Less than a decade ago, it is common to find teenage girls walking into an aesthetic clinic with a photo of their favorite celebrity clutched in their hands, seeking modification to their face so that they can look like their idol.
Since the rise of social medial, things have changed. Teenagers no longer want to look like celebrities. They want to look like an altered image of themselves with a Snapchat filter. “It is worrying to see more and more people trying to augment their facial features that are perfectly fine to begin with,” says Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, Medical Director of Radium Medical Aesthetics.
This condition is called “Snapchat dysmorphia”, and this is falls into the category of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is body-image disorder characterized by persistent preoccupations with a perceived or slight defect in one’s appearance.
“There is an increasing number of people coming to the clinic, requesting me to augment their features to give them bigger eyes, or sharper chin,” says Dr. Siew.
“These are unhealthy and unrealistic expectations because there is nothing wrong with how they look in the first place,” he adds.
Snapchat dysmorphia is the pursuit of unrealistic expectations of their appearance. While it is normal to be dissatisfied with how you look and wanting to make minor alterations to achieve a more symmetrical face, it becomes a disorder if it triggers the need to alter their perfectly fine facial features to be more Snapchat-friendly.
People with Snapchat dysmorphia go to different doctors to seek alterations so that they will look better in their selfies. Despite the warnings doctors dish out, the number of such requests is steadily increasing. Even though many doctors are not willing to go overboard to perform such procedures, these people visit different clinics until they find a doctor who is willing to perform the treatment for them.
The rise of the Snapchat face
People used to undergo aesthetic treatments to achieve greater facial symmetry. These people have genuine concerns and they want to achieve a more proportionate face. In the past, non-surgical nose jobs such as nose fillers and nose thread lift were some common procedures to augment ill-defined noses to give them height and projection.
Now, teenagers are opting to undergo treatments to accentuate their lips, increase eye size, and reduce cheek fat, and augment their chin to exaggerate their features. Think along the lines of Kim Kardashian: carefully constructed eyebrows, big eyes, heavily contoured face, thick lips, and sharp chin.
Social media influence: Good or bad?
Social media has increased the pressure to be ready for selfies all the time. Teenagers aim to undergo dermal filler to shape their chin and forehead, facial slimming to reduce the fatty deposits on the cheeks, and Botox to enhance the shapeliness of their face.
This rising, unhealthy trend is further perpetuated by social media platforms launching new algorithm to give popular posts more visibility, thereby altering peoples’ perception of natural beauty. In addition, these images that receive ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are increasingly curated, heavily photoshopped and retouched. The popularity of Snapchat-worthy appearance is reflected in the increasing demand of cosmetic treatments.
“When teenagers see their heavily photoshopped selfies being ‘liked’ or ‘shared’ many times by people, it gives them an impression that the image they see is the epitome of modern beauty and the appearance is socially desirable,” says Dr. Siew. After a while, this may dangerously evolve into people having a warped perception of what beauty should actually be, creating a negative impact on their self-esteem.
Having a role model to look up to is not entirely a bad thing. For example, looking up to Kylie Jenner can be inspirational if you aim to succeed like her, building her own cosmetic company and turning it into a multi-million business. Then it probably doesn’t matter if you want to look like her or not.