, fillers and other procedures to make them look “selfie ready,” new filters available for free on these sites are driving patients away from facial procedures and increasing interest in body procedures.

“For the past few years everyone has talked about patients seeking facial procedures to look better in selfies,” says Dr. Bruce Chau, a plastic surgeon from Berkeley, Michigan. “But with these beauty filters or pretty filters, they aren’t feeling as much of a push to fix things. The filter does it for them.”

The filters in question can do everything from even the complexion to enlarge the lips and eyes, and even hollow the cheekbones.

“You can take someone wearing no makeup and give the appearance of having a flawless face with just the slide of your finger,” says Chau.

For some women, that flawless filtering is just what the doctor ordered – and the numbers in places like Great Britain reflect that. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the number of facial procedures among women in Great Britain decreased by 44 percent in 2017 alone.

“That’s a huge decrease,” says Chau. “Especially in just one year.”

But the plastic surgery market isn’t exactly in danger of going anywhere just yet, either. That’s because while facial plastic surgery procedures were plummeting downward, procedures for the rest of the body were on the incline.

“Breast augmentations and other body procedures were up in 2017,” says Chau. “If you think about it, there’s only so much those filters can do. They might smooth out a few wrinkles or blur out acne, but they cannot create volume in the breasts or buttocks. That’s something you must do offline – for now, anyway.”

So, does Chau ever think the facial plastic surgery market will rebound?

“I think so,” he says. “Probably after some of these filters go away, or when people realize that using filters isn’t much different than airbrushing. Looking flawless on social media is very different from looking that way in real life.”