Patient use of social media to evaluate cosmetic treatments and procedures

Dermatol Online J. 2015 Apr 16;21(4):13030/qt88z6r65x.


Background: With a growing sphere of influence in the modern world, online social media serves as a readily accessible interface for communication of information. Aesthetic medicine is one of many industries increasingly influenced by social media, as evidenced by the popular website, "RealSelf," an online community founded in 2006 that compiles ratings, reviews, photographs, and expert physician commentary for nearly 300 cosmetic treatments.

Objective: To investigate the current preferences of patients regarding cosmetic non-surgical, surgical, and dental treatments on RealSelf and in the documented medical literature.

Methods: On a single day of data collection, all cosmetic treatments or procedures reviewed on the RealSelf website were tabulated, including name, percent "worth it" rating, total number of reviews, and average cost. Patient satisfaction rates documented in the current medical literature for each cosmetic treatment or procedure were also recorded. Statistical t-testingcomparing RealSelf ratings and satisfaction rates in the literature was performed for each category-non-surgical, surgical, and dental.

Results: The top ten most-commonly reviewed non-surgical treatments, top ten most-commonly reviewed surgical procedures, and top 5 most-commonly reviewed dental treatments, along with documented satisfaction rates in the medical literature for each treatment or procedure were recorded in table format and ranked by RealSelf "worth it" rating. Paired t-testing revealed that satisfaction rates documented in the literature were significantly higher than RealSelf "worth it" ratings for both non-surgical cosmetic treatments (p=0.00076) and surgical cosmetic procedures (p=0.00056), with no statistically significant difference for dental treatments.

Conclusions: For prospective patients interested in cosmetic treatments or procedures, social media sites such as RealSelf may offer information helpful to decision-making as well enable cosmetic treatment providers to build reputations and expand practices. "Worth it" ratings on RealSelf may, in fact, represent a more transparent view of cosmetic treatment or procedural outcomes relative to the high satisfaction rates documented in medical literature. Massive online communication of patient experiences made possible through social media will continue to influence the practice of medicine, both aesthetic and otherwise.

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetic Techniques*
  • Decision Making
  • Esthetics
  • Esthetics, Dental
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures
  • Social Media*