Is your teen on Snapchat and Instagram? If so, they may be using what is popularly called, ‘plastic surgery’ filters. These filters may be altering your teen’s image of themselves and could be harmful to their mental health. I have been using filters on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms since I was a teen. Over the years these filters have become more face-altering than ever before. For more tips and guidance on social media, check out Dr. Bennett’s Social Media Readiness Course.
Plastic surgery filters are filters that make users look like they have different types of cosmetic surgery. These filters give the users bigger lips, smoother skin, smaller noses, sharper cheekbones, and even different colored eyes. They are popularly used by celebrities, influencers, teens, and young adults.
Unrealistic Beauty Standards
‘Plastic surgery’ filters can be harmful because they promote unrealistic beauty standards by erasing imperfections and enhancing certain features. Teenagers view thousands of ‘perfect’ images daily on social media shared by peers, idols, and even themselves. This can cause self-esteem problems because beauty standards become less and less realistic.
Many celebrities and people I know refuse to post an unedited or unfiltered image of themselves, which is sad and scary. Attention from followers contributes to this problem. If a teenager posts filtered selfies and they get positive comments from their followers, they may depend on using those filters because they feel that they will not get the same attention without one. This can cause people to become obsessed with the filtered images of themselves and unhappy with their appearance without a filter.
Along with lowering self-esteem, filters like these are inspiring more young people to get cosmetic surgeries because they prefer the edited version of themselves. Cosmetic doctors are noticing that filters might be leading to a new type of body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder where a person obsesses over a minor flaw in their appearance.
Dr. Esho, a cosmetic doctor, claims that an increasing number of individuals are bringing pictures of themselves with filters to plastic surgeons and asking to look like that. Doctors are calling this new type of body dysmorphia, ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia.’
My Personal Experience Using Filters
I have used filters that make my lips fuller, skin smoother, and face slimmer. When I was using them, I did not fully realize how often I was using them until my boyfriend once told me, “Why do you always use filters? You are beautiful without them.” He wasn’t telling me to stop using them, he simply asked me why.
I realized that he was right, that I was relying on filters to feel beautiful. Since then, I limit my use of filters and embrace my imperfections. I want to share an authentic version of me. For this article, I decided to do a before and after using a few Instagram filters, so you can see how different they make me look.
(No Filter) Filter 1 Filter 2 Filter 3
What can you do if your teen is using filters on social media?
Just because your teen uses filters does not mean that they will develop a disorder or develop self-esteem problems. Everyone is different. But it is important to be aware of the potential risks of this social trend.
If you notice that your teenager is on social media and using filters here are some things you can do:
Have a conversation with your teen.
- Talk to your teenager about what they see on social media. Remind them that most of the photos that they see on Instagram or any other platform are not 100% real because of filters or photo editing. This is something that they most likely are aware of, but I oftentimes have to remind myself of this when I am scrolling through Instagram.
- In this generation where many teenagers and adults rely on likes and comments for self-worth, it is important to remind your teenager that there are more qualities in life that matter than their looks. Point out their other qualities and strengths like work ethic, intelligence, and kindness.
- Don’t forget to remind them that they are beautiful without a filter!
Practice positive affirmations.
Teach your teenager positive affirmations and practice them together. Affirmations are positive statements that you say out loud to yourself. 7 Mindsets provide helpful affirmations for teens, here are a few:
- “I embrace my flaws because I know that nobody is perfect”
- “I love myself deeply and completely”
- “I don’t want to look like anyone but myself”
A special thank you to Alisa Araiza for researching and co-writing this article. For more information on these social media platforms that were mentioned in this article, take a look at The GKIS Sensible Parent’s Guide to Snapchat and The GKIS Sensible Parent’s Guide to Instagram. Don’t forget to check out the GKIS Social Media Readiness Course to get the tools and guidance you and your teenager need!
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
Best, S. (2020, January 28). Instagram still has several ‘plastic surgery’ filters despite ban last year. mirror. https://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/instagram-still-several-plastic-surgery-21369194.
Cavanagh, E. (2020, January 11). ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ is leading teens to get plastic surgery based on unrealistic filters. Here’s how parents can help. Insider. https://www.insider.com/snapchat-dysmorphia-low-self-esteem-teenagers-2020-1.
Hosie, R. (2018, February 6). People want to look like versions of themselves with filters rather than celebrities, cosmetic doctor says. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/cosmetic-surgery-snapchat-instagram-filters-demand-celebrities-doctor-dr-esho-london-a8197001.html.
Kelly, S. M. (2020, February 10). Plastic surgery inspired by filters and photo editing apps isn’t going away. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/08/tech/snapchat-dysmorphia-plastic-surgery/index.html.
Rodulfo, K. (2020, August 13). It’s Easier Than Ever To Make A New Face On Social Media. But Is It Killing Your Confidence? Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/a33264141/face-filters-mental-health-effect/.
Manavis, S. (2019, October 29). How Instagram’s plastic surgery filters are warping the way we see our faces. https://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/social-media/2019/10/how-instagram-plastic-surgery-filter-ban-are-destroying-how-we-see-our-faces.
Yang, L. (2018, August 10). People are seeking plastic surgery to look like their edited selfies in real life – here’s why doctors think the trend is ‘alarming’. Insider. https://www.insider.com/plastic-surgery-selfie-filters-2018-8.