Winnipeg plastic surgeon concerned photo filters driving influx of calls from young people

A plastic surgeon in Winnipeg says he’s turned down some patients, asking him to make them look like their filtered Instagram photos.

Dr. Ali Ismail says he’s seeing more and more young people considering plastic surgery – and he believes social media filters that create unrealistic expectations of what people should look like may be to blame.

“We get patients who refuse to look at their own images, or they keep going back to the filtered image example. So in their minds, they actually see themselves as the filtered image,” says Dr. Ismail, one of the surgeons at Visage, a cosmetic clinic in Winnipeg.

Yasmine Ramsay, a 20-year-old college student, says the pressure to look a certain way has started taking its toll on the past year.

She told her parents that she wanted to have plastic surgery and thought about different types of procedures, but in the end decided not to pursue it.

“At the end of the day, I think about it a lot, but I don’t know if I’ll eventually get plastic surgery just because if I were to, it would probably be obvious to me and then I probably wouldn’t like it,” Ramsay said.

She has since deleted some social media apps from her phone. She said she wants to make sure that the content she sees on her social networks matches her own goals.

Some seem ‘impossible’

It’s hard to ignore the rise in filtered photos on social media. Photo editing has become so accessible that with a single tap on their screen, users can completely transform into a perfect picture of themselves.

The most popular filters erase lines, change facial shapes, and enlarge lips. It aligns with procedures that Ismail says are most sought after by young people.

Dr. Ali Ismail says he is concerned about the influx of young women seeking facial plastic surgery. (by Ali Ismail)

Ismail says he is cautious during the consultations, noting that the patient may strive for a look that he describes as “out of reach.”

“I try to say to them, ‘Look — you’ll always find a surgeon, but if you have a surgeon telling you it’s not a good idea, it’s probably because it’s not a good idea. “And that’s what I can pass on to them.”

He says he would have seen such situations once or twice a month in the pre-pandemic period.

But he now estimates that of the 15 consultations he might give a day, he’s turning down two or three patients with requests like these. He says a large percentage of them are still looking for another doctor to perform the surgery.

embracing a lifetime

Our culture does not include the aging process, says Christopher Schneider, a professor of sociology at Brandon University who researches social media and pop culture.

Filters are used to make people look like younger, more perfect versions of themselves, but that’s not true, he says.

Christopher Schneider is Professor of Sociology at Brandon University. (Provided by Christopher Schneider)

Schneider warns social media users to be more mindful when browsing their feeds, because people may not be upfront about how they achieve their looks.

“Consume this content with a critical eye to understand that much of what we see may not actually be true,” he said.

Ramsay says she feels she has a good handle on her social media consumption, but is concerned about people younger than her who may not have the same awareness.

“It’s so hard when you see a 13-year-old on Instagram and TikTok. I’m really scared for them and I really hope they see themselves off social media,” she said.

“I think it’s important to stay grounded.”

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