Aesthetic Dermatology Update

The role of social media in aesthetic trends


Recently, my office received several phone calls from patients asking if I perform “trap tox.” Having not been on social media around that time, I assumed the term had something to do with botulinum toxin and the trapezius muscle, but I had never heard it before. Not too long afterwards, patients were asking me about it in the office, using the same terminology, and I had several calls about it in one day. When I asked one trusted patient where she’d heard this term, which seemed to be trending, she told me that she had seen it on Instagram, as an ad or a “suggested for you” post.

Whether it’s a different name or term for a cosmetic procedure or laser we use that I’ve never heard before – such as “lip flip” or trap tox (also known as “Barbie Botox”) – many of these trendy terms spread like wildfire on social media. Some of the terms may be marketing tools started and spread by doctors who perform aesthetic procedures, something I don’t recommend as it only creates confusion for patients and practitioners, similar to the confusion consumers face regarding the plethora of over-the-counter skin care options and the marketing terms used for them. Other terms and trends are also started by nonphysician or non–professionally trained providers, sometimes leading to an unsafe or misleading term for an aesthetic procedure.

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, a dermatologist who practices in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley

Over the past few years, several articles about the impact of social media in aesthetics have been published. In one recent paper, published in 2022, Boen and Jerdan noted that 72% of people in the United States use social media, up from 5% of American adults in 2005. In the United States, they note, “YouTube is the most popular platform with 73% of adult users, followed by Facebook (69%), Instagram (37%), SnapChat (24%), and Twitter (22%). Of the sites used daily, Facebook has the most activity (74%), followed by Instagram (64%), SnapChat (63%), YouTube (51%), and Twitter (42%).” They argue that the pros of social media in aesthetic medicine include its use as an educational tool by medical professionals to educate and provide accurate information about cosmetic procedures, and that “providing factual and evidence-based medical information to the public can help to counteract the abundant misinformation that is out there.” The cons include misinformation, no credentialing verification of the provider of the information – essentially anyone can be an “influencer” – as well as the addictive nature of social media for the consumer.

Along the same lines, younger patients tend to rely more on social media in choosing treatments and providers, further perpetuating any anxiety created from misinformation and unrealistic expectations from nonmedical influencers regarding procedures, filters used on photographs, photo editing, etc., in achieving an aesthetic result.

Physicians, particularly fellowship-trained aesthetic and surgical dermatologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, oculoplastic surgeons, and ENT facial plastic surgeons, who have the most training, knowledge, and expertise about aesthetic procedures, often have the least amount of time to devote to education via social media, compared with nonmedical influencers. Unless sponsored, they are also not being compensated for using it as an educational tool, except for potential indirect compensation from using it as a marketing tool for themselves and their practices. In contrast, nonmedical influencers often have many followers and time to create content, and in some cases, this is their full-time job.

All in all, most authors agree that social media has been associated with an increased acceptance of cosmetic surgery and procedures. Whether it be a trend seen on social media, or viewing one’s appearance in a filtered or photoediting app, or seeing an image of how another person looks (similar to how people in magazines, films and on television, were viewed in the past), social media has piqued people’s interest in aesthetics. It remains a balance for interested physicians to help keep information about cosmetic procedures presented in a healthy, interesting, professional, and accurate manner, and in a non–time-consuming way.

Dr. Wesley practices dermatology in Beverly Hills, Calif. Write to her at She had no relevant disclosures.


Boen M and Jerdan K. Clin Dermatol. 2022 Jan-Feb;40(1):45-8.

Chen J et al. JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2019 Sep 1;21(5):361-7.

Chopan M et al. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Apr;143(4):1259-65.

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