On social media, people are getting refreshingly real about their nips and tucks, thanks to open-book celebrities like Marc Jacobs.

Advertisement

In late July, New York City plastic surgeon Andrew Jacono was in his operating room, prepping for a routine day of surgery. "Suddenly my staff comes rushing in," he says. "And they say, 'Marc Jacobs just posted a picture of his face bandaged up!' I was like, Whaaaat? I couldn't believe it."

For it was the doctor himself who had given Jacobs a face-lift the day before. "I had no idea he would do that," Dr. Jacono says. "I was completely blown away. But that's Marc. He's transparent about everything in his life, so it shouldn't be shocking."

The 58-year-old designer's Instagram selfie of his gauze-swathed post-op face (with hashtag #f*ckgravity) swiftly broke the Internet, garnering over 50,000 likes. Jacobs received what's called a deep-plane face-lift, a technique pioneered by Dr. Jacono that results in less trauma to the face and a quicker recovery time than with traditional lifts. Over the next two weeks, Jacobs continued to post updates of his recovery ("Three days after. Ready for lewks. #buhbyejowls").

"When Marc posted, people could see that it wasn't this big, horrible, painful long recovery, which is a concern around plastic surgery," says Dr. Jacono. "And Marc still looked like himself afterward. He looked normal."

New York City plastic surgeon Matthew White was one of many doctors who cheered Jacobs on. "It was just an incredibly human moment," says Dr. White. "He was extremely courageous to share his private experience." While fillers and Botox are, for many, the new hair and nails, "surgery is still a big deal," he says. "There is one to two weeks of recovery, suture removal, blood."

Jacobs' refreshing transparency and realness sparked a long-overdue conversation: In an era that values authenticity, why not talk about your plastic surgery?

Melvyn Douglas and Joan Crawford
Scene from A Woman's Face (1941), starring Melvyn Douglas and Joan Crawford.
| Credit: M.G.M./Album/Alamy

Yet a stigma remains. People in the public eye, says Los Angeles plastic surgeon Anthony Griffin, face a catch-22: They're supposed to look magically the same year after year, yet if they admit to getting work done, they get dragged. "I've been doing this for 25 years, and several celebrities I've done have flat-out denied it in the press. I'm like, 'Oh, come on,'" says Dr. Griffin. "But I get it. It was considered cheating."

But so is claiming your taut visage is the result of eight glasses of water a day, says Dr. Jacono. "It just makes people feel bad and genetically inferior. So when people in prominent positions are willing to say, 'Well, of course I look great, I had work done,' instead of attributing it to, like, putting avocado oil on their skin, it empowers others."

Fortunately, the taboo is slowly lifting — and not just because celebrities such as Cardi B, Kaley Cuoco, and Jana Kramer have been as admirably vocal as Jacobs about their cosmetic tweaks.


VIDEO: InStyle Editors on the Post-Pandemic Plastic Surgery Boom

Experts cite a few reasons for this societal shift. One is the COVID-fueled plastic surgery "Zoom boom," which began when people quickly discovered that real-time video cannot be Facetuned.

Also, many procedures have become more affordable, says Clare Varga, head of beauty at trend-forecasting company WGSN, opening them up to a wider group. They're growing safer as technology improves, but it's still surgery, which carries risks such as blood clots, infections, fluid buildup, and nerve damage. For instance, the Brazilian butt lift (BBL) has been called one of the most dangerous procedures; in 2018, the American Society for Plastic Surgery (ASPS) estimated that the death rate was 1 in 3,000.

All surgeries, including cosmetic procedures, come with liabilities. A 20-year study of over 26,000 patients published in a 2018 issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that some type of complication occurred just under 1 percent of the time. But more than anything else, Varga adds, "what has totally normalized [surgery] is social media. We've seen dermatologists become the new influencers. Now we're at the stage where it's surgeons."

"The ASPS reports that Americans spent $16.7 billion on cosmetic surgery last year—a record high. And increasingly, people are posting about it: before-and-after Brazilian butt lifts on TikTok, tummy tuck recovery tips on Pinterest, five-day countdowns to jawline surgery on Snapchat. They even post pictures of their F.A.B. liposuction (that's Front Armpit Bulge, a term trademarked by New York plastic surgeon Dana Khuthaila for the area that spills out the sides of your bra).

TikTok star Antoni Bumba created one of the summer's funniest memes with their "BBL Effect" series, a tribute to a newly Brazilian butt-lifted bad bitch who's "confident, knows her worth, and has no problem taking all the time she needs to get ready, because she has the mentality that she could be photographed at any time." It's worth noting that #bbleffect has over 100 million views.

Social media and the cosmetic surgery industry are becoming ever more intertwined as the popularity of these posts grows. A 2018 Journal of the American Medical Association article found that patients were bringing their own heavily filtered selfies to surgeons — and asking to look more like their photos.

Urmen Desai, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon with a starry clientele, estimates that he gets a full 90 percent of his patients from Instagram. "They DM me for an appointment,"he says. "Instagram is like the new Google."

Dr. Desai churns out daily content, posting live surgeries on Snapchat. Patients who were once reticent to be on his social feed now ask if he'll record their operations so friends can see. "When patients first meet me, they'll ask to give me a hug and say, 'Oh my god, I've watched you every day for the past two years,'" he says. "They know my staffers' names. It's like they're on the set of Friends.

"This new generation of social media–savvy patients is beginning to drive plastic surgery trends, says Varga. "One thing we're seeing is that they're starting to reject that cookie-cutter look," she says. "They're valuing individuality and authenticity by accentuating something that's already there, rather than saying, "I want lips like so-and-so's.'"

"And increasingly, thanks to the unapologetic candor of Jacobs and others in the limelight, people are starting to open up about it, says Dr. Jacono. "A number of my patients have told me, 'You know what? Now that Marc has come forward, I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to say I had surgery. I look great. I don't care. So what.' "

For more stories like this, pick up the November issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Oct. 22nd.