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Summary: With the booming popularity of plastic surgery, both nationally and across the globe, it’s no surprise that there is a heightened need for plastic surgery marketing.

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There are now more practicing plastic surgeons per capita in the United States than ever before, and like any other professional field, surgeons compete with one another to attract their desired clientele. Plastic surgery marketing campaigns increasingly turn to models to advertise their business rather than actual patient photos. But is there an ethical dilemma when it comes to using models in plastic surgery marketing?

Digital Editing Enhances Each Image

First, it’s important to remember that the use of digital editing can alter what you see from its reality. Most people are aware that the images they see in movies and in the media (including in plastic surgery marketing) have been digitally altered.

In fact, digital editing is so pervasive today that hardly a Facebook profile picture goes up without a quick trip through an editing app first. Even so, those interested in the benefits of cosmetic surgery should keep in mind that procedures are intended to enhance existing features, not to create a picture-perfect reality.

Models Are Not Patients

While models may or may not have had cosmetic procedures in the past, they are not real patients of the surgeon for whom they are advertising. Most models glean their good looks from a combination of genetic inheritance, a healthy diet, exercise routines and cosmetic upkeep, whether that includes plastic surgery procedures or simply a good makeup artist and hair stylist.

However, surgeons and marketers normally use models in their marketing to help potential patients visualize what their ideal results may look like. Since graphics are more effective than words at illustrating ideas, especially when related to something as aesthetic as plastic surgery, it would be difficult to imagine advertising a plastic surgery practice without the use of photos. While models may not be actual patients, they may have features that exemplify the surgeon’s particular style or ideal outcomes.

Patients May Prefer Discretion

One of the most influential aspects in whether surgeons use models or real patient photos to advertise their practice is patient discretion. Although the stigma toward cosmetic surgery is on the decline, many patients still prefer their images to be kept private.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of having his or her before-and-after photos made public, and one of the first and foremost concerns of any surgeon is honoring patient privacy. For this reason, it’s not always a feasible option to use real patient photos in plastic surgery marketing.

Clearly Labeled Photos for Realistic Expectations

Advertising ethics laws maintain that all photos of models must be clearly labeled as such. Likewise, photos that feature actual patients are also clearly labeled. In this way, when you are searching for the best plastic surgeon for you, you can trust that the images you see reflect the actual results you can expect from each surgeon as opposed to an impossible, airbrushed ideal.

In the same way that online plastic surgery reviews can contribute to unrealistic expectations, the use of models in marketing can also mislead candidates about the results their surgeon can create. The best way to gain a deeper understanding of your surgeon’s skill is by reviewing his or her qualifications, looking at real patient before-and-after photos, and scheduling a one-on-one consultation to discuss your goals and the real results you can expect.

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