AI filter: Cosmetic surgeons warn of “distorted body image”

Cosmetic surgeons warn of the harmful effects of AI filters in popular social media applications such as Tiktok, Instagram and Co. The filters give users a flawless appearance and convey an unrealistic image of man, warns the Association of German Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (VDÄPC). With technical means, one’s own figure can be adapted to alleged ideals of beauty in no time at all. However, the VDPÄC views this with concern. Those affected, especially younger people, come to the practice with filtered photos from influencers, but also with their own edited images. Such processing often leads to a “morphed and distorted body image” and correspondingly unrealistic correction requests, said Alexander Hilpert, specialist in plastic and aesthetic surgery, the dpa.

The phenomenon of patients showing idealized images of themselves is not new, said VDÄPC Vice President Alexander Schönborn. However, he is surprised that patients in the virtual world are not aware of the unrealistic images processed with the help of AI filters. Some would seem not to understand that everything they see there is edited. Doctors then have to bring the patients back to reality. Certain wishes are often unrealistic. That is why the VDÄPC calls for a labeling requirement for edited images and generally advises minors against aesthetic surgeries. It should also show who edited the images.

In addition, the cosmetic surgeons warned of trends spreading in social media, which are often no longer in relation to medically sensible and realistic possibilities. Hilpert mentioned bichectomy, for example, in which fat deposits from the cheek are to be made narrower with tiny incisions in the oral cavity in order to make the face more prominent.

Interest in minimally invasive procedures has increased by around 10.5 percent compared to the previous year. Above all, there is a desire for facial rejuvenation in connection with a “fresh, alert appearance”. According to the German Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (DGÄPC), practical experience shows that the most popular treatments are linked to the Covid 19 pandemic. According to this, “continuous self-observation on the video screen” manifests itself in some patients as “a dissatisfaction with their own appearance that has existed for a long time”, which increases the desire for treatment. This is the result of statistics from the DGÄPC.

In 2022, around 100 members of the association in practices and clinics performed 37,800 cosmetic surgeries – mostly on women – and almost 60,800 minimally invasive procedures, such as Botox treatments. According to the latest available figures from 2021, the International Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) had estimated the annual total number of surgeries and treatments in Germany at over one million, writes the dpa.

So far there is no central register for cosmetic surgery and other interventions in Germany. However, an implant register is currently being worked on, which, according to the Federal Ministry of Health, is intended to improve the “safety and quality of implants”. Since summer 2021, test data from the practice and clinic administration systems for breast implants have been transmitted to the register via the telematics infrastructure (the health network) for the test operation. By January 1, 2024, doctors will then have to report breast implants and 2025 hip and knee endoprostheses.


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