In the old days, people used to want Angelina Jolie’s nose. Now, according to an increasing number of plastic surgeons, patients often refer to their own selfies during cosmetic consultations, in an attempt to recreate the way their own face looks in a front-facing camera or through a puppy dog eyes filter.
This shift has been well documented over the last several years; a paper published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery last year posits that filtered and edited selfies “have become the norm, altering people’s perception of beauty worldwide.” If all the time we’re spending on Instagram and Snapchat is driving us to seek out plastic surgery, then it should come as no surprise then that people are also starting to get plastic surgery at a younger age—Instagram is Generation Z’s favorite social media app, after all.
Additionally, the age at which people are seeking out plastic surgery is falling globally, Quartz reported this week. Last year, GengMei—a Chinese social network for people interested in plastic surgery—found that 22 million Chinese people had cosmetic plastic surgery in 2018, and just over half were under 28 years old. Obviously, it isn’t just in China where people feel the pressure to look beautiful at increasingly younger ages (per Quartz):
Comparatively, in western European nations, the average age dropped from 42 to 37 in 2018; in the US, over 200,000 teens aged 13 to 19 had aesthetic plastic surgery in 2017, but only made up 1% of total US procedures.
Some plastic surgeons have blamed social media for perpetuating this obsession with looking perfect, a statement which will sound obvious to anyone who has been on Instagram lately. Instagram has also been thought to be the cause of millennials seeking out Brazilian butt-lifts and non-surgical procedures like Botox and fillers. In a way, this makes sense, given the sneaky ways that pharmaceutical companies increasingly advertise on Instagram—Botox-competitor Jeuveau turned plastic surgeons into influencers by paying for them to attend a launch part in Cancun. (One doctor called it “everything Fyre Fest was supposed to be,” according to the New York Times.)
What does any of it mean? I don’t know, but it’s depressing; cosmetic plastic surgery is still heralded by some as feminist and empowering, but the fixation on looking more like yourself feels it could be a potentially endless project.