Young influencers are getting free plastic surgery in exchange for promotion

There is a horrifying uptick of young influencers receiving discounted cosmetic procedures in return for promotion. And the result is not just teens and early 20-somethings endorsing alterations to fellow teens and younger. Once they’ve had a taste of cheap procedures, the influencers can’t stop, giving rise to a new a form of body dysmorphia brought about by availability. And the core of this tragic trend is a cash grab for an industry already out of control. NBC News has an in-depth look at this and here’s a segment from that.

From Botox to breast implants, medical providers have turned to social media for a new kind of personalized advertising that comes directly from influencers. And in the growing industry of cosmetic providers, there are few to no rules when it comes to advertising body modifications, which opens the door to offering teenagers free, unlimited cosmetic procedures.

NBC News spoke with 12 social media personalities with audiences ranging from under 100,000 to more than 10 million followers who detailed how they feel pushed to look perfect in real life and online. This has led younger creators in their teens and early 20s to get cosmetic procedures, ranging from lip filler injections to plastic surgery — many of which they received at discounted rates. Many expressed regrets about some of their procedures. Six of them described feeling addicted to body modification.

“If you have an iPhone, it has affected you,” Sebastian Bails, a TikTok star with 12.8 million followers, said. He said he got his first cosmetic procedure, lip filler injections, when he was 18.

“I got my lips done, not because I was insecure, but because I was offered free lips,” he said. “Who is going to say no to free lips?”

[From NBC News via Yahoo!]

I would say no to free lips – and I have thin lips. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to change was my nose, but I don’t know that I would even do that if it was offered. Would I have accepted all this crap at 18? Hell yes. Because at a certain age, a person makes a choice to alter something because *they* have never been happy with it. But the message people this young must hear is that someone else is not happy with their features so they *need* whatever procedure is being offered to them. People quoted in the article admit they love attention, which is apparent from their vast followings. And having this work done is giving it to them. Sebastian Bails, who’s quoted above, saw his “likes and views and shares” go up with every procedure and he just kept getting more work does because if it. At one point, he said he had almost 20 syringes in his face every time he went to the doctor.

But there are age restrictions in place so how is this happening? Only board-certified plastic surgeons get reviewed, but med spas don’t, and they’re doing most of the work.

Individuals between ages 20 and 29 only receive 3 percent of total filler procedures and only 1 percent of total Botox procedures, according to 2020 data collected from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ pool of board-certified surgeons. Teenagers make up an even lower percentage, according to the same data.

But that data doesn’t account for med spas, an industry valued at $4.8 billion in 2021, that is loosely regulated. The spas have become popular destinations for simple procedures such as Botox and fillers.

I appreciate the few people quoted in the article who came clean. But almost everyone involved is doing major CYA. TikTok said they aren’t to blame because they don’t allow unethical sponsored ads. So the influencers do “shoutouts” and tag the businesses instead. It’s a simple workaround that everyone knows. The influencers say they aren’t to blame because they make it very clear they are just doing these procedures for themselves and never push them on anyone else. They are influencers solely because what they post sways their followers, they know that. The below board businesses don’t try to absolve themselves while the board certified businesses say they counsel their patients before having procedures done. I don’t buy it. I was “counseled” out of a procedure at the age of 36. If they honestly thought the patient shouldn’t have one done, these numbers would not exist in people this young. This is all frightening. I need to recheck all my kids’ social media to see who they are looking at.

This influencer quoted in the article is 19 years old:

Photo credit: Instagram

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31 Responses to “Young influencers are getting free plastic surgery in exchange for promotion”

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  1. BrainFog 💉💉💉😷 says:

    I am horrified for the kids that have to grow up in this culture. It is unbearably toxic even for adults.
    I am not opposed to plastic surgery, at all, but there are addiction issues, and it is tragic that someone would consider it when they’re at the prime of their youth and beauty. I get it when a 40+ person wants to botox this or that away. I get it when aging really messes with the body. But for young adults? What a world we have created….

    • LadyMTL says:

      I was going to say the same. I’m not against plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures at all, but I have two young niblings (both under the age of 3) and I cannot even fathom what could be waiting for them down the line. I sometimes am SO glad that I grew up before social media, it probably would have messed me up.

    • Kitten says:

      It’s particularly sad because it’s almost inevitable that it will lead to slippery slope situation that they will really, REALLY regret in 15, 20 years. I often think about the Jersey Shore/early aughts days when people were obsessed with tanning and tanning salons, instead of properly taking care of our skin. It was such a bad and self-destructive trend that so many of us now regret. Hardly worth all the damage that was caused just to achieve the perfect bronze skin color.

