‘It’s actually kind of scary how much you can change.’ App causing disturbing plastic surgery trend

Updated: Jul. 26, 2019 at 7:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Plastic surgeons are seeing a rise in what's called Snapchat Dysmorphia. The phenomenon is born out the popularity of filters like the ones you can find on apps like Snapchat.

While the filters can be fun they can also border on creating a fantasy version of your face - especially with an app called Facetune.

It allows anyone with a smartphone to change everything about their face from the eyebrows, to smoothing out blemishes to a whiter smile. Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Theo Nyame says the apps put people - and their mental health - on a slippery slope.

“They can now walk into a plastic surgeon’s office and say I would love to look like this - can you make me look this snapchat filter or this Facetune photo or this variation of myself that may not be achievable,” he said.

The danger with snapchat dysmorphia is that it has the potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness in which people can’t stop obsessing over a perceived flaw, one to others is either minor or non-existent.

“When you look at an image - a two dimensional image on a flat screen - there’s so many thing that you’re not seeing,” Dr. Nyame said.

A partner at Charlotte Plastic Surgery, he says education is key -- and it starts as soon as someone comes in for a consultation.

“What I’ll do is get my camera out and take a standardized photo and then we’ll compare the two,” he explained. “And, I’ll show them sometimes how things like lighting can affect how somebody looks. Chin and neck position can affect how somebody looks.”

He also uses a high-tech machine that gives patients an in-depth look at their features in 3-D.

“I can have the computer rotate, turn you three quarters,” he said. “And so, when you’re doing this on your phone. You only really have one snapshot. For example, if I wanted to broaden the hump of the nose. I can essentially change [it].”

Dr. Nyame says it’s the people who don’t say no - or the ones who’ve seen several surgeons - that always concern him.

“That should always be a red flag,” he pointed out. “A patient who is on their sixth or seventh consultation.”

He says they often go abroad for surgery out of desperation, only to come back unsatisfied or with life-threatening complications.

“There was a young lady who went abroad for plastic surgery and they performed too much liposuction, and she came back with a huge fluid collection,” he recalled.

Had he not drained it, she could have died from an infection. That’s something Dr. Nyame fears his field will continue to see.

“For these people this idea that they want to look like this filter, is serious is enough where they’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.”

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