Are Instagram filters taking place of real plastic surgeries?

Fashion North took a look at the connection between Instagram filters that modify your face features and plastic or cosmetic surgeries.

Instagram selfie filters’ popularity has been increasing every day since the launch in May 2017, when the app introduced a new feature of augmented reality (AR) on Instagram stories which was very similar to the one on Snapchat. It all began with eight simple filters, including koala ears, a crown from butterflies, nerd glasses or a wrinkle-smooth make-up. The collection of filters began to rapidly grow when the making of the feature became open to anyone in August 2019. In that year, 500 million accounts used Instagram Stories every day and 67% of all Instagram users are aged 18 to 29.

The creation of AR filters has not had any rules until the end of 2019, when the ‘Fix me’ filter by Daniel Mooney was banned due to filter’s massive promotion of cosmetic surgery. The filter showed lines the surgeon would draw on a face before the surgery and bruises after. Instagram then decided to ban any filters with the same idea, that are promoting lip fillers, facelifts or any other face-changing features, but these, so-called, ‘beauty filters’ can be still found easily.

Anna Kristofcova trying different ‘beauty’ filters

Sarah Hodge, 28, a teaching assistant from Sunderland, works closely with young people: “The face filters can improve self-esteem when feeling low about yourself. However, sometimes they can make you feel worse about how you look without the filters as they are unrealistic. They set a bad influence on youth by almost saying you should look like this.”

Natalia Homolova, also known as Natinstablog, a fashion and lifestyle blogger, currently living in London, made her own set of filters but decided just to adjust colours and light face smoothing.

“I don’t think we should be changing our face features, we were all born different for a reason. We are all unique and beautiful we should only enhance what we have and not change it because if we will all end up looking the same which is nonsense.

“Almost everyone is on social media these days and so every day we are looking at images and videos of “perfect” girls… the body, the face, everything… With the time every girl starts compering herself, and when they do use the filters they get more comments, more likes and that leads to not liking the real you but the filtered you which can then lead to plastic surgeries and mental health problems.”

Natalia Homolova talking about the danger of  the face filters

Even before the launch of the filters in early 2017, the research conducted by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health with almost 1,500 young people (aged 14-24) from across the UK have shown that Instagram affects young people’s mental health in a bad way. They feel more lonely and anxious about their body image.

Also, a survey of Mental Health Foundation UK conducted in 2019 with 1,118 teenagers (13-19 years old) revealed that “one in four girls and one in ten boys have edited photos of themselves in order to change their face or body shape because of concerns about their body image.”

Amy Harbottle, a makeup artist from Newcastle says: “I think a first, the filters can be and can seem harmless and perhaps for some they do stay that way. However, in a society and age where we live on social media and how we look is constantly on show and compared, I think that filters and the use of them have become more demanding on people and there’s become a more emotional need. A need to look a certain way, to appear put together and so on and that has to affect mental health.”

The research we conducted shows that 81.4% of asked people have ever compared themselves with face filters and 62.8% wished they look more like the filters. However, 95.3% of people have never undergone plastic/cosmetic surgery to change their face feature.

Therefore, the trend of surgeries has decreased. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS); nearly 27,000 procedures took place in 2019, a decrease of 7.5% from the previous year. The most popular face procedures were blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose job) and face/neck lift. In Tyne and Wear area, the most popular are nose jobs and teeth corrections, confirmed by Abbie Elizabeth Aesthetics.

Former BAAPS President Rajiv Grover said: “In previous years we’ve seen popular culture heavily influence the type of procedures that are most in-demand. Reality TV, and social media, in particular, are powerful influences but are a double-edged sword when it comes to Aesthetic Surgery. As patients strive for the ‘filter perfect’ look that is plastered all over our smartphones and TVs, many turn to surgery for a ‘quick fix’ – which is a concerning theme that we’ve noticed. BAAPS members have seen a rise in patients seeking inappropriate cosmetic treatments and we have been advising more patients against surgery than ever before.”

Behind the decreased numbers can stand AR filters that offer instant happiness and higher self-esteem from an improved “prettier” face and therefore are not needed outside the virtual world.

However, the predictions of most popular procedures for 2020, made by Aesthetic Society, were non-surgical rhinoplasty and jaw and temple sculpting using dermal fillers. However, there were no pandemic restrictions at the time, and this will have a big influence.

We will keep an eye on how the number of plastic surgeries will go in the upcoming years and what role will Instagram face-filters play in it.


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