      And as fillers become more common and we learn more about them, doctors are finding that they last MUCH longer than originally predicted. Reversing these procedures is also not without risk from mild complications to permanent disfigurement. It’s just awful and disturbing to think these young people will look in the mirror in 10 years and wonder what they did to themselves. Sigh.

      • Amy Too says:

        This is what I think about. Beauty and body trends change SO quickly, and especially now that things can be changed immediately with plastic surgery, I feel like body trends are going to move even more quickly.

        Like you said, being really tan was a thing in the early 2000s, and the late 60s and 70s and early 80s, but not so much in the 50s and early 60s, early 90s, and now. Being super skinny and having no curves was a thing starting in the late 60s and lasting well into the 2000s, then it was all about huge butts, but that seems to be waning again already. In the 50s and early 60s and then again in the 80s/early 90s, big boobs were a thing, but in the late 60s, 70s, late 90s and after, tiny boobs and not having to wear a bra was the thing. Now it seems like a 50/50 thing and you might want your boobs to match your butt if you’ve gone with the big butt but otherwise you might want smaller boobs. We’ve also gone from no eyebrows, to natural full eyebrows, to blocked eyebrows, to more natural eyebrows again. Lips went from not really being a top thing people cared about/people with very large lips were mocked, to the obvious filler lip being the look, and now we seem to be getting to a point where lips got so big and fake looking that they made people uncomfortable so now a less than maximumly full lip is desired. Even things like false eyelashes and bronzer and fake tan change so quickly but at least those are things you can wash off.

        I really worry what’s going to happen to all these young people who inflated their butt or their boobs or their lips when suddenly the beauty standard changes again and now thing everything is in again. They’ll have to have everything removed. I know of some MTV’s Teen Moms who have their butt done, then fixed, then redone, then deflated, then fixed 4 or 5 times. They get it done for free or cheap I’m exchange for social media posts and it doesn’t always turn out or look right, and sometimes it seems really sketchy and scary where they’re going, and they often have to have it fixed or redone periodically or every time they have another baby. That can’t be good for your body.

      • ohnana says:

        What they don’t tell you is that botox and fillers never truly dissolve from your body, and all things travel to your heart. If botox is freezing your facial muscles you can imagine the damage that WILL occur to your heart later down the road.

      • Eppy says:

        The research on fillers dissolving has been revised – they assumed the rate they dissolved at would be continuous but it is not, so they are more permanent than first thought. Botox does wear off and is well studied, with no suggestion it would impact your heart unless injected directly into that muscle.

  2. OriginalLaLa says:

    the “influencer” face doesn’t even look human anymore, there will be a backlash against that kind of overly-done face soon I hope because it is out of control. The Drs who offer these kinds of surgeries and procedures are unethical IMO.

    • SarahCS says:

      That’s what I don’t understand, these are not people who look anything like people anymore and exists in this weird online parallel universe. I hope the backlash comes soon as I feel so anxious for young people growing up with this and being influenced by it.

      Clearly there are regulatory issues with who can do what and the market is way ahead of current legislation.

      A few years back I watched a guy on a plane just ahead/across the aisle from me spend most of the flight zooming into a pic of him on a beach and editing it. For the better part of an hour. Life is short! Put that time and energy into therapy (assuming you can afford/access it) and doing things that make you feel good.

    • Kitten says:

      Definitely, and I’ve been saying the same for years. I love my Botox but I guarantee you that in the very near future everyone will be talking about how cute forehead wrinkles are lol. Just like dimples, character in people’s faces will always be appealing on some level.

    • Emily says:

      It doesn’t look human and it ages people. Everyone with IG face looks 40.

  3. Izzy says:

    With this many procedures, there are bound to be complications. Those stories will eventually come out. I wonder how younger people will feel when they see the disfigurement they can be left with.

  4. K.T says:

    This is not a tend, this is going to be the norm in my opinion. The cheaper it is, the faster and with more advancements in facial stuff… how can it not, sigh?! I was looking looking at a YouTube vid of stars from the nineties and I was thinking ‘oh their lips so small.’ I had to actually catch myself to remembering that’s it’s because they were all from a pre-enhancement era!

    • Kitten says:

      Plastic surgery is like everything else: it comes and goes with the trends. I personally think the inflated lips won’t be a thing in another 5-10 years and the caterpillar eyebrows will be back to the skinny/tadpole look. Even now, you see so many influencers and celebrities dissolving their filler…then again, a lot of them have filler added back in so who knows lol.

  5. That first picture with the dog looks like an alien in a skin suit. Yikes.

  6. Merricat says:

    This is gross in every possible way.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      It is. Plus these MedSpas should be shut down! They have no ethics and they aren’t staffed or trained properly. Someone is going to go in for a freebie and come out with a damaged nerve or a breast implant that looks rotated. Or possibly a nose like Michael Jackson. These are just kids….being used to sell their facilities to others. They don’t even look like people, just cartoon characters at this point!!

