As a surgeon, I am often asked if young parents consult with requests for aesthetic treatments that increasingly reflect the standardized beauty standards flooding reality shows and social media.
Selfies and filters have become commonplace and adolescents or young adults are looking to mimic the physical appearance of the stars or celebrities whipping up a storm.
The impact of this quest for standardized physical perfection can sometimes have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental and emotional health: complexes, self-image disorders, and even body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
It is a sensitive subject because, as a plastic surgeon, I know how much aesthetic surgery through changes to the body, its shape and tissues, participates in reconciling the interior with the exterior and repairing the psychological consequences linked to a flaw, a deformation, or a maldevelopment that can run deep.
However, it is interesting to explore the impact reality shows – and more broadly social media – have on aesthetic surgery in youngsters, especially the negative influence social media can have on self-construction and the standardization of beauty. It is also necessary to address the question of knowing how parents can help their children handle this social pressure and develop positive self-esteem, which does not depend on physical appearance alone.
The standardization of « beauty » and the negative influence of images
Reality shows, a worldwide phenomenon, have popularized a very narrow vision of beauty characterized by increasingly strict norms. Youngsters are more particularly exposed to these images, which often convey gender stereotypes and beauty ideals that are somewhat unrealistic. Furthermore, they often forget that hours of make-up and professional lighting are used to achieve the image seen on screen.
Moreover, the craze of selfies and filters (Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok) does not make things any easier: it amplifies this trend as you can easily and instantaneously touch up your appearance, thus resulting in unrealistic expectations. Youngsters are confronted with a sort of constant « pressure » to meet these norms, which can lead to body image disorders. These image disorders can go to extremes, including body dysmorphia. Snapchat is a phenomenon characterized by an excessive, even constant preoccupation with flaws in appearance that can be real… or imaginary. The use of filters can thus lead to dreams of aesthetic surgery with the latter being seen as the solution to all problems.
Aesthetic medicine and surgery: serious procedures that should not be taken lightly
This pressure to conform to beauty standards can push youngsters to resort to aesthetic surgery. Plumped lips – sometimes excessively – using injections, buttock lifts with the injection of fat popularized by Kim Kardashian and many others after her, sculpted abdominals, and other procedures are increasingly requested.
Although injections are temporary and come under the mandate of aesthetic medicine, in France at least, the regulations are strict and only physicians are authorized to carry out these procedures. Recently, a dangerous trend of « fake injectors » has emerged: people pose as physicians on social media and propose injections at knock-down prices primarily targeting youngsters.
Some adolescents looking for instant results are enticed… without taking into account the risks – real risks – but also the long-term implications.
Reality shows – and social media – contribute to trivializing procedures in aesthetic surgery and aesthetic medicine by presenting them as easy, rapid solutions to improve your appearance.
This obsession with image pushes us to constantly compare ourselves with others
The images conveyed by the stars of reality shows but also the Instagram accounts of millions of influencers in swimming costumes with « perfect » bottoms and breasts, plump lips, and cat eyes pushes us to constantly compare our bodies with those of others.
Youngsters, especially young women, can develop a distorted vision of their bodies, thinking they do not correspond to beauty standards. This comparison can lower self-esteem and lead to risky behavior such as restrictive diets or disrupted eating habits.
The pressure exerted by reality shows and social media can disrupt self-construction in youngsters – particularly during puberty, a delicate period of self-construction – who lose sight of their personality and their self-confidence.
As such, aesthetic surgery must not be considered a solution to every problem!
Real complex or just temporary discontentment: how can you tell the difference?
I cannot say otherwise: aesthetic surgery can really help improve self-esteem in people suffering from physical complexes. However, it is important to differentiate between a real complex and temporary discontentment linked to physical appearance and based on publicized models.
If you notice that your child is obsessed with their physical appearance or expresses the desire to undergo an aesthetic procedure, it is important to take these signs seriously and look for professional help if necessary. A counselor or psychologist can help develop positive self-esteem and treat any potential body image disorders.
It is important to listen carefully to your child’s concerns regarding their physical appearance and understand the source of their insecurity. If the complex is real and has a negative impact on your child’s quality of life, aesthetic surgery may be an option and I would be happy to meet them to discuss it.
The consultation: absolutely essential
As an aesthetic surgeon, I must take into consideration the pressure exerted on youngsters by the media and tell them about the implications and risks associated with aesthetic surgery.
In-depth consultations provide detailed information about the treatments and thus help young women (and young men) to make informed decisions about their physical appearance.
However, I must also listen attentively and sympathetically because in most cases, body aesthetics is not a whim! Young women with breast hypertrophy since puberty or, on the contrary, development disorders – asymmetry, tuberous breasts – or just breasts they consider too small, young women with a nose shape that causes deep suffering, young men who have breasts like women… All these patients need a real solution to put an end to their psychological suffering.
Through open, considerate discussions, the parents and I can help them make an informed decision and fully understand the implications of aesthetic surgery before taking action. In any case, parental consent is compulsory if the child is a minor and I reserve the right to refuse to operate on an adolescent if I consider it is unrealistic or if they are suffering from body dysmorphia.
Aesthetic surgery is not the solution to all body image problems or trivial, and the construction of positive self-esteem must be encouraged at all times!
Encourage your child to explore less invasive, safer alternatives to improve their appearance and health such as exercise, healthy food, and a suitable skincare routine.