There’s A Good Chance A Cosmetic Surgeon Advertising On Instagram Is Not Board-Certified

Image courtesy of Kerry Lannert

Don’t select your plastic surgeon based solely on their Instagram posts. That feels like something we shouldn’t have to tell people, but the “bad idea”-ness of it all is being highlighted by a new report which found that fewer than 20% of cosmetic surgery posts on Instagram are from board-certified plastic surgeons.

The report, published today in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal by researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, looked at the most popular posts related to an array of common plastic surgery-related hashtags and found a variety of people — some doctors, some not — pushing cosmetic surgery services without certification from medical boards in either the U.S. or Canada.

Becoming a board-certified plastic surgeon requires years of post-medical school training specifically in this field, in addition to several more years of surgical training and experience.

In some cases, these surgeries are indeed being marketed by physicians, but ones who aren’t specifically trained in this field, like gynecologists, dermatologists, emergency medicine physicians, and doctors specializing in family medicine — though all reportedly marketed themselves as “cosmetic surgeons,” a designation that many physicians can use but which is not an indication of any specific training or experience in the field.

“A cosmetic surgeon is not necessarily the same thing as a board certified plastic surgeon, and patients need to be made aware of this,” explains Robert Dorfman, lead author of the study.

Perhaps more alarming were the plastic surgery-related ads placed by non-physicians: dentists, hair salons, and spas with no affiliated doctor.

“This is a very scary finding,” says Dorfman. “Providers — ranging from physicians who are not licensed in plastic surgery to dentists, hair salon employees and barbers — are doing procedures for which they do not have formal or extensive training. That’s extremely dangerous for the patient.”

The majority of the most popular cosmetic surgery marketing posts were from doctors based in other countries, with Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and Colombia leading the way.

Of all the top posts related to plastic surgery hashtags on Instagram, the report says that fewer than 18% were published by actual board-certified plastic surgeons.

What’s more, the study found that the posts published by the board-certified surgeons were significantly more likely to contain educational information for prospective patients, as opposed to purely promotional content.

“It is critical that board-certified plastic surgeons use social media like Instagram as a platform to educate patients about the risks of surgery and dangers of having plastic surgery performed by those with improper training,” concludes the study.