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Even cosmetic doctors have become influencers

Dr. Giulio Borbon helps us put it all back in perspective

Even cosmetic doctors have become influencers Dr. Giulio Borbon helps us put it all back in perspective

Have you ever thought about consulting an aesthetic doctor, maybe for lip fillers or other non-invasive procedures? How much have social media influenced these thoughts? Perhaps your answer is a firm no, which prompts the algorithm not to even try suggesting related content. But that's not the case for everyone. Videos about cosmetic procedures are everywhere, covering various topics, and not all of them come from industry professionals. There are self-proclaimed experts and observers eager to tell us what procedures they think celebrities have had done, sparking heated debates about someone else's appearance. And then there are the notorious influencer doctors. And if that wasn't enough, some procedures become trendy, the latest being buccal fat removal. If you haven't considered it or don't have a clear opinion, you might feel a bit out of the loop.

Cosmetic Doctors Turned Influencers

The discussion around cosmetic medicine and plastic surgery, which can involve significant interventions to alter our appearance more or less permanently, has become public knowledge. Everyone talks about it, but few truly understand it. Confusion reigns, and some figures in this field certainly don't help. Everything is social, content, and entertainment, while young girls are bombarded daily with a billion impulses from these lab-coated characters dancing and asking us existential questions. Are the lips too thin? Cheeks too low? How do we deal with wrinkles? Should we take preventive action, maybe before 25? Should we aim to look like Kylie Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, or Angelina Jolie? Do as Person X, but absolutely not as Person Y.

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Dr. Miami

Perhaps the most extreme example of the social transformation of the medical profession is Dr. Miami. Initially just a plastic surgeon, Michael Salzhauer quickly established himself as a true television personality (with a show dedicated to his profession starting in 2017 on Hulu, YouTube, and Real Time) and later as an influencer. Always keeping up with the times, Dr. Miami has a strong presence on TikTok, where he candidly shares his life as a cosmetic doctor and plastic surgeon, often incorporating patient requests in his content or dramatizing real-life situations with the help of his team. Being a medical influencer, or an influencer doctor, is now an integral part of his persona. Scientific information, collaborations with other influencers to increase views, surgery outcomes, and exaggerated accounts of his life seamlessly blend together, making it difficult for even those familiar with social media marketing to discern. Imagine how it might be for someone just seeking advice on approaching aesthetic medicine as a patient.

Between Confusion and Sadness

The issue isn't using social media for self-promotion, which is now almost unavoidable for anyone wanting an online presence, but rather the methods employed. TikTok's algorithm works in mysterious ways, and throwing such unscrupulous and theatrical content into the mix without knowing who it might reach (potentially millions of young and insecure individuals) is irresponsible, especially when practicing this profession. Dr. Giulio Borbon, a cosmetic doctor based in Milan and director of Studio Borbon, has also noted the problem: "What's happening on social media in the United States is extreme, but there's also a big confusion in Italy, in my opinion. Primarily among doctors, who communicate as if they were influencers at best, degrading the profession at worst. The ultimate goal of those who communicate in that way is to gain more followers and a larger audience. There are doctors doing dances. When I see those things, I'm surprised and saddened".

A Deliberate Choice Towards Education

The communication approach of the Borbon team is different, based on the belief that a fruitful intersection of social media and aesthetic medicine is possible: "I believe that both can be done, that is, trying to provide well-done scientific dissemination and having a following. Especially because the field we deal with is highly sought after and listened to. Everyone wants to know something, and there's an information problem. Most patients come in with their heads filled with incorrect information. What we've said, with my internal communication team is: let's try to provide information that is accessible, without resorting to theatrics, and try to say useful things to young boys and girls, who are the users of Instagram and TikTok. I want to educate, not influence. I am a educator, not an influencer”.

A Matter of Responsibility Inherent in the Role

His approach acknowledges the responsibilities inherent in his work, towards all of his patients and followers, especially the younger ones: "The impact of what a doctor, dressed as a doctor, says, even visually, and the responsibility of what is said, is much stronger than that of a non-professional. The big responsibility now, the one I feel, is speaking to young people (20-25, but even 18 or younger) who are stressed by the repetition of their image and their self-perception. It's a problem that those in my profession cannot ignore. If we, as a category, put out videos aiming for views without caring about the message, we can cause harm. Statistics show that the percentages of body dysmorphic disorder among young people have increased. It may not all be because of the videos of plastic surgeons but, of course, we have to ask ourselves who we're talking to and what we're saying".

We need more rules?

A possible general solution, apart from taking on one's own responsibilities, could be: "In my opinion, it's desirable that there are ethical rules" Borbon explains. "I'm not just thinking about Instagram or TikTok policies, because those tend to be restrictive. I'm thinking of an ethical regulation on how professionals registered with an order should approach social media, internally. It's the order or a kind of ethical committee that should say how one should engage with social media. It's a problem for the entire profession". It's not an accusation against the profession, of course, but a criticism of those who communicate in these ways. According to the doctor and his team, it's possible to communicate and educate as cosmetic doctors on social media in an ethical manner and they are living proof of this. So why not give informative communication a chance and leave out the theatrics?