Surgeons are sharing plastic surgery videos of celebrities online on TikTok and this should concern us all

Over the last decade – and particularly over the last five years – social media has greased the wheels of Western beauty standards to take them from being something extremely narrow and difficult to obtain (or retain) into something that is literally the stuff of fiction.

Online, the prevalence of lip and cheek fillers, Botox, Brazilian butt lifts, and face-augmenting filters – first on Snapchat and then Instagram – has led to the rise of a particular type of appearance: poreless, snatched, and, above all else, unreal. It has created new pillars of beauty that cannot be naturally achieved in any human body.

In response to this avalanche of singular, cyborgian images, we’ve seen social media accounts debunking celebrity plastic surgery and use of filters – ostensibly for the benefit of younger internet users, under the banner of feminism (though the ethics of this has been debated) – and attempting to educate users about what is unrealistic to expect of themselves.

Social media has led to a particular type of beauty standard (Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty)

But now, as “tweakments” become even more common and are openly promoted online, a new trend has appeared: TikTok and Instagram accounts dedicated to showing how celebrities and public figures could get even more surgery to make their faces more closely fit these standards.

This week, aesthetic nurse practitioner and TikTok-er Miranda Wilson made a video featuring 27-year-old Stranger Things star, Natalia Dyer (whose face, crucially, does not look like a factory-made Kardashian-Jenner copycat).

In the clip, which Wilson has since deleted, she suggested procedures Dyer could have to “improve” her face – such as chin filler, lip filler, a brow lift, and massetters treatment [the muscles on either side of your jaw].

Wilson showed a photoshopped image of Dyer to convey what she would look like were she to take the advice. The video was seen more than 14 million times.

There was a backlash, which appeared to shock Wilson, who posted an apology in which she said she was merely “offering suggestions on what the possibilities are”.

She is far from the only social media account morphing celebrities’ faces or proposing aesthetic changes (and far from the only medical professional doing so as well).

There are countless plastic surgeons and aesthetic nurses on TikTok making content about their own work, giving advice about treatments, and participating in the “debunking celebrity surgery” trend (the hashtag #plasticsurgeon currently has more than two billion views).

However, on accounts such as @hebeskinhealth, which in some videos suggests celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey could benefit from face filler, and @drnima, which has a series of videos “reviewing” mostly female celebrities’ noses, advice is given out to stars who, like Dyer, have seemingly not solicited it.

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Beyond medical professionals, there are also accounts entirely dedicated to making changes to celebrities’ faces. Two of the most popular are the TikTok account @photoshoppe and the Instagram page @goddess.women, the latter of which has been posting for more than three years, well before this trend began to spread.

The @photoshoppe account has a number of regular formats, like “giving [celebrity] perfect facial features” and “using the golden ratio to rearrange faces”, in which it shows, in real time, a photoshop of celebrities such as Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Millie Bobby Brown, giving them fillers, brow lifts, and face-smoothing Botox.

On @goddess.women, the images are arguably the most eerie. The account does not share exactly what has been done to change the original photo, but instead takes already beautiful female celebrities and turns them into hyper-real, Bratz Doll versions of themselves.

The account adds makeup, blurs skin into looking non-human, over-saturates the colours on the celebrity’s face and reduces their nose while cartoonishly ballooning their cheeks and lips.

The result can appear menacing and chilling. The account has just under 400,000 followers and receives thousands of likes per post and hundreds of adoring comments.

Several of the celebrities who have become the subjects of these posts have gone on to share these heavily photoshopped images on their social media accounts: @godess.women has a highlight dedicated to reshares called “Noticed”, which shows images reposted by celebrities like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Carmen Electra, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Sofia Richie.

It seems even the women who are the pinnacles of these standards still struggle to meet the impossible benchmarks that they have, in some part, built careers off of perpetuating.

But the real problem with this trend – beyond the consent issues that surround changing random women’s faces without permission – is the knock-on impact it has on the people who consume this content, sometimes, thanks to algorithms, unwillingly.

Many of the celebrities whose faces are being changed will have already had numerous surgical and non-surgical treatments, and yet even these highly-unnatural faces are still deemed to be in need of further modification to achieve perfection.

An alternative reality of beauty is being shown that does not exist, and cannot exist, but is hailed as aspirational all the same.

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This trend promotes the pervasive idea that beauty is solely achieved through attaining one very specific kind of face. Beauty standards have, of course, long been punishingly narrow, but despite some alleged moves towards democratisation that social media has brought about, beauty has shifted from at least including interesting features, or faces that fit a wide range of structures, to everyone aspiring to look exactly the same.

These so-called “surgery videos” are only contributing to this issue.

The answer is not, of course, to yearn for our pre-internet beauty standards. Instead, we should should push for something much wider, and should even divest from beauty’s power – creating, as the writer Megan Nolan put it, “a world where being beautiful is not seen as a necessity, but instead a nice thing some people are born with and some people aren’t, like a talent for swimming, or playing the piano”.

By normalising pricey, and often dangerous, aesthetic procedures, social media has normalised the belief that we should constantly be considering the ways in which our beauty is inadequate.

It doesn’t surprise me that Miranda Wilson was taken aback by the response to her video of Natalia Dyer. She was doing exactly what the internet has applauded others for and has incentivised her to do for years.

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