Beauty standards changing thanks to selfies and filters

Beauty standards have changed significantly over the past couple of decades. Thanks partly to the photo-editing technology of applications such as Facetune and Snapchat, beauty standards will continue changing.

The notion of ‘beauty perfection‘ once only applied to celebrities. Today, however, it has spread to different parts of society.

Current beauty standards are undermining the self-esteem of millions of people globally. People’s perceptions of beauty globally can trigger body dysmorphic disorder, warn researchers at the Boston Medical Center (BMC).

Neelam Vashi, MD, and colleagues wrote about their study and findings in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (citation below). JAMA stands for Journal of the American Medical Association.

Beauty Standards affected by selfies and filters
A growing number of people want plastic surgery so that they look more attractive in their selfies.
Body dysmorphic disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD is an anxiety disorder that sufferers have regarding their body image.

A person may have BDD if they worry too much about at least one perceived flaw in their physical appearance. Others either cannot see those flaws or think they are so slight that they are not worth worrying about.

People with BDD look at themselves in the mirror excessively. They also worry too much about how they look.

BDD sufferers often pick their skin and visit plastic surgeons or dermatologists hoping to alter their appearance.

Approximately two percent of the general population have BDD, which psychologists say is on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.

The authors referenced studies that showed teenage girls who manipulated their photographs were excessively worried about their body appearance. Girls with dysmorphic body image seek validation via online social media.

Beauty standards based on selfies

According to previous studies, 55% of plastic surgeons report that their patients want to look better in their selfies.

Dr. Vashi, who is Director of the Ethnic Skin Center at BMC and Boston University School of Medicine, said:

“A new phenomenon called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ has popped up where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves.”

Dr. Vashi is also Director of the Boston University Cosmetic and Laser Center, and an assistant professor of dermatology.

Psychological intervention vs. surgery

Surgery, the authors explain, is not the best course of action because it often exacerbates BDD symptoms. Sometimes, people harbor weird fetishes regarding beauty standards and particular
look, mostly, to look “different” and “unique”. This begins with the obsession to have an
unusual appearance that could stand out. Many people do not know about their own fetishes
unless they explore them.

Psychological interventions, on the other hand, can help people manage body dysmorphic disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, with an empathic and non-judgmental therapist is often effective.

Reality and current beauty standards

Regarding current beauty standards, i.e., how girls think they should look, Dr. Vashi said:

“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time.”

“This can be especially harmful for teens and those with BDD, and it is important for providers to understand the implications of social media on body image to better treat and counsel our patients.”


Selfies – Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs,’ Susruthi Rajanala, Mayra B.C. Maymone, and Neelam A. Vashi. JAMA Facial Plast Surg. Published online August 2, 2018. DOI:10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0486.