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The lip filler generation: Has Instagram overly-normalised teenage surgery?


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Waking up, bleary-eyed and plastered in spot cream, my morning routine of flicking through my Instagram feed provides me with a great sense of insecurity.

 Image Credit: Pxhere

Sure, unless you are a Disney princess in a movie, you won’t have perfectly tousled hair, rouged cheeks and curled eyelashes at 7am, but as I’m flooded with selfies of girls who could apparently roll straight out of bed and onto the Victoria Secret catwalk, it’s hard not to feel a tad disheartened.  

It seems unsurprising then that this constant bombardment of perfection on social media has led to an increase in plastic surgery, particularly with those under 30. In 2017, 55% of facial plastic surgeons from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons said they had seen patients asking for procedures to help them look better in selfies, compared to only 13% in 2013. Additionally, 56% of these surgeons agreed there was an increase in adolescent clients.

Teenage identity crises are certainly not a new phenomenon, however, free and quick image editing apps like FaceTune promise flawlessness. Airbrushing and smoothening tools turn teenagers into photo editors where their ‘imperfections’ can be removed in seconds. The innocence of capturing a raw moment of a person through photographs appears long gone, instead replaced by meticulously filtered, curated versions of people, rivaling photoshopped magazine covers.

Whilst I can see through these immaculate representations, laughing off how smooth self-proclaimed selfie queen Kim Kardashian’s face always looks, the allure is understandable, having used image editing apps like FaceTune myself to shrink the size of my nose. It would be wrong to say that we can simply walk away from our screens and reject these unattainable standards - social media is significantly impacting our mental health, an issue that can’t be instantly fixed.

In 2015 the Office for National Statistics found that 27% of teens who engage with social media for more than three hours a day have symptoms of mental health issues. This begs the question, if we know the negative impact of social media on our perception of ourselves and the world, then why do we continue to use it?

The answer may lie in the notion of normalisation. In a ‘lip filler generation,’ teenage responses to cosmetic surgery have gone from why to why not? Instagram’s lack of guidelines surrounding cosmetic surgery profiles and advertisements could be held accountable.

A parent or guardian can’t constantly chaperone young people’s online browsing, and it’s often hard for even adults to know if the material will cause them psychological damage. The solution perhaps resides in legislation. It is time for Instagram to take control with regulations: warnings before images showing surgeries and a process that would have to approve surgery related content before its publication onto the site could be a start. Here’s hoping that it’s not too late to give back a generation's self-esteem.

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