Social media is leading consumers to have a more self-critical eye, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). The annual poll of 752 of the organisation’s board-certified facial plastic surgeons found that there was a 31% increase in requests for surgery as a result of social media photo sharing.

The study shows that a growing number of procedures are cosmetic versus reconstructive in nature, accounting for 73% of all procedures in 2012, up from 62% in 2011. Of the procedures requested as a result of social media influence, rhinoplasty, BOTOX®, and facelifts topped the list.

While social media continues to play an increasingly large role in how consumers view themselves, its influence as a trusted informational resource for plastic surgery is diminishing. Last year just 7% of prospective patients used social media to research doctors and procedures, down from 35% in 2011. Instead, 57% got their information about plastic surgery online, with 33% relying on referrals.

‘Patients are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their knowledge of plastic surgery due to the obvious increases in online research and validations,’ said Ed Williams, MD, Group Vice President for Public and Regulatory Affairs for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

‘Our members are seeing a much more educated consumer base than ever before, thanks to the increased availability of information.’

However, no matter how consumers select their facial plastic surgeon, the AAFPRS warns to be wary of discount deals online offering reduced rates on surgery and injectables. Three quarters of AAFPRS members caution consumers to stay away from these deals, citing them as potentially unethical and inappropriate without prior evaluation and consultation from a licensed health professional.

‘While it may be tempting to get a discount on aesthetic procedures, we encourage patients to exercise caution with blindly purchasing online deals,’ said Robert M. Kellman, MD, President of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Resurgence of surgical procedures

Non-surgical treatments made up two-thirds of all cosmetic procedures requested in 2012. While they are still popular for their ability to delay signs of ageing with minimally-invasive measures, the number of non-surgical procedures performed was down last year. The most common cosmetic non-surgical procedures remain BOTOX® and hyaluronic acid fillers, with the top three areas of the face most treated by injectables being the forehead (42%), cheeks (35%) and the lips (18%).

Conversely, requests for surgical procedures are on the rise, with rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty and facelifts being the most requested in 2012. Among all procedures, the largest increase was among requests for facelifts and blepharoplasty, while lip augmentation and calcium hydroxyapatite injections showed the greatest declines.

New trends

The top trend AAFPRS members have identified is that consumers are more educated about plastic surgery. A more educated consumer base is leading to the further decline in requests for celebrity procedures (down to only 7%), with 53% of patients instead asking for a procedure by area of concern and 28% asking for it by name.

When considering surgery, most patients were primarily concerned with the results (40%), followed by cost (33%) and recovery time (21%), with pain/invasiveness and social perception playing a very small role in their decision.

Milestone events were also a driving factor, and aside from weddings, which hold the number one spot, high school reunions topped the charts as the event most likely to be an impetus for surgery.