Why Do We Love Policing Celebrities For Plastic Surgery?

From Kendall Jenner to Doja Cat, social media is full of commentary about famous women's faces and the work they have – or haven't – had done.
Kendall Jenner and Doja Cat have both been subject to plastic surgery speculation.
Taylor Hill / Mindy Small for Getty Images
Kendall Jenner and Doja Cat have both been subject to plastic surgery speculation.

You’re on TikTok scrolling, as you do – and have been for the past 45 minutes. You’ve watched a dozen make-up tutorials, Love Island recaps and videos of cats doing very cat things when you stumble on a video of Kendall Jenner.

But it’s not a clip from Keeping Up With The Kardashians or even Kendall modelling on a runway. It’s of her face being analysed by a surgeon. You watch as a doctor tells you what surgery she has or hasn’t had. They’ll tell you that she’s got fillers in her lips, botox and a “secret” rhinoplasty (aka nose job).

Click through to the doctor’s page and suddenly you’ve entered a world of celebrity plastic surgery videos. There’s been a surge of these videos emerging on my ‘for you’ page in the past couple of months. The hashtag #plasticsurgery have 13.3 billion views, while the hashtag #celebrityface has 1.6 billion views.

When I typed, “Has Kendall Jenner had plastic surgery?” into my search bar, hundreds of videos came up. Some from cosmetic professionals, others from regular users, all picking apart her face. It’s no surprise these videos mainly analyse women. Celebs such as Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Khloe Kardashian and Zendaya are also being facially examined on the daily.

Even teenagers like Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, 18, are scrutinised on TikTok – though one in-depth blog about her face allows “the changes that people are nitpicking on might be just her growing up” and better makeup.

So, why are these clips so popular? It could be that celebrities don’t often disclose what work they’ve had done – leaving their fans to guesswork.

When supermodel Bella Hadid, 25, shared that she had got a nose job at 14, few were surprised. We’d seen the “before and after” pictures, knew she had the money to pay for surgery, so people weren’t shocked to hear it confirmed.

However, speculation around a celeb’s face is often just that: speculation.

Earlier this year, the pop star Doja Cat publicly called out YouTuber Lorry Hillmade for making a video claiming the singer had got a nose job. Hillmade has plastic surgery herself and uses her page to dissect celebrities’s faces to spot if they’ve also had work done.

But Doja Cat wasn’t happy about it and went on Instagram Live to say so. “I’m upset because there’s lies about me,” the singer said.

Dr Tunc Tiryaki, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic in London, doesn’t think the videos are the root of the issue. Instead, he points the finger at those in the public eye who aren’t honest about the work they’ve had done.

“I’d say the problem is more with celebrities who get liposuction, for example, but claim to get these results with diets,” he says. “Or celebrities who have had a face lift but say they had a thread lift – [which is] similar to a face-lift but less invasive and cheaper.”

By doing this, he says, celebrities are creating a huge false expectation, one that can make their followers compare themselves to someone with much greater means whose face is the result of thousands of pounds worth of surgery – rather than more affordable tweakments, good makeup or basic genetics.

“Secondly, these videos undermine the accurate results of surgery, especially surgical interventions,” he says. “People are coming to me expecting huge results because a celebrity has lied about what procedure they’ve had.”

This is dangerous, Dr Tiryaki, says, especially when it comes to filler and botox, as there isn’t an age restrictions on these non-surgical procedures, nor is the industry properly regulated.

“The rate of complications of fillers are rocketing,” he says. “This is partially because it’s easy to do and fillers can be done not only by dermatologists and plastic surgeons – but anybody.”

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Many of these videos are made my cosmetic doctors, but even a surgeon won’t be able to tell you if a celeb has had work done unless the professional did it themselves, says Dr Tiryaki, who warns against trusting these opinions. “I think deep research is needed as it’s hard to fight against false information,” he says.

And while there is an audience for these videos, people will continue churning them out. So, why do the general public enjoy these videos so much?

Many comments under the line highlight the relief some people feel when they discover their favourite celeb’s has had a bit of filler. “So I’m not ugly, I’m just poor,” one user writes. Given the online world and its facade of perfection, perhaps these pages do serve a purpose by highlighting why we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to celebrities.

Federica Rosso, a clinical psychologist at the mental health organisation Therapethical, believes the content is popular, because it can make people feel better about themselves – even if that effect is short-lived.

″People might start thinking that perfection per se does not exist. Even if they see themselves as ‘not perfect’ in the mirror, they realise that one attractive celebrity did [the same] at some point and went through surgery,” she says.

“It creates an escape option from their awful feeling that is, in fact, a coping mechanism.”

However, it can also encourage people to get work done that may not be in the best interests of their health or their finances. “The problem with these videos is that they’re reinforcing a narrative that says we could achieve similar results if only we were willing to go under the knife ourselves.” says Rosso.

“We might start to wonder if our faces are ugly or unattractive or if there are parts of our bodies that need fixing. This can lead us down a dangerous path of body dysmorphia and eating disorders, both of which lead people down an unhealthy path toward self-harm and suicide.”

These videos can be triggering for the celebrities they feature, too and, whether or not they have had any surgery, make them very self-critical of their looks.

“Seeing themselves on these types of sites can be like a slap in the face,” says Rosso. “They’re constantly reminded of their flaws and failures, even if they’re not real.”

And this is nothing new. Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey, 62, has spoken openly about the nose job she had in the wake of that movie’s success, which not only ruined her career, but became the dominant narrative of her life.

Meanwhile, in 2016, Renée Zellwegger responded to claims she’d had surgery on her eyes with an open letter in HuffPost, headlined We Can Do Better.

“It’s no secret a woman’s worth has historically been measured by her appearance,” Zellwegger, now 52, wrote. “The double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment.”

She added: “The resulting message is problematic for younger generations and impressionable minds, and undoubtably triggers myriad subsequent issues regarding conformity, prejudice, equality, self acceptance, bullying and health.”

So, should we continue to click on these videos? The answer surely lies in being honest with yourself about why you’re watching them. Yes, they can serve as a reminder that the tweaked and filtered faces we see online every day aren’t real.

However, let’s all remember that the people behind them very much are.

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