Doctor says it could be risky to find plastic surgeon on Instagram

CHICAGO -- Social media is the go-to tool for consumers interested in cosmetic procedures. Social media sites are an open marketplace, but just one click can lead you to the wrong hands. A local doctor dug deep and what he found is a dangerous and misleading trend.

Instagram is a vast visual showcase. Fashion, travel, food, family – it’s all there. And one of the more popular topics is plastic surgery.

“Instagram is a uniquely visual social medium, and plastic surgery is a uniquely visual surgical specialty. And I think that’s one reason plastic surgery and Instagram have really taken off in this marriage online,” Dr. Clark Schierle, Northwestern Medicine plastic surgeon, said.

Dr. Schierle is a plastic surgeon who decided to take a closer look at the posts highlighting many of the same procedures he performs.

On any given day, there can be more than a million to sift through – from tummy tucks to breast augmentation to rhinoplasty. But buyer beware.

“An alarming minority, 18 percent in this case, were actually from board-certified plastic surgeons or what we would consider the gold standard for delivering these procedures,” he said.

Instead of his fellow colleagues, Dr. Schierle found an eclectic group of providers marketing their cosmetic procedure services on Instagram – from non-board certified surgeons to dentists, even a barber touting medical-grade chemical peels.

“There’s always going to be people out there misrepresenting themselves, overplaying or spinning their credentials. Ultimately, it’s our job to clean up messes left behind by other providers,” Dr. Schierle said.

One procedure Dr. Schierle used as an example was a lip filler procedure that used silicone.

“First and foremost there is no FDA-approved silicone lip filler. The results were uneven. She was even having some discomfort and would develop infections in these areas,” he said.

One rhinoplasty patient blames herself for not doing more research on the doctor, who may have overplayed his credentials and experience online.

“When I operated on this patient, it looked like the complex architecture and the cartilage on the tip of the nose had been completely distorted, and there were pieces of cartilage in the anatomically incorrect location,” Dr. Schierle said.

Botched procedures aren’t just unsightly – they can be life-threatening. It’s a message well-qualified and experienced providers are trying to spread – but are finding themselves drowned out on the crowded social media landscape.

“Many of these less scrupulous providers do have less qualms about crossing the line into something that may be little less tasteful but far more grabby from a visual standpoint. So visually more stimulating imagery is going to create more interest and generate more likes and more shares and become more viral,” Dr. Schierle said.

You have to dig deep and go beyond the flashy post and check out credentials, experience and training. But it can be confusing.

There is a difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon. A board-certified plastic surgeon performs both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.

A board-certified cosmetic surgeon focuses solely on elective procedures.

To learn more about both types of board certifications and the training doctors undergo, check out the following web pages:

To learn more about board-certified plastic surgeons, go to plasticsurgery.org.

To learn more about board-certified cosmetic surgeons, go to americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org.