      Wait until they learn they will need more, like a junkie, what are they going to do then?

  7. Porter says:

    Insane to think how many people go without access to regular necessary healthcare while others are able to spend so much time and money on this.

    • Thinking says:

      These influencers are getting the surgeries free though. They’re not paying for it.

      I wondered why young, good-looking people who don’t need anything done were getting plastic surgery. It’s now starting to make sense…

  8. Matilda says:

    So is half the casts of 90 Day Fiancé. All these poor people on the show are getting tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery done in exchange for promotion.

  9. AmyB says:

    This is just disgusting and horrifying on so many levels. First of all, cosmetic surgery that young???? Ugh!!! Let’s face it, we were all fairly insecure at that age, and making those kinds of decisions then is NOT such a good idea, especially when it comes to altering our face/body surgically! Then you have the toxicity of social media influencing this, AND reinforcing it, thus becoming addicted to it (possibly). And don’t get me started on the ethics of these Doctors who perform procedures in this way – just gross!

    Of course, I do understand someone with certain medical issues wanting a procedure – like wanting a breast reduction, or a nose job etc. But these are not that. This is for “likes” on Instagram and for the forever pursuit of perfection, whatever that may be.

    Sometimes as you scroll through Instagram, and look at the “models” or influencers, they all look the same, it’s eerily scary.

  10. Twin Falls says:

    Scrolling through those IG accounts made me sad for them. So empty, so desperate for attention.

  11. Audrey Horne says:

    This is everywhere in the U.K. The influencers & tv reality stars here are constantly promoting surgery clinics in Turkey, where surgery is done at a fraction of the cost and has even less regulation than here. In England you do not have to be a registered health care professional to administer fillers, if you have a NVQ in Beauty Therapy you can go on a course for literally a day and be qualified. The BBC did an investigation into filler clinics, worth a google!
    Turkey teeth and hair transplants are so common even in my age group (20’s-30’s), I have three acquaintances that have had veneers over there. Scary how normalised this has become !

    • Desdemona says:

      Why would you want veneers at the age of 20?? It destroys your teeth’s enamel, you can’t eat evrything you want (can’t imagine not eating a nice apple because it could break the damn veneer… ) .. Sorry,probably they don’t eat…
      Take good care of your teeth, wear a bracelet if they aren’t aligned and that’s it….

  12. Jb says:

    Thank you for posting – have two teens and I’ll bring this up. It is awful.

  13. Lucy says:

    I knew a girl about 15 years ago who worked for a plastic surgeon, I can’t remember if she was a surgeon tech or in the office. Either way, part of her compensation was free procedures. This was in 2005, there was no social media or iPhones. She was in her early-mid twenties and had her nose done, and I think boobs. I wonder what she looks like now. I guess my point is, they’ve always given away cheap procedures as marketing, just now it can be focused on younger people that they choose. I don’t know if I’m ever getting my kids smart phones.

  14. kelleybelle says:

    Airhead City.

  15. ME says:

    I can’t stand the term “influencer”. It’s all bullsh*t. They are promoting a fake life. What is the point? Did you guys know that the “catch me outside girl” earned $50 million on OnlyFans? I don’t know what she does on there, they say she’s not doing anything rated r, but what the f*ck? She’s 19 and that rich.

  16. Meh says:

    Sick and twisted. It’s time to move on from the try- hard pc “ it’s everyone’s right to have plastic surgery”. It bowing down to male standards. People need to make responsible decisions and see through the bs.

  17. Rice says:

    The Twilight Zone had a couple of episodes that sort of addressed body dysmorphia. One was called “The Eye of the Beholder”. The other was about people having their subconsciousness placed in new, younger bodies because they didn’t like aging (or death). But there were only a handful of “models” so everyone wore nametags because they all looked practically the same.

    • Klaw says:

      I LOVE the Twilight Zone. It’s a surprisingly thoughtful show. I expected only strange or bizarre stories, but instead they really make you think about humanity.

  18. Tara says:

    I have so many feelings about this, and I hate myself for judging anyone that has an elective procedure done, in the name of feeling beautiful. I have modified my body with tattoos, piercings, and more “extreme” unconventional mods like tongue bifurcation, scarification, 3d implants, you name it, over 25 years. And I did these things for me, and no one else. The whole point of modifying your body, is sacred. It’s a right of passage in cultures all over the world, and I’ve felt more agency over my body and appearance enduring and electing my mods. What scares me about this specific piece, is that the people profiled, are succumbing to pressure to look a certain way for anyone but themselves, when they were already beautiful. And they’re being profited from and sending the message to their millions of followers that they will never achieve a standard of beauty that is unattainable.