Selfie surgery: The face of plastic surgery is changing, skewing younger

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INDIANAPOLIS – When we talk plastic surgery, our minds can often wander to perceptions of middle-aged women looking to become young again, but hold on. There’s a younger crowd hitting the operating room. It’s a growing trend of “selfie surgery.”

It’s the photographic phenomenon that’s now a part of our daily lives. So much so, the world selfie showed up in the dictionary last year.

The cellular self-portrait doesn’t discriminate. From girl to guy, chances are you’ve snapped one to show off your goods on social media.

These pictures pop up everywhere, all the time, piercing us in ways you might find shocking.

“I think that some people are surprised by the fact that younger people are undergoing cosmetic surgery than we’ve seen in the past,” said Dr. Scott Shadfar, a facial plastic surgeon with Meridian Plastic Surgeons in Indianapolis.

Call it the selfie effect. Plastic surgeons are.

“I’ve seen this certainly in the last two or three years be more prominent. People just more and more are referring to, well, I saw myself in this picture,” said Dr. Stephen Perkins, a facial plastic surgeon with Meridian Plastic Surgeons in Indianapolis.

An annual poll of facial plastic surgeons revealed a new trend. The “selfie” is sliding people under the knife, especially those under thirty. The photos arm them with awareness of cosmetic oddities they’d like to change.

“People are sharing their images more, and they want to look as good as they can when they’re sharing those images,” he said.

Rachel Bradney is 19 years old, from Carmel, and now goes to college in Florida.

“I love the outcome. I love my new nose,” she said.

When she was 18, she got a new nose, a feature she admits she never liked through her teenage years.

“It was just really big. Honestly, it was just really big and didn’t have a lot of shape to it, and so I kind of had it smaller and added a little bit of shape to it,” said Bradney.

Pictures show the change, and though the teen said for her it wasn’t all about the “selfie,” she admits other photos online posed pressure.

“I don’t feel like it’s possible for that not to have an affect,” said Bradney.

Dr. Stephen Perkins said a nose job and work around the eyes are two increasingly common procedures. Perkins contends patients don’t make decisions based solely on photos, but the pictures play to their lingering desires.

“Is it just a whim motivation which you’d maybe associate with a glance at a selfie, or is it an I’ve always wanted it done, but now I’m seeing it in a different light? Or an I’m getting a little older, and it seems to be more prominent to me,” said Perkins.

Tightening up those features doesn’t come cheap. A nose job costs between $5,000 and $10,000 not counting anesthesiology fees. Surgeons said psychologists refer some patients, and intense consults are an integral part of the process.

And as for any dangers or the perception of unnecessary surgery, Dr. Scott Shadfar said the knife doesn’t cut unchecked.

“I think that we have to, as physicians, have some discretion as to what patients qualify for these types of procedures. And that’s a discussion you have with the patient when they come in, and we counsel them appropriately,” he said.

There are even apps out there that can slim down your photos. We found one called SkinneePix that trims from five to fifteen pounds off your pictures.

But all this personal self-promotion doesn’t sit well with clinical psychologist Dr. Shelvy Haywood Keglar.

“I think it kind of gets to another level of vanity in our society,” said Keglar.

Keglar said the lack of image acceptance these days leads us down a dangerous road.

It used to be Hollywood celebrities with photos everywhere, searching for that perfect face. Now, with the selfie, Keglar said we’ve all become famous in our own worlds, and the added attention has an effect.

“The constant looking at yourself or sending it to someone reinforces that’s not the way I want it to be. I need to change my nose. I need to change my lips. I need to change something,” he said.

Keglar said people have two basic needs, feeling loved and important. Selfies and photos in general satisfy our insecurities, until we see something we don’t like.

“I think that’s why it’s such a big thing with folks today. It helps promote that need and fulfill that need,” he said.

So maybe there’s more to a selfie and all those Facebook photos than just the harmless point and click. They are power-packed pictures, changing the way we look at ourselves and altering who may be sitting in the surgeon’s chair in the years to come.

“This will definitely shape the future in terms of the youthful population that we will be seeing seeking treatment for cosmetic surgery,” said Dr. Scott Shadfar.

National stats from a facial plastic surgeons group show 14 is the earliest age someone can undergo a rhinoplasty, also known as a nose job.

Some nose jobs are considered cosmetic, while others may be covered by insurance if there’s a medical need.

Despite the pros and cons, psychologists said parents should have a talk with their kids about the online photo phenomenon and its effect on body image.

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