Snapchat Dysmorphia: What Is It?

“Snapchat Dysmorphia”, the idea that patients are desperate to look like their doctored selfies, is the latest trend. Dr. Gregory Buford of BEAUTY by BUFORD looks at this concept and what it means for the future of aesthetics. 

“Snapchat Dysmorphia” as it’s been referred to, poses an interesting, and possibly alarming trend – the idea that patients are desperate to look like their doctored selfies. Can you expound on this? What has been your experience as a plastic surgeon? As a Plastic Surgeon, over the last several years I have seen tremendous growth in what is now referred to as “Snapchat Dysmorphia”. This effectively relates to the use of Snapchat filters to create altered and “improved” images of ourselves using various filters. Patients then often present with these images and ask to alter their appearance via surgical or non-surgical means so that they can look more like these images.

Why, precisely, is this such an alarming trend, and what are some of the larger overarching issues? In some cases, this is actually a positive thing because it allows our patients to see what they would look like following various procedures in much the same way that many of us do when we show our patients predicted results of a procedure. For example, we can show our patients what they may look like following a nose job, a breast lift, or after a variety of other procedures and point out to them the positive difference that such a procedure can achieve. The problem arises when potential patients use filters to go beyond the reach of what we can reasonably accomplish and arrive in our offices with very unrealistic expectations.

What affects has this had on the industry itself? Does it seem that all physicians taking the same approach? Again, there have been positive as well as negative effects from use of these filters. Overall, I actually think that this is creating more dialogue in terms of what can be accomplished. When used in a realistic manner with realistic expectations, I actually think that our patients come more informed as to what they really need. But again this is highly variable across the board.

What do you believe it means to be “beauty sick,” a phrase referred to by Northwestern University psychology professor Renee Engeln during a 2013 TEDx Talk. How does this come into play with your work as a plastic surgeon? In watching Ms. Engeln’s informative TED talk, I found myself both agreeing as well as disagreeing with many of the points that she made. While I do believe that the media has played a very large role in creating unrealistic and unattainable expectations, I also think that discounting the effect of beauty in our daily lives is simply naive. In “Survival of the Prettiest:  The Science of Beauty”, Harvard Professor Nancy Etcoff very insightfully outlines the effects of beauty on how we interact with others and how we treat others. Whether we like it or not, beauty is a currency that can be used for a variety of ends and so it cannot be discounted. That being said, I do agree with Engeln’s suggestions that beauty should not be our only focus. But to completely ignore it is simply naive and wishful thinking.

How do you help give patients a sense of what’s ‘real’ as you discover what procedures might be best for them? This is not an easy task. To discover what is best for my patient really comes down to their motivation(s) for achieving change. If they are unhappy and they think that Plastic Surgery will fix that unhappiness inside through changes on the outside, then they are mistaken and will be disappointed. If instead they are looking to augment or revise a part of their appearance which they do not feel is congruent with how they see themselves and they are realistic in the degree of change they seek, then there is a much better chance of achieving very positive results and a very happy patient.

The concept of patients wanting to look better in selfies – is this a trend you see going away any time soon? Are selfies going away any time soon? No, they are here to stay. And as our phones become more and more sophisticated and the ability to alter our appearance photographically becomes more complex and sophisticated, the likelihood that this conversation continues becomes an inevitability. We transform ourselves on a daily basis through reading, music, dance and other releases. Why would we then not try and take that next step in transformation to alter our physical appearance and explore an endless range of possibilities?  Technology is generally not destructive unless used in a manner that less than constructive. The answer lies in trying to find ways in which we can use this new and growing technology to help educate ourselves in a reasonable and positive manner.


Dr. Gregory A. Buford is double Board Certified in Plastic Surgery as well as Anti-Aging/Restorative Medicine. He is a nationally recognized expert on minimally invasive facial rejuvenation and author of “Beauty and the Business” and has performed over 6000 procedures with liquid face-lift products including BOTOX® and advanced dermal fillers, such as Juvederm®, Restylane®, Sculptra®, Radiesse® and Perlane®. Dr. Buford is recognized by Allergan as a Diamond BOTOX® /Juvederm® Provider, signifying that he is ranked among the TOP 1% of BOTOX® injectors in the nation. In addition, he is a nationally recognized Master trainer for the Allergan Facial Portfolio (Juvederm/BOTOX/Latisse) and trains other medical practitioners in advanced injection techniques. He is also a nationally recognized Luminary for ThermiRF.

Dr. Buford has been consistently recognized in the media for his Plastic Surgery expertise and has participated with resources including Vogue, E Online, ABC News, FOX News, EMedicine, and many others. In addition, he was selected twice as a finalist in the Denver Business Journal “Champions of Healthcare” for his charitable contributions to Denver Non-Profit organizations as well as a former member of the Ballet Nouveau Colorado Board of Trustees, and the CulturHaus Board of Directors. He is also an alumni member of the Denver Active 20/30 Organization.

Dr. Buford is the author of “Beauty and the Business” which was released in January 2010. The book has been used across the country by various organizations to train medical professionals in the creation and maintenance of a patient-centric aesthetic practice. He is also the author of “Eat, Drink, Heal: The Art and Science of Surgical Nutrition”, which was released mid-2016. 

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