As young social media influencers are being offered cheap or discounted procedures in exchange for promotion and boosted views online, some told NBC News that the cycle comes with negative consequences.
Social media has benefited the plastic surgery industry for many years, which in turn has helped promote a variety of procedures as beauty standards have risen over time.
The influencers who spoke to NBC News said they felt pressure to be perfect in real life and online, and that these procedures, which can be expensive without discounts from clinics and practitioners, helped them do that. Some of the creators, who are in their teens and early 20s, said they regretted some of the things they did to their bodies, and six said they were addicted to changing their bodies.
As his TikTok fan base grew, Sebastian Bails, a 22-year-old with 12.8 million followers, felt compelled to have more surgeries. Success in his teen years inspired him to experiment with more extreme methods.
“When I started changing my appearance, the likes and views and shares went up,” he said. “People will say it looks like an alien, it looks crazy. I fed into that. I love that. That’s why I do social media, I love attention.”
But now he regrets that he “ruined” his face.
“Health is really important, but it’s almost like your image becomes more important when you’re in this world of social media,” said Bails. “There are a lot of complications that can go wrong. But I’m willing to take that risk so I can look good online.”
Ashly Schwan, 24, who has more than 400,000 Instagram followers, was offered free fillers and cosmetic procedures even before her significant following. That led to her getting free filler every few months.
“I’ve learned through those experiences that free filler might not always be a good idea,” she said. “I wish I had someone to tell me like ‘No, don’t get more filler.”