When Kylie Jenner famously admitted that her signature pout was the result of lip fillers, there was a significant increase in interest and uptake of the cosmetic procedure. That’s the power of social media.

But why is social media so persuasive and what is driving young women’s attitudes to cosmetic surgery? A new study conducted by the University of South Australia explored that, revealing that young women active on social media are more self-critical and more likely to consider cosmetic surgery.

Surveying 238 young Australian women, aged between 18 and 29, the research unveiled:

  • 16% of these women have already undergone cosmetic procedures.
  • Over half, accounting for 54%, are contemplating cosmetic surgery in the future.
  • Only 31% assert they wouldn’t consider surgical cosmetic enhancements.

Over the span from 2010 to 2018, aesthetic surgeries witnessed nearly a two-fold increase, from 117,000 to more than 225,000. Moreover, a projected 7 million Australians, which is about 38% of the adult populace, are mulling over cosmetic surgery in the upcoming decade.

Lauren Conboy, University of South Australia researcher and PhD candidate, says, “Social media, with its relentless parade of unattainable beauty ideals, is shaping young women’s perceptions of their bodies and attitudes toward cosmetic surgery. With a high percentage of young Australian adults actively using social platforms, their susceptibility to these skewed standards is alarming.”

Delving deeper, the study also explored the correlation between self-compassion and attitudes toward cosmetic surgery. A crucial finding was the revelation that women with a pronounced alignment with attributes they deem unattractive are likelier to harbor negative self-perception. This “over-identification” stands out as the most significant predictor of positive attitudes toward cosmetic interventions.

John Mingoia, PhD, co-researcher at University of South Australia, articulates a call to action. He underscores the necessity of challenging the unrealistic and potentially detrimental body images that flood social media. He comments, “Although social platforms can be a breeding ground for body dissatisfaction, their immense popularity also positions them as a potential channel for broadcasting positive, reality-grounded content.”

A crucial piece of data underscores the urgency of this issue: Post-cosmetic surgery, fewer than 40% of women feel satisfied with their bodies. It’s imperative for clinicians to assess the psychological wellbeing of young women, possibly influenced by media’s portrayal of beauty, prior to surgical procedures.

“Without addressing the deep-rooted concerns of self-compassion, young women might forever remain discontent with their bodies, irrespective of the number of cosmetic procedures they undergo,” Mingoia concludes.