Research Shows ‘Selfies’ Distort Facial Images By 30%

Cosmetic enhancement is widely accepted as mainstream beauty, so much so, that we are seeing an upsurge in millenials now pursuing cosmetic enhancements. It’s so common today that no-one bats an eyelid and research is clearly pointing to social media as the key driver.

Facial modification apps based on filters are widely available, and Instagram is the new social glue connecting global communities. But the lines are becoming blurred and the posts seen daily on these platforms often don’t represent reality. The Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) is seeing more and more patients experiencing a distorted sense of self with unrealistic expectations, especially when it comes to cosmetic enhancement results.

In response to this and the trivialisation of cosmetic procedures, the CPCA has launched a new campaign called Get Real.

The CPCA’s Get Real campaign is designed to help the public understand that not only do selfies provide a distorted sense of self but can also contribute to low self-esteem.

People are spending more and more time looking at themselves on social media, so it’s no wonder the number of cosmetic enhancements is on the rise. With overfilled lips and puffy cheeks such a common sight, the CPCA has taken action to provide education and accurate information to the Australian public.

Finding an experienced and trained doctor who puts patient safety first and is able to manage realistic expectations is of paramount importance.

A study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery used a mathematical model, to prove that selfies can, in fact, distort someone’s face by 30%.

According to the research, it is not possible to take a flattering selfie unless 5 feet or 1.5 metres away. Anything closer, as is the case with most selfies that are taken only 30cms away, results in a distorted image. That is, the nasal size actually appears up to 30 percent larger than it actually is in men, with a 29 percent perceived increase size in women1.

While the nose appears larger, other features such as lips appear smaller than they actually are, resulting in a disproportionate “funhouse” image.

According to research, this proven distortion of physical features in selfies can also have a detrimental effect on self-image and the perception of ’self’ – not only psychologically (ie Snapchat Dysmorphia) but also as a physical reality.

A study by American psychologists found that the more people use social media sites, the more entrenched they become about their shortcomings2 while another study, measured the effect selfies have on self-esteem and social sensitivity, with results suggesting that taking and sharing selfies could result in greater social sensitivity and lower self-esteem3.

What all this research shows is that selfie distortion is real and can potentially lead patients to seek cosmetic enhancements that are based on a distorted perception of their appearance as opposed to reality. It is this unrealistic expectation of treatment results that is a red flag for the CPCA.

“This selfie phenomenon and the associated physical and psychological side effects makes it even more imperative for patients to seek appropriate professional advice by trained and experienced doctors. CPCA members follow a strict code of conduct and uphold ethical standards, allowing them to make psychological assessments and thus, advise accordingly, putting patient safety first,” said Dr Michael Molton, President of the CPCA.

“It is important to remember that non-surgical cosmetic enhancements are still a cosmetic medical procedure so it’s imperative that patients seek doctors who provide a high standard of care to deliver the best outcome”.

This knowledge includes keeping abreast of all the latest research and how this impacts patients with a multi-dimensional perspective.

“The CPCA recognises the importance of helping patients understand that proportion in reality is different to proportion in selfies. We are doctors who are experienced and trained to listen to our patients and their concerns while making appropriate recommendations in line with realistic expectations. We are here to guide our patients to make informed decisions to achieve a desireable outcome”, said Dr Molton.

1. Selfie face distortion is driving people to get nose jobs
2. Negative social comparison on Facebook and depressive symptoms: Rumination as a mechanism.
3. Selfie and self: The effect of selfies on self-esteem and social sensitivity


The CPCA is the leading representative body for medical practitioners practicing non- or minimally-invasive cosmetic medical treatments in Australasia. The College, which evolved from the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia, provides education, training and ethical practice standards for its Fellows and Members who are required to have relevant training and experience as prerequisites for admission to the College. Members are also required to keep abreast of the most up-to-date, relevant information and latest medical and scientific advances.

Overall, the key role of the CPCA is to develop and maintain the highest standards in cosmetic medicine, which helps safeguard the public.