At the recent Breast Masters Symposium in Sydney, a gathering of the who’s who of Australia’s plastic and cosmetic surgery industry, surgeons were accused of contributing to the worrying rise in poor body image through their advertising and marketing on social media.

In her presentation at the symposium to a captive, albeit divided, crowd, Psychologist Emerita Nichola Rumsey claimed plastic surgeons posting often provocative “soft porn images” on their social media pages were contributing to patients having an unrealistic expectation of what a normal, healthy and beautiful body looks like and was giving them an unhealthy body image. She suggested that, “The cosmetics industry is creating more and more faults in appearance; faults we hadn’t thought of ourselves a week ago, and it offers solutions in the same breath.”

Contrary to the above opinions, Amber Moncrieff, feminist, wife, mother, and Director of Hunter Plastic Surgery, believes that the complete opposite is true. She argued that good surgeons MUST advertise, so that women who choose to have surgery are properly informed about their choices and realistic outcomes, and understand the difference between Specialist Plastic Surgeons and others calling themselves ‘cosmetic surgeons’.

Dr Justin Perron

Dr Justin Perron

We also spoke with Dr Justin Perron, Specialist Plastic Surgeon in Brisbane who says one of the most important points regarding plastics surgeons in social media is that some surgeons show ‘before and after’ photos. These photos are as real as a result can be. That is not an ‘unrealistic expectation’, as it is literally what is achievable for some patients. Dr. Perron feels Emerita Nichola Rumsey is incorrect in her opinion regarding plastic surgeons posting photos, for several reasons. He states that “Plastic surgeons are not dragging patients off the street, trying to force operations on them. Patients will show up with photos of what they have seen, what they want, and are well researched in what are realistic expectations for themselves, generally. We are NOT creating unrealistic expectations for patients by posting photos. In fact, we use these photos to guide patients decisions based on what is possible. I would invite Ms Rumsey to sit in on a few days of consults with myself, or any of my esteemed colleagues, to listen, and hear patients concerns, and realize how important and powerful this method of communication is in guiding patients and their decisions. Unrealistic expectations are what one finds in magazines, and clothing magazines. What Ms Rumsey is commenting on is personal taste on what is appearing in social media, which is a completely separate discussion.”

Body image issues are some of the biggest problems facing our younger generations today. Studies suggest they are linked to an increase in depression and eating disorders as well as a plethora of other side effects amongst teenagers, and are undoubtedly fueled by the ever-growing social media reach. However, as symposium speaker Ms Moncrieff points out, “Body image concerns are not new. Women have attempted to alter their appearance for thousands of years. The difference now is that it is far safer and more accessible to access real change if women have enough information to make informed decisions.”

Plastic surgeons are only keeping up with the demands of modern day society. Most patients have extremely valid motivations for their plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures. Whether it’s skin removal after massive weight loss, mummy makeovers to fix abdominal separation or sagging and deflated breasts after childbirth, breast reconstructions after cancer, nose surgery to remove an obvious hump or breathing issues or any other issue that is causing a patient emotional grief, we live in a society where we have access to such opportunities.

Surgeons showing before and after pictures of a breast augmentation patient on their Instagram page are simply showcasing their work, and most patients seeing those images have already decided they want or need surgery otherwise they wouldn’t have found the surgeon’s page. Several plastic surgeons at the symposium said that having a presence on social media was essential for their success, where less trained practitioners were drawing their patients from.

Amber Moncrieff from Hunter Plastic Surgery

Ms Moncrieff suggests that the authorities do need to push for the industry regulator, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), to enforce the many laws and regulations that already exist. She says, “Almost every cosmetic surgeon in our region has Facebook reviews on their Facebook page – despite this being specifically prohibited. Why aren’t the authorities more active on prosecuting those who flaunt the law?”

This brings up the debate of recent times between Plastic Surgeons and lesser trained Cosmetic Surgeons and practitioners. Plastic Surgeons have been suggesting for several years now that some cut-price Cosmetic Surgeons and practitioners are making cosmetic surgery too accessible and are not only lowering the quality of work and increasing risks and complications, but they’re also operating on those that probably shouldn’t be operated on. Ms Moncrieff says, “There are a small number of patients with body dysmorphia and we should be sensitive to that. Operating on these patients is unethical but I’d be very surprised if there were many fully qualified and experienced Plastic Surgeons who knowingly do this.”

Trish Hammond, Owner and Editor of Plastic Surgery Hub, a plastic and cosmetic surgery information website created by patients for patients and who was also at Breast Masters says, “We are in a world where whether everyone likes it or not we are able to access cosmetic surgery and treatments to better or change our appearance. It is absolutely a personal choice and one that only the individual patient can make. Patients need to be able to make an informed decision and choice. That means doing research on a particular surgeon and the place consumers are doing this is on social media; communicating with other patients, and by viewing a surgeon’s work. We facilitate private Facebook groups where women discuss what they want and we encourage doing that as safely as possible – the first time! We encourage all plastic surgery to be done in Australia by a fully qualified and experienced plastic surgeon. Time and time again we hear of patients getting botched or ridiculous results from lesser qualified practitioners and I think this is where the focus needs to be. It’s not here the authorities need to be focussing their attention, it’s the regulations, time and resources to fix the problems in this industry.”

Past President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Dr Mark Magnusson, said it was important that plastic surgeons kept their social media advertising respectful, educational and professional without “feeding the beast” that is the body image projected by social media.

Trish

Trish is a plastic surgery blogger. She is passionate about wellbeing, health and beauty, and doesn't mind a little bit of 'help' from the amazing cosmetic and beauty procedures that are available today. Trish spends her days talking to women and men who are looking for suggestions and advice on procedures that are available to them. Cutting through the sales pitch and hype, a down-to-earth response on general information is what you will get.

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