Identifying Dodgy Cosmetic Surgery Advice on Social Media


These days, people turn to social media for all manner of purposes, often looking to their favourite platform to seek advice on a wide range of subjects from minor queries to substantial issues. This is even true in the case of medical advice; however with no actual vetting procedures in place governing who can claim expertise on these platforms and subsequently what advice these people can hand out, differentiating the fact from the fiction can be difficult and oftentimes costly. Now we are not in any way recommending that our readers use social media platforms in place of professional medical advice, however as so many people seem to use these platforms for medical queries we understand the importance of knowing who to trust.

Fortunately, netdoctor.co.uk recently had a conversation with Dr Jan Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer at MEDIGO, in which she offered her personal insights into this exact issue. Their conversation focused largely on the subject of cosmetic surgery as posts which endorse or promote such procedures are commonplace on social media, particularly on the more image-focused platforms such as Instagram. Below are summarised the major red flags to look out for when presented with posts documenting or promoting cosmetic surgery online, as identified by Dr Schaefer:

Choice of Hashtags

The terminology used by an individual can oftentimes be used as a fairly accurate indicator of their true knowledge of a given subject, and this extends to hashtags as well. Crude terms and the use of slang in hashtags are major signs that something is up, Dr Schaefer asserts.
“For example, you usually won’t find a surgeon advertising breast enhancement surgery with #boobjob, as that shows a lack of professionalism. Instead, a surgeon might use #breastaugmentation, that is, if they use any hashtag at all.”

Content of Captions

The aforementioned note concerning phrasing and terminology is also true when it comes to the caption accompanying a post, but of greater concern here according to Dr Schaefer is the nature of the given content, more specifically the presence, or lack of, aftercare advice. If no post-treatment steps are mentioned or the post suggests unrealistic healing times, it is better off disregarded.
“The key word in any surgery, whether cosmetic or not, is ‘surgery’,” states Dr Schaefer. “The body needs time to heal, and the surgeon should detail what a patient should do to ensure a smooth healing process, as well as provide a realistic timeline. If a social media post mentions that a patient looked like their ‘after’ photo a day after surgery, it is a red flag.”

Manner of Approach

Social media is by its very nature a public platform, and there is little reason for any professional company or service provider to hide away from that fact when promoting their service if they have nothing to hide. With that in mind, always show some caution if an individual pops under the cover of your direct messages to offer you cosmetic surgery advice or procedures.

Evasiveness & Avoidance of Questions

Tying into the previous point, there is no reason for any certified professional to be anything less than open with you when it comes to questions pertaining to a procedure they endorse, promote, or offer. As such, a reluctance to answer any relevant queries should stand out as a major warning sign. Dr Schaefer insists, “If you find that the surgeon is avoiding your important questions, such as: what does the procedure involve? How long will it take to heal? Then it is a clear sign that they should be avoided. Another red flag that you might spot when speaking to the provider is that they assure you a procedure has ‘no risks’. In any medical procedure, there is always a risk, even if it is relatively small.”

Dr Schaefer’s Advice

Dr Schaefer’s personal recommendations concerning the matter of cosmetic surgery promotions online can be largely summarised with the reminder that social media platforms cannot provide all the necessary information when considering any surgical procedure, be that cosmetic or otherwise. It is vital that you step away from these platforms and do some proper research elsewhere, and of course always consult your GP. Specific questions to ask yourself during this research time, as given by Dr Schaefer, include:
  • What qualifications and accreditations does the surgeon have?
  • Are these relevant for the procedure I want?
  • How experienced are they at performing this specific procedure?
  • What are other patients saying about it?
  • Where can I find the reviews of the surgeon, and are they reliable?